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“In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed —
they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance.
In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.

—From the film The Third Man

With barely more than a week to go, Democratic Presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama appears set for a finish stronger than the closing weeks of the primary campaign. His biggest risk is overconfidence among his supporters. Unless they feel that ‘fierce urgency of now’ – he may not have enough real voters to bring about all that hope and change.

In Republican circles, the ‘fierce urgency of now’ may prove a uniting factor in the closing days. Senator John McCain has lived his life in service to the United States. But the failure of his campaign staff to effectively let McCain BE McCain – and of the activist Conservative right to fully support him has definitely left a mark. The silver lining for McCain, however, is that Republican voters chose him despite the party apparatus. McCain is the man elected – in closed and open primaries – that voters wanted. Party establishment folks don’t like that fact – but it’s just too darn bad.

Where does that leave us? Who will win? Obama the Prom King, or McCain the Reliable Hero? Frankly, I don’t think anyone can predict it. Polls have proved notoriously inaccurate this season. Obama underperforming. McCain overperforming. One thing is certain: the GOP will lose ground in the US House and US Senate. But the presidential race is far from over. With only 9 days – it might as well be 9 years until the last vote is cast.

Regardless of this election… the truth is this: 2012 is on everyone’s mind already.

If Obama wins, he’ll instantly be in re-election mode. And who is there to challenge him? Sarah Palin seems a natural voice for the ultra-conservative wing of the GOP. But who else might there be? many contenders spring to mind, certainly former Pennsylvania Governor & first DHS Secretary Tom Ridge has made it clear he would have been happy to be on the ticket this year. So maybe he’s got designs on 1600 Penn in the next cycle as a post-McCain moderate. South Carolina’s Mark Sanford could challenge Palin, and be more appealing to fiscal conservatives than she is. McCain’s major rival, Mitt Romney may make a Hillary-esque “I told you so” re-run, never mind that he just is not likable – no matter what Kevin Madden tells us.

Of course, this all begs the ‘magic wand’ treatment. Who would I like to see? US House Chief Deputy Republican Whip Eric Cantor, VA-7. Sure, its a long shot and the Fitzhugh Mafia from the Old Dominion prefer to see him hang in the House and make his play towards a future as Speaker of the US House – and I am sure Cantor could get there. But – ya know, those boys from Richmond need to set him free. Let Americans, real Americans, become acquainted with Eric. He took a prominent role during the energy debate this year – in August – that proved me right on one thing: Eric Cantor may be the most telegenic, articulate, common sense, sexy (yeah – I said it) Conservative in the last 50 years. Slightly younger than Obama, Cantor would find some swooning masses in a fight against Obama in four years.

And what if McCain wins? Who would emerge from Democratic ranks to right the Yellow Submarine that Obama has been piloting this year? Rahm Emmanuel. Just a guess. As ugly as GOP infighting has been – the bloodbath that would ensue after an Obama defeat would be a fascinating bit of political theatre.

Nine days and counting. But remember, ten days from now – the next presidential election begins.  Vote on 2012 at the AOL Hot Seat.

—Media Lizzy

crossposted @ Heading Right