Here in Washington, many of us are political junkies who are never satisfied. For us, the campaigns are always on, never over. We love their arcane strategies and endless small surprises (who knew penguins are like people? They don't like Newt Gingrich either.)
Let's ignore the talking heads who are just vamping until the conventions. We're looking forward! So, let's skip over the blather about who will run for vice president. Romney won't commit an entertaining Sarah Palin blunder. His veep will be qualified to step in if Romney becomes "incapacitated." But suppose he never gets to that Oval Office? Suppose Mitt loses? Who gains politically for 2016?
Obama gains obvious stature -- but the president can't run again. And the Dems don't have a viable candidate in Biden nor are any of its leaders in Congress presidential prospects.
That leaves Hillary, who'd make a very good president, but she carries more "baggage" than Amtrak. Five years is a long time, but you can bet exploratory committees are already being formed for this year's GOP also-rans to make a try at 2016.
The Republicans like to say they have a "deep bench," meaning lots of young prospects. The pool may be wide, but it's also shallow. The Portmans, Pawlentys and Nikki Haleys are unproven campaigners. That leaves, by my reckoning, Jeb Bush, Mark Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum, and -- Jeb Bush.
A deeper problem is the Republican brand itself! Simply put, the GOP has become a haven for the angry, many of them older, mostly hardcore Christians, and almost all white. They want an America that was pre-Civil Rights, pre-Women's Rights, and with a lot fewer Latino, Asian, and black faces in the public arena. The problem is, they just can't get there from here. It's over, boys.
The corporate plutocracy and its many Superpacs spend billions and billions of dollars bankrolling the Republican party (and a chunk of the Democratic party). Most of the major political givers don't give a fig about any of the issues dear to conservatives' hearts. The plutocrats just want to get richer and more powerful. Whether the issues are "social" or deficit reduction, they only get interested when it means taxes go down for them.
All the Tea Party's lofty ideas about conservative principles leave most of these fat cats baffled and frustrated. That reactionary 25% of "conservatives" needn't have become the angry face of the Republican party. It proved so successful at driving out moderates that it has made itself into a different party that would be more properly called a Reactionary party.
Unremitting anger can only carry those candidates, who are financed by the wealthy, for a while. If I am right, many of the Tea Party freshmen will learn in the upcoming election that the voters are not buying it anymore.
What then? To remain a viable political party, the Democrats need fresh (younger) faces and a broader constituency than the traditional "minority" groups. The Republican Party needs candidates who know how to do more than say "no" and stamp their feet.
The problem is both parties seem stuck in their outdated positions and the public may decide they don't really need either party. What then, indeed? No political parties? For political junkies, that is the stuff of nightmares.