Andrew Cuomo and Hillary Clinton. (AP)
After the debates, which start next week, I expect we'll see a revival in Romney stock. The press will not accept a narrative of drift or deadlock, which is no narrative at all. So they'll provide one of reversals and comebacks, whether or not the facts require it. Actually I think Romney will do well, as he's a very practiced debater, and if Obama does relatively poorly, that might make a difference. But not a big one. This race, barring a political black swan, is already done.
There will be plenty to talk about along the way, of course, but we can also start to speculate about 2016 with reasonable confidence that a two-term Democratic presidency will be coming to an end. The Republicans will have a slate of stronger candidates to pick from than they did this time: Rubio, Christie, Ryan, Martinez, and so on. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, a contest is shaping up of similar potency to 2008. Guess who's at the centre of it? The same couple that have been at the centre of Democratic politics for over twenty years.
Up until recently I was confident that Hillary Clinton wouldn't be running for elected office again. She really gave everything she had in 2008. It must have been utterly shattering, mentally and physically, and there seemed to be such an ominous finality in the party's verdict: it took a good look at her and turned her away in favour of a younger candidate. Then, as Secretary of State, she's done a pretty good job of seeming contentedly resigned to the end of her career in frontline politics. She'll be 68 in 2016, just a year younger than Reagan in 1980.
But every time Bill Clinton is asked about 2016, he makes it clear, without saying so, that he for one wants to see her run. And the more you think about it, the more you think - what else is she going to do? There wouldn't be much point in setting up a not-for-profit, because it would inevitably compete with her husband's for funds and attention. Besides, politics - and Bill - is the love of her life. After resting for a year or two after January, she may well be ready to plunge back in. Her poll ratings, and Bill's, are higher than they have ever been, and - crucially - she is respected across the political divide. It may be that in 2016 one of the most partisan and divisive figures in American political history can run and win as the candidate of healing and unification. It might actually be Hillary that delivers on the promise Obama made in 2008.
There's at least one politician who is praying she doesn't see it this way. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is locked and loaded for 2016 and has every prospect of hitting his target. He's done an excellent job as governor, breaking the partisan deadlock that has stifled the state's politics, and successfully positioning himself as a highly effective centrist able to work with both sides and get things done. He's a very strategic, very wily operator, and he's determined, unlike his father, to translate his local popularity into national power. Barring Hillary's entry, he will lead the Democratic field. But until Hillary shows her hand, he and other contenders will find it difficult to raise funds and secure supporters. And she will be in no hurry to declare either way.
Cuomo is not easily cowed. He may end up running against Hillary. But it won't be easy, politically or psychologically. Cuomo's biggest mentor in politics, his political father (other than his father), is Bill Clinton. It was Clinton who coached him and supported him early in his career, and he loves him for it.
The Republican primaries have become good for gaudy and unpredictable entertainment. But it takes the Democrats to deliver a real family psychodrama.