It’s far too soon to say with any confidence who’ll win the 2012 presidential election, but it’s hardly unreasonable to believe a Republican victory is a distinct possibility.

But while there’s going to be all kinds of coverage, here and elsewhere, about the horse race, what matters most is the public understanding the consequences of GOP success.

It’s the focus of the Washington Monthly‘s new print edition, and it’s one of my favorites. Here’s the editors’ summary, setting the stage for a fascinating and important package:

One simple question has dominated the coverage of the GOP presidential primary: which candidate is likely to win? But the most important question has been left largely unexamined: if one of these candidates actually becomes president and advances his policies, what would be the consequence for the nation?

To fill this gap, the Washington Monthly asked a group of distinguished journalists and scholars to think through the likely ramifications of a GOP victory in November. Here’s what they conclude:

* David Weigel reports that the Tea Party will control the agenda regardless of which Republican wins the nomination.

* Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann predict that there’s a “better-than-even chance” that the Senate filibuster will be destroyed.

* David Roberts shows that the GOP won’t eliminate the EPA, but will permanently cripple it.

* Harold Pollack disabuses liberals of the hope that health care reform can survive a Republican presidency.

* Dahlia Lithwick writes that one more round of judicial appointments by a Republican president will lead to a generation of anti-government rulings no future Democrat can undo.

Plus: Jonathan Bernstein on why campaign promises matter; Michael Konczal on the end of Dodd-Frank; James Traub on the GOP’s “more enemies, fewer friends” doctrine; and Paul Glastris on why, this time, conservative anti-government aspirations will be fulfilled.

Read a sneak preview of the Washington Monthly‘s January/February cover package, “What if Obama Loses? Imagining the consequences of a GOP victory.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.