Let’s put the primaries aside, though, and assume (maybe dangerously) that both parties, as they typically do, produce credible nominees from each party’s mainstream to compete for the presidency.

At this early stage, does either party have an obvious edge?

Around the time of the GOP-dominated midterms, it seemed logical to say the Republicans held the advantage. Not because their strong performance in congressional and gubernatorial races has any predictive value—ask President Romney about how well 2010’s midterms predicted the future—but because President Barack Obama’s approval rating was mired in the low 40s. Should Obama’s approval be low, he’ll be a drag on any Democratic nominee, who will effectively be running for his third term.