My gut-feeling says that President Obama has about a 53% chance of getting re-elected. This is close enough to a toss-up that we might as well call it a toss-up.
His advantages are that he is an obviously intelligent and well-intentioned man who has tried to avoid ideological extremism while striving to bolster the economy and provide some protections (like access to health care) for the poor and marginalized.
His main disadvantage is that the economy is improving only very slowly and, though he has done a lot to prevent a depression and to push us in the right direction, he will be, as presidents always are, blamed for the weak economy if weak it still is next November. He’s like a firefighter who struggled to put out a raging house fire, but is now being blamed because he hasn’t restored the damaged parts of the house to their original mint condition. So, the voters are threatening to send him packing and bring back the arsonists who started the fire in the first place. Short memories, the voters.
One of the worst consequences of an Obama defeat would be the packing of the Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues. Republican presidents are in the habit of appointing justices who are unbendingly conservative, which is to say, pro-corporate. One obviously problematic consequence of the pro-corporate bias of the current court is the Citizens United decision of 2010 which enhanced, in Justice Stephens’ dissenting words, “the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering.” But “enhancing the corrupting potential of corporations” is what conservatives are all about, so we can expect a Republican-packed Supreme Court to produce a “Corporations Gone Wild” electoral environment.
So what kind of people would a GOP president apppoint? Well, think about Dick Cheney’s good buddy, Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia was a driving force behind the Bush v. Gore decision which, on the basis of the privilegio de favoritum candidatum principle, shut down the ballot recounting following the 2000 election. The conservative justices held that continuing to count the ballots would have resulted in more democracy than was good for the country. Scalia and his right-wing pals seemed to think the Florida voters were being uppity in favoring Al Gore over Bush and Cheney and needed to be reminded who was boss. Clarence Thomas, an appointee of George W. Bush's dad, was also a strong supporter of the Bush v. Gore decision.
And there’s more. When, in 2006, Scalia was confronted with criticism from citizens who continued to fault him for his part in Bush v. Gore, he responded by saying, “Get over it…that was an election ago.”
Now there’s a legal principle for you, the “Get Over It” postulate. I wonder how Osama bin Laden might have made the same argument to the Seals as they burst into his lair last spring. “Are you Americans still resentful over 9-11? Come on, that was two or three terrorist attacks ago!”
Anyway, it is people like Scalia and Thomas who will dominate the Court for decades to come if a Republican wins the 2012 election. A shady, pro-corporate Supreme Court wouldn’t be the only horrible consequence of a GOP victory, but it would certainly be among the worst.