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It’s a common complaint—we’ve certainly made it over the years—that too much political campaign coverage focuses on the horse race. The packed debate schedule in the current GOP nomination battle has put a bit more focus than usual on the substance of what the candidates are saying, which is good. But even so, most of this coverage has wound up being about whether a given policy position might help or hurt a candidate’s chances of winning. What’s most important has been left largely unexamined: if one of these candidates actually becomes president and advances his or her policies, what would be the consequences for the nation?

Part of the reason this question is seldom addressed is that it’s genuinely hard to do; it requires thinking three steps ahead and accounting for numerous variables. But there’s also a widespread assumption that extreme positions taken in the primaries will fade in the general election as candidates “move to the center,” and will disappear entirely once the serious business of governing begins. Surely President Newt Gingrich would not get rid of child labor laws. Surely President Perry would not seek to eliminate three cabinet departments.

We don’t think that this year, with this GOP, those assumptions are warranted. And so we asked a distinguished group of reporters and scholars to think through the hitherto unthinkable: What if one of these people actually wins?

Campaign Promises

What they say is how they’ll govern. By Jonathan Bernstein

The Tea Party

Picking the candidates and writing the agenda. By Dave Weigel


The good news is… no more gridlock. By Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein

The Courts

The conservative takeover will be complete. By Dahlia Lithwick

Foreign Affairs

The “more enemies, fewer friends” doctrine. By James Traub

The Environment

The end of the EPA as we know it. By David Roberts

Financial Regulation

Back to the good ol’ days of 2008. By Michael Konczal


It’s toast. By Harold Pollack

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