The Gulf War gave us President Clinton. People forget that, but it’s true. By the summer of 1992, President Bush had alienated his base (and become something of a joke to the middle) to the point where most any politically-competent Democrat could beat him.
But why was that Democrat a relatively unknown governor from a small southern state?
Because the year before, in the wake of the Gulf War, Bush’s popularity soared to 91% — and all the Brand Name Democrats said “no thanks” to running against him.
Today something similar might be going on. President Obama looked weak after the midterms, but he has very quickly reestablished his “relevance” in Washington. From here, the 2012 electoral math looks daunting — which might well be why the GOP field is notable for its emptiness. Newt Gingrich put a toe in the water last week, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Gingrich will never be President, not even if he ran against the decayed corpse of Andrew Johnson.
But next year there might also be a similar dynamic to 1992 at work. I doubt Obama will ever alienate his base — for the same reason that eight-year-old girls never fall out of love with unicorns: They’re magical! But without significant improvement (or at least the expectation of improvement) in the jobs picture and with continued flaccidity on the international scene, America could sour on the President, and quickly, too.
That said, the current Brand Name Republicans are almost all dismally unappealing, each uniquely so. So the idea of the party producing its own Clinton next year might be its best idea in ages.
UPDATE: Mark Sanford for President!