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Playing the Name Game for 2016

The most popular parlor game in Washington and among political aficionados across America at the moment is pondering who will run for president in 2016, who will be the finalists for each nomination, and who will ultimately win on Nov. 8.

It's always a fun game to play, with an infinite number of factors to be weighed and no one knowing the actual outcome for a very long time. But as much fun as it is, this hobby tends to obscure something more important: the fundamentals. What will the inherent value of a Democratic nomination be in 2016? And what is the intrinsic value of the Republican nomination?

We know from modern history that voters tend to opt for change after one party holds the White House for two full terms. Putting aside the Roosevelt-Truman era—which for political purposes was back when dinosaurs roamed—voters have opted to keep a party in the presidency for 12 years only once. In 1988, after President Reagan's second term, his vice president, George H.W. Bush, moved from Massachusetts Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Reagan's approval rating had been running in the low fifties during the fall 1988 campaign. It ...

No Perfect Political Weapon

Anyone who knows me well knows I am usually eyeing the oven for the next fresh batch of in-depth public-opinion data from Democracy Corps, a partnership between legendary Democratic strategists Stan Greenberg and James Carville that just celebrated its 15th anniversary. It gets even better when the two team up with Resurgent Republic, cofounded by veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres, as they did to craft a national survey of 840 likely 2014 voters (including 50 percent reached on cellular phones) conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. The survey was conducted March 19-23 for NPR, and it probed voters' attitudes on the Affordable Care Act, the state of the economy, and their choices in November.

Not surprisingly, Democracy Corps and Resurgent Republic touted the poll's release with broadly divergent memos: The Democrats' headline read, "Be Careful Accepting Conventional Wisdom on the Affordable Care Act and 2014 Being a Republican Year," while Republicans saw "Early Signs of Another Republican Midterm Wave." There is some glass-half-full/glass-half-empty mentality inherent in such a collaborative effort. But in my experience, given the track record of the research organizations involved, this is very high-quality stuff, and you can pretty much take the numbers themselves to ...

Early Predictions on the 2016 GOP Presidential Nomination

The extent to which the politics of the 2016 presidential nomination are already encroaching on the 2014 midterm elections is, indeed, quite something. Establishment Republicans worried about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's political viability now seem to be turning their attention back to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who in turn is not exactly spurning their flirtations.

The Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas—unofficially dubbed "the Sheldon Primary"—presided over by gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, provided a preview of, at least, the "Republican Establishment Bracket" within the party's presidential-nomination tournament. Present and speaking to the 400 or so prominent Republican Jewish donors were Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Bush spoke to a smaller, more elite subgroup, hosted by Adelson in his aircraft hangar.

Although some reports have suggested that Christie—whose presidential aspirations have taken on considerable water since the George Washington Bridge controversy—did well, his reference to Israeli "occupied territories" didn't help him any. This glitch should serve as a fair warning to other governors with presidential hopes that they should get their foreign policy lingo down before they torpedo their own potential candidacies.

While Bush has long ...

How 2014 Could Give the GOP False Hope

It's aggravating to read something really smart, something that I wish I had written myself. Amy Walter, my colleague at The Cook Political Report, recently wrote just such a piece—one about Republicans who worry privately that success in 2014 will leave their party with false hope for 2016: "Even though their party is poised to hold the House and has a good chance of winning control of the Senate, these Republican umbrella carriers aren't smiling. They worry that success in 2014 will mask the real, structural problems that Republicans need to fix before 2016. Namely, that the party doesn't stand for much more than standing against President Obama. As important, the GOP heads into 2016 with a brand that has been deeply tarnished and not easily repaired."

This is so true. If Republicans do gain a Senate majority, which they may very well do in November, and manage to pick up eight or more House seats, it will be because of who they are not, not because of who they are. They aren't in Obama's party, and they aren't in the party that unilaterally passed the Affordable Care Act, which, like the president ...

Six Ways Washington Will Stay the Same

Political aficionados like to look at elections the same way sports fans fill out their NCAA basketball brackets, assemble a fantasy football team, or play rotisserie baseball.

The real import is what the final governing configuration will be after Election Day: Which party will control the House? Who will hold a majority in the Senate? What will Congress look like for the remainder of President Obama's term? What kind of relationship will Obama have with Congress? How much political clout will the president have? Ultimately, these are the questions that really matter.

With this in mind, here are six assumptions that seem reasonably safe over the next few years.

1. The first, and the safest, is that the House will remain in Republican hands in 2016 and, quite likely, at least until 2022. After the 2020 decennial census and subsequent reapportionment and redistricting in 2021, all will be revisited again, but it would take some profound political developments for Republicans' hold on the chamber to change before then. Redistricting isn't the only reason for what has happened in the House, but it explains it well enough. The biggest question about 2014 is whether the GOP will score a ...