What goes around…

In 2010, Republicans had one major unearned weapon: virtually everyone in politics believed that they had seen this movie before, in 1994, and it ended with a GOP landslide.

We’re now in a point in the cycle in which this process has reversed. Barack Obama is receiving a bit of an unearned advantage because everyone thinks that we’re in 1995, leading to a presidential victory on the budget and a solid reelection next year.

This, I think, explains why Republicans are depressed about their presidential prospects in 2012.

The GOP’s pessimism is the story of the day (see a nice Kevin Drum item and a good Mike Allen reported piece). To be sure, the president’s approval rating per Gallup is a so-so 48%, with part of that possibly being the leftovers of a bin Laden rally effect. The economy is only mediocre at best; even if things work out “well” at this point unemployment will still be high in November 2012. Indeed, most political science election prediction models would add those things up to a close reelection fight. I believe Allen, however; I think most neutral Washingtonians and most longtime Republican insiders expect a repeat of 1996.

It’s worth noting, too, that these sorts of beliefs can have real consequences. Republican recruitment was probably helped in 2009-2010 by the belief that 1993-1994 was repeating itself, and GOP donations and enthusiasm were probably also helped by those beliefs. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Republicans are widely affected by these low expectations, in terms of enthusiasm and decisions Congressional and even presidential candidates make about whether to run. I am struck at the extent to which everyone — Republicans included — seems to believe they’re re-running Bill Clinton’s first term and reelection campaign, and are expecting similar results.