Here’s what I think will happen ( you might not want to place any money on me 😉 ):

I think that the Republicans will do pretty well (this upcoming election), possibly enough to take the House, but even if not they’ll have enough to make it much more difficult for the Democrats to get anything done.  Of the seats they gain, it’ll be split between Tea Party Republicans and more moderates.

Once in office, I think the Republicans will do a good job of saying “no” to what the President puts forward, but will have a difficult time putting forward anything of their own initiative.  The Tea Partiers (really, the emerging far right in general as some are likely just using the Tea Party movement as the wave to ride in on) will clash with the old guard and moderates, which means that the majority of the Republicans have to either get a significant amount Democrats on board (and get blistered by the far right in the process), or (more likely, given the emerging right’s all of nothing attitude of calling anyone who ever was seen within 30 yards of a Democrat a “RINO”) it means that the Republicans won’t be able to get enough of their own on board to win a few token independents and conservative Dems.

Even if the Republicans manage to get some decent stuff through the House, the Senate will be a problem.  There are enough old guard Republicans in office that the emerging right is alienating to cause problems, and those who might be swayed are going to be wary of the new batch’s ability to maintain enough momentum over several election cycles to realistically gain enough power to secure the Republican agenda.  Thus far the emerging right has shown itself to be inconsistent in securing traditional Republican seats, while it is doing well in Utah it got its butt kicked in Arizona.  It’s those seats that people will want to see them win, and hold, before they’ll really start setting the priorities.  People aren’t going to be wary of Republicans who win in battle grounds or traditionally Democratic areas, and want to see if they were flukes that’ll be out in a term or two or if they’ll stick around.  So, if the either the merging right or the old guard can’t find a way to bridge the gulf that the Palin/Beck/Tea Party candidates are happily digging in order to unseat incumbents, the Republican agenda is going to have all the success of people fighting over the steering wheel of a car gone off a cliff.

If that happens, I think the President will then be reelected.  The Republicans will have a bloody primary between the emerging far right and a moderate old guard candidate, which will not be at all pretty.  Ultimately, we’ll get a candidate that either no one likes or that half the party hates (maybe both).

Meanwhile, the President will capitalize on the last two years of Republican congressional ineptness and their constant voting of “no” on anything he does by claiming that they are either sandbagging the nation’s economic recovery or just plain unable to lead, and after the ugliness of the Republican primary the moderates will probably listen.  Meanwhile, the liberal base will be energized by fearing that the love child of Limbaugh and Beck is the Republican candidate and so they’ll rally behind the guy they aren’t pleased with but would much rather have.

The election will go more or less like ’96 or ’04, a weak opposition candidate running largely on a wave of partisan dislike, which despite general lack of enthusiasm for the incumbent won’t be enough to actually win.

I think that if the Republicans want to win they need to crystallize around a central message that is distinct and consistent enough from the Democrats to really be seen as an alternative that isn’t there simply to be an alternative.  It needs to be championed by people who aren’t seen as ideologically compromised by the Bush years, but lacking the inexperience and populist emotional rage that is, in far too many cases, the primary qualification for office being offered by the Palin/Beck/Tea Party inspired Republican challengers.  And those being elected need to be both competent in what they are doing (it’s a lot harder than just showing up, contrary to popular opinion) and show themselves to be consistent in their cause, which quite frankly, the emerging right’s candidates have shown no reason to believe that they are (they are usually those who have either shown little to no consistency in their policies, or who have virtually no experience in politics, neither of which gives us anything to go on rather than “trust me!”).

But regardless of what the message is, if the Republicans don’t find some why to not only unify, but also to support the candidates that emerge from that unity, I don’t think they’ll unseat the President, nor effect significant change.

Hopefully by the time I’m done with law school the Republican civil war will be over, with sanity prevailing, and I can work for a proper Statesman…