1. The economy’s getting better, but it’s still kind of lame. The Federal Reserve has said that it’ll keep interest rates low through 2014. That is not an encouraging sign about unemployment, which remains stubbornly high even as housing, retail sales and other indicia look better. Republicans can’t count on the economy to lift them out of the cellar in 2014 any more than it did in 2012, but it’s still likely to be a boost to them more than to Democrats. And, of course, the national debt will be on its way to $20 trillion by 2016.
2. The sixth year of a presidency is usually bad. Clinton’s Democratic Party picked up some House seats in 1998 because of reaction to the impeachment mess. But throughout the 20th century, the sixth year has generally seen a big loss like the Democrats in ’66 (Lyndon Johnson’s term was effectively JFK’s second) and Bush in 2006. Again, this isn’t enough to count on, but “Obama fatigue” is likely to set in.
3. Rubio offers a way out on immigration. As George W. Bush and even the much-maligned Gov. Rick Perry have shown in Texas, there’s a way for Republicans to garner enough Hispanic votes to stay in the game. (Why the culture of Texas and New Mexico has given rise to more Republicans who know how to navigate Hispanic politics than, say, Arizona and California, is a topic worth a book.)