2010: The Year in Political Probabilities

(CBS/AP)
Updated 8:25 a.m. ET

When I'm not watching politics on TV -- or CBSNews.com -- I'm watching Pardon the Interruption on ESPN. Here's a homage to one of their regular segments: "Oddsmakers."

What's the likelihood that the following events will happen in 2010?

1) Odds that President Obama's approval rating rebounds to a safe 55 percent by the midterm elections: 60 percent

This largely depends on the economy, or, rather, the perception of the economy. If we're at the tail-end of a short, jobless recovery and gross domestic product dips again, Mr. Obama will be swept along with the current. If the economy continues to recover -- if the unemployment number begins to decline – Mr. Obama's fortunes will rise.

Politics is rarely this simple, but so much of the current discontent in the country can be traced to economic anxiety. One other boost for Mr. Obama: health care will soon be over and done with. The more partisan that debate has become, the more Mr. Obama has seemed to compromise with Republicans, the lower his approval ratings slid.

The unpredictable: state budgets -- how low do they go?

2) Odds that Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives: 30 percent

Right now, Republicans haven't put enough seats into play, and Democrats appear solid in enough congressional districts.

There is always a wind -- and for the party in power, usually an ill-wind -- that forces several otherwise safe seats into play. Fortunately for Democrats, with the exception of immigration, most of the votes they'll be asked to take in 2010 will be constituent-pleasing.

Republicans are having funding problems, too -- the ideological/establishment split within their party is hurting recruiting AND fundraising. Republicans need to win 39 seats -- not an easy feat, even given the electorate composition change that accompanies a president's first mid-term elections.

The unpredictable: how many Democrats retire before filing deadlines?

3) Odds that immigration reform passes Congress: 40 percent

Republicans are in a position to block immigration reform, but they'll do so in a way that (probably) helps the Democrats gin up the Latino electorate. Obama aides are more sanguine about the chances for reform than analysts like me are.

The key: does the Senate or the House go first? The House went first last time, and got burned.

4) Odds that meaningful climate change legislation passes Congress: 20 percent

The votes aren't there. Moderate Democrats in the House swallowed this pill once, and they're not going to do it again until they've got two years to let the effects wear off.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
5) Odds that Mr. Obama significantly restructures his domestic policy staff: 70 percent

2010 is a big year for the management of government: education restructuring, homeland security, implementing new health care rules, a national obesity strategy -- and I'm hearing rumbles that the president wants a fresh -- and more strategic -- set of minds in key positions.

Who will go... who will stay... who will be "promoted" away -- has yet to be determined.



6) Odds that Adm. Dennis Blair (the director of national intelligence) resigns: 60 percent

Blair is losing battles, publicly, and is likely to (unfairly) shoulder the blame for the Christmas Day intelligence fiasco.

His replacement will probably be more small-p political -- someone who can make the unwieldy intelligence bureaucracy work.

7) Odds that at least one of the following happens: Marco Rubio wins the Florida Senate primary; Senate Majority Harry Reid finds himself out of a job; Democrats retain the governor's mansion in Michigan: 100 percent

Every election cycle needs its upsets, no? Nevadans seem tired of all the drama that follows Reid, and Rubio will have the resources -- and the energy -- he needs to beat Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in the primary.

The totally unpredictable?

Does Afghanistan get worse or better?
Is there a successful act of terrorism?
Does Mr. Obama articulate a national security policy that is broadly acceptable?
Does the Tea Party movement fizzle or flourish?
Does the Large Hadron Collider find the Higgs Boson? Is the mystery of mass solved?


The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder is CBS News' chief political consultant. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter.
  • Marc Ambinder

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.