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Washington, reshuffled: What to expect from politics in 2015

December 4, 2014, 2:30 PM UTC
Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill
Photograph by Alex Wong — Getty Images

Reality is already catching up with the post-midterm dream of a bipartisan Kumbaya in Washington. With one notable exception, not much is going to get done — unless you count posturing for the 2016 presidential contest as an accomplishment. That said, the race for the White House will have its own clarifying effect on both political parties, especially the GOP, still mid-reinvention.

At least one big thing will get done on Capitol Hill

President Obama Delivers Speech On U.S. Signals Intelligence Programs
Photo by Mark Wilson—Getty Images
Photo by Mark Wilson—Getty Images

We’d like to be upbeat, but we’d rather be right. With the political center of gravity drifting out to the 2016 trail, newly empowered Congressional Republicans will spend the year firing rubber bullets at Obama’s shrinking presidency. That means no grand bargain-scale deals on tax or immigration reform. There may be one important exception, though: Next year look for progress on trade deals, including a long-awaited pact with Pacific Rim countries.

John Kasich will emerge as the Republican’s 2016 darkhorse

The field of Republican presidential maybes is wide enough to include multiples. There are the base-stoking fire breathers (Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee); the business-friendly establishment stalwarts (Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush); the blue-state governors marshaling a get-it-done executive attitude (Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie). Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul defies a match and will be a force. But so will another figure so far receiving far less notice. Ohio Gov. John Kasich will not only make the race — he’ll remake the debate with his populist twist on compassionate conservatism.

Julian Castro will be the veep frontrunner

julian castro
Photo by Deborah Cannon-Pool—Getty Images
Photo by Deborah Cannon — Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s overwhelming dominance means the only real contest on the Democratic side is whom she’ll pick as her running mate. And in those veepstakes, one name matters most: Julián Castro (pronounced Hoo-lee-ahn). The former San Antonio mayor is now polishing his national chops as Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development — a warm-up act for bringing Hillary’s ticket the young, Hispanic energy it’s going to need.

Fortune’s Crystal Ball predictions for 2015:

29 predictions for 2015

Food in 2015: Get ready to eat crickets

Vote: What does the future hold for business in 2015?

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