A loyal MR reader writes to me:
I love when you think through counterfactuals, so here’s
one that’s been on my mind. Imagine John Kerry wins in 2004. What are
the implications for the 2006 midterms and more importantly the 2008
presidential election? We probably pull out of Iraq without ever attempting the
surge, and leave the country in chaos. But more importantly, the housing
bubble collapses on a Democrat's watch, not [a] Republican's. Regardless of what
anyone says, the housing bubble was going to burst. Maybe the collapse takes a
different path under Kerry than Bush, but it still happens, leaving his administration
to deal with it. Does he win re-election? Is McCain still the Republican
candidate? And what becomes of a little known back bencher named Barack Obama?
I am sorry to disappoint such an excellent reader but I genuinely do not know what would have happened, if say Kerry had been more personally appealing to more voters (that counterfactual more or less holds constant other factors which are more directly political). I do know this is a reason why I think it is very hard to forecast the net impact of a single election. Do you remember the furor and then the agony from 2004?