When a network anchor in a few hours, maybe, declares the winner of the 2012 presidential election – a quirk of American democracy, that media figures and not government officials apprise the masses of their leader’s identity – it will mark the end of the most expensive campaign in history.
And the beginning of a lot of other things. If Republican nominee Mitt Romney loses, party insiders expect the GOP to endure an ensanguined civil war as its ideologically insistent wing bucks against its moderates and, having watched two successive centrist-style nominees lose after a Bush presidency with which they were dissatisfied, forces a rupture. Repercussions would ripple up and down the ballot, and the power struggle would be historic.
If President Obama loses, Democrats would be dazed, punch drunk, and fiercely angry. Party generals on the Hill would marshal the powers of opposition they have deplored in Republican hands. Speculation about 2016 – “Will Hillary Clinton run? Will Joe Biden? Who are the rest of these guys?” – would commence the moment the “President Romney” chyron appeared.
One side will have spent a lot of money to watch its world go topsy-turvy.
Best-case scenario, all sides will know at 11 p.m., when the window opens for networks to declare a winner.