Copy this column to your desktop or clip and save it so you can ridicule me as we go along in 2016, the year for which I will now offer predictions.
Ted Cruz will win the Iowa caucuses by a wide-enough margin over Donald Trump that people will start talking about Cruz as the Republican presidential nominee and Trump as toast. Marco Rubio will inch up to an anemic third but remind everyone that there are three tickets out of Iowa.
Eight days later the New Hampshire primary will be so close between Trump and Rubio that it won't matter which is first and second. The story will be that Cruz--possessed of "big mo" only hours before--limped to a weak third and barely outpolled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Trump will win the South Carolina primary. Then, in the big orgy of primaries on March 1, Cruz will win in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, but Trump and Rubio will split contests outside the South.
Cruz will lead in delegates. Trump will be second. But everyone in the Republican establishment will be saying Rubio is set up to win.
Indeed, winner-take-all contests will ensue rapidly thereafter, and, by late May, Rubio will have pulled into a delegate lead. Cruz and Trump will be weakened, but, in their combined delegate haul, they will represent a plurality of delegates for anti-establishment outsiders.
Republican Party leaders will be meeting overtime about how to lift Rubio over the top while keeping Cruz and Trump and their followers in the tent. In the end, they will do the only thing that could have worked to save the party from self-destruction in the U.S. House of Representatives.
That is to say they will persuade Paul Ryan to become Rubio's running mate.
Cruz and Trump will grumble, but not bolt, mainly because they'll be permitted to dominate the convention with ballyhooed speeches that will make Pat Buchanan's in 1992 look tame.
Hillary Clinton will narrowly win Iowa and New Hampshire and substantially win everywhere else, proceeding easily to Democratic coronation. Convinced that the general election will come down to fear of ISIS and other international issues rather than domestic and economic ones, she will implore and eventually persuade John Kerry to join her on an all-secretary of state ticket.
As he did for President Obama, Bill Clinton will deliver Hillary's nominating speech at the convention. There'll be a second nominating speech--from Elizabeth Warren. That will be for the Bernie Sanders disciples heavily populating the convention and still emphasizing ISIS less than income inequality.
We'll talk a lot about how old the Democratic ticket is and how young the Republican one is. Hillary and Kerry will talk about foreign policy and about how Ryan wants to destroy Social Security and Medicare.
In the general election, Democrats will get more votes. They always do anymore--in every presidential race since 1992, actually, except for Kerry against George W. Bush in 2004. But Rubio-Ryan will win Florida and Ohio and triumph in the Electoral College to become minority president and vice president.
The Republican conservative base will be satisfied, but only tepidly and tentatively, and the Democrats will be livid. Continued polarization and dysfunction will be assured.
Meanwhile in Arkansas: Two Republican state senators who effectively cast decisive votes to fund the private option, Jane English of North Little Rock and Eddie Joe Williams in Cabot, will survive well-funded primary challenges from the anti-private-option right wing. That will be important because it will signal that Republican legislators can vote for the private option and not get beaten over it.
The federal government will tell Gov. Asa Hutchinson that he can have a waiver to charge premiums to some of the private-option population and that, while he can't tie Medicaid services to job-training or job-taking requirements, he can have some sort of nebulous nexus between the private option and official encouragement to recipients to enroll in job-training with a nonbinding referral thereto.
He will call that a great conservative victory and convene a special session to get enacted the new legislation for a revised private option.
In the U.S. Senate race, the fact that no one much knows John Boozman will lead to a poll showing the incumbent Republican senator in the low-40s against Democratic challenger Conner Eldridge, who will be in the mid-30s.
Grumbling national Republicans will have to throw in money to assure Boozman's 55-45 victory, identical to Rubio's margin over Hillary in the state.
It will be a solid-enough showing to permit Eldridge to argue that he was right to run as a second Republican and that he is a Democratic force to the extent that such a thing exists anymore in Arkansas.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 12/31/2015
Print Headline: Into the crystal ball