|So what shall it be? Death?|
In fact, when thinking about the larger election, it's worthwhile to keep in mind that there are only a few possible outcomes there, too, and it is a great deal more important how they turn out than merely who wins the White House. In essence, the parties can win any or all of three elections for the control of two branches of government. Obviously, we're talking about the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Presidency. It is particularly important for Democrats that Obama wins because it seems very likely that the Republicans will retain control of the House. It's extremely difficult for the Democrats to engender significant change in the lower house because so many congressional districts are rural, with a very small homogeneous population, typically working class white Christians, and without the kind of diversity that is the lifeblood of the Democratic base, these tend to be soundly Republican bastions.
One way to think about the election is, just as with the Presidency, there are only two possible outcomes - in this case divided government and unified government. And if we postulate that the Democrats cannot win the House, then the possibilities narrow further, to a Republican government or a divided government. That being the case, the White House, in the guise of the President's veto pen, serves as the last firewall standing between disasters from Paul Ryan's budget to war with Iran.
Why isn't the Senate as important? Well, due to the nature of statewide populations, the Democrats have an easier time winning and holding a majority in the Senate, and are likely to retain that majority, even if somewhat narrowly. And of course, the Senate's arcane rules allow the minority a great deal of power to obstruct not only legislation, but Executive Branch appointments, so even a Republican majority in the Senate might not allow for unfettered implementation of the more radical elements of the tea party agenda. Of course, if the Republicans DO win all three institutions, it's going to be fascinating to watch them struggle with the question of whether to eliminate the filibuster. They'll want to do it in order to "make hay while the sun shines" and push through as much of their agenda as possible, but they'll also know that the filibuster was their most valuable tool in obstructing and ultimately defeating Obama, and if they eliminate it they know the time will come when they regret it.
I think the most likely outcome in November is another four years of divided government - which is also, I believe, the best we can hope for. In many ways it's a tremendously ugly choice - can the republic survive another four years of political infighting, the 'Outrage of the Day™, a fragile, struggling economy and total legislative dysfunction? That's at least an open question. Because there can be no doubt that four years of radical right-wing 'governance' will leave the US a tattered, third-world hellhole of sickness, hunger and toxic desperation...