The public mood is grim. The latest CBS News poll reveals that 76 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, 66 percent feel that the economy is in bad shape and 79 percent believe the economy is either getting worse or staying the same. Pew Research has also found that 88 percent of the public is either angry or frustrated with the federal government.
And despite the fervent hopes of Democrats, the Affordable Care Act's implementation is not helping matters any. As several reports describe, the federal enrollment website is a technological disaster, a governance crisis and a soon-to-be legal tangle.
All told, it's time to hit the road, leave behind today's politics and look towards the future: 2016.
Yes, another presidential election year, but also another opportunity for political renewal. Because let's face it: 2012 was highly unsatisfying on this psychosocial and cultural level. An incumbent race a lot like 2004, last year's election was largely negative and almost solely predicated on the notion that the "devil you know is better than the devil you don't."
As a result of this electoral framing and the fact that President Obama is not likely to endorse an heir apparent, even though he has a vice president eager to make his third run at the White House, 2016 could look more like 2008 than one might expect. The old new mantra may again be "change."
But change to what?
Change to experience? Given how few "trains" have seemed to run on time in this administration, there might be well be a clamor for an experienced hand who knows what levers to push and which to pull. If this is the case, it can hardly be doubted that former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will benefit. Of course, she may again run into problems in Iowa with Democrats who already appear to be "screaming" for a fresh face. The good news for her campaign is that New Hampshire remains in her corner.
Change to a Washington "outsider"? But isn't this what Barack Obama, a so-recently-elected senator that he couldn't possibly have been co-opted by the Beltway, positioned himself as in 2008? If the public feels disappointed by this promise of Obama's, then it isn't likely that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will be able to catch much fire on his way into the caucuses.
Change to a governor? Both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton bolstered their presidential campaigns by talking about their policy successes as governors. But then again, so did George W. Bush. Perhaps even more cautionary a tale to each party, Michael Dukakis and Mitt Romney also hoped to ride on their state-level legacies. These widely varying examples offer almost no clues as to how Republican Govs. Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Susanna Martinez or Nikki Haley might do were they to jump into the fray.
In sum, expect 2016 to be about change. But also expect it to be about chance. With anti-incumbent sentiment running high, it's more likely than not that favorite personalities and winning messages are going to strike more like a flash of lightening than roll towards shore like a slow wave. Only one thing seems sure: we're likely in for another wild ride. Back to the future of 2008.