2010 and 2012

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As we head into Tuesday’s vote, it feels like the cake has been baked. Although stunning results are always possible in politics, the real suspense isn’t about Congress. Why? Because even if Democrats maintain control of the House and Senate they’ll almost certainly lose their ability to pass any kind of substantive agenda. Nor is any epic, party-defining figure at risk of losing. (Harry Reid may be the Senate leader, but he’s no visionary and is replaceable.) Sure, some scenarios make life harder than others for White House.* But the real stakes for Barack Obama have to do with 2012. The races for governor of Florida and Ohio remain very tight, with Nate Silver showing a narrow (but apparently shrinking) lead for Republican John Kasich in Ohio and a slight edge for Democrat Alex Sink in Florida. Most political pros will tell you that party control of a governor’s mansion offers a valuable edge in a state’s presidential vote (because a governor can typically dominate media coverage and mobilize a state political machine). And anyone reading this blog already knows the importance of Florida and Ohio in a presidential election.

So be watching on Tuesday not just to see who controls the Congress and how many Tea Party candidates storm the gates, but also whether the governor in those two crucial swing states will be working for–or against–Obama in 2012.

*The big question here has to do with Republican subpoena power, about which I blogged last week.