Since we are about to come to the end of the year (and decade), I think it is worthwhile to put some predictions down before anything happens in 2010. I hope to hear some of yours in the comments:
1. 2010 will be a wave election, reminiscent of 1994. At this moment, Rothenberg Political Report estimates that Republicans will pick up 15-20 seats in the House, and an unspecified small gain in the Senate. Charlie Cook predicts solid pickups for the GOP, but somewhat less than taking back the House. I'm inclined to think that the turnover will be on the higher side. The popular outrage over the unpopular health care plan and the seeming disregard for public opinion will create the conditions for a conservative populist uprising. One thing to remember about 1994 was that it was the election that finished the realignment in the South, something that is no longer much of a concern (beyond a few stray Blue Dogs). For similar gains (54 seats), Republicans will have to win seats in areas like the Rocky Mountains, the Midwest, and Suburban Northeast. Republicans need 40 seats to win back the House. I think the odds of that are 50-50.
2. The epicenter of the wave will be Arkansas. There is no state in America that John McCain ran so well compared to George W. Bush's 2004 performance. Arkansas was 3 percent more Republican than the nation in 2004; it was 13 points more Republican than the nation in 2008. Arkansas was always a traditional hard scrabble Jacksonian Democrat state, economically populist and socially traditional. Unlike most Southern states, there is still a conservative Democrat presence on the state and local level. Currently both Senators and 3 of 4 Representatives are Democrats, putting them in a precarious position in a state shifting sharply to the right. It's three Democrats hold seats that are R+5, R+7, and R+8. Blanche Lincoln is trailing essentially annonymous state legislators across the board. I think any serious Republican challenger could beat any Democrat in Arkansas next year. Arkansas in 2010 will be like Texas in 1994 and Georgia in 2002, the year in which the realignment on the local level is completed.
3. There could be another party defection or two. Parker Griffith's switch today is a rare thing, but a toxic political environment for Blue Dog Democrats could tempt some to switch parties. Would you really be shocked if Bobby Bright (D-AL) or another Southern Democrat flip to save their seats? There were a series of party switches after 1994, though the South is more solidly Republican now than back then.
4. Moderate suburban counties will swing back to Republicans. In 2009 elections, we saw a definite swing towards the GOP in crucial suburban counties. Bob McDonnell won the heavily populated Fairfax County in Virginia, while Chris Christie won Middlesex and Burlington Counties. Less noticed were statewide judicial elections in Pennsylvania and county elections in New York State, where Republicans won competitive elections in suburban Philadelphia and New York City. All of these were counties that the Republican Party was supposed to be incapable of winning, possibly forever. That narrative didn't even last a year. I think we will see some surprising successes in places Republicans may have written off in past years.
5. The Democratic agenda will be practically paralyzed after the health care fiasco. The health care "reform" process has taken over a half of a year. Anyone remember when Obama set a deadline of the end of July for a health care deal? I think no one in the White House realized how difficult and drawn out this process would be. Now, Obama's first year has passed and he only got around to addressing two items on his agenda. He hasn't addressed the major problem of unemployment (the stimulus didn't do that effectively). My guess for what Obama will do is to focus more on fixing the economy (as he should) and I think he will go after the immigration issue. The White House will do this because it has divided the Republican Party in the past and it needs something to stop the Republican momentum. Its not a bad gambit, but I think immigration will be different than 2006-2007 because Republicans are no longer in power and have no obligation to a president with a different agenda. It could actually be divisive towards the Democratic Party. Immigration cuts along elite/populist lines more than left/right. I think Dems may be miscalculating if this is the case.
6. Marco Rubio wins the Florida Senate primary and the general election. As of right now, the Rubio-Crist primary is about tied, which is a massive upset considering Crist's high name ID. Look for this race to open up wide in Rubio's favor early in the year, prompting Crist to make one of two choices: drop out and try to re-enter the Governor's race or change parties and win the Democratic primary easily over the hapless Kendrick Meek. I'm not familiar with Florida election law, so I don't know when primary races have to be finalized. While Crist is less to the left than Arlen Specter was, he evidences little principle, and a party switch into an easy primary victory wouldn't surprise me. But I think in either case Rubio wins and becomes the face of the November 2010 victories.