A Quick Look At The Year Ahead

As the new year gets under way, we take a quick temperature check on some key areas to see what the prognosis might be. The topics: politics — domestic and global — and economics.

Will Republicans Sweep The 2012 Elections?

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., speaks to young Hispanic voters at a Nevada Democratic Party event on Nov. 11 in Las Vegas. Campaign staff and volunteers for President Obama are pushing the Hispanic vote in swing states like Nevada, which can help congressional candidates like Berkley in her run for re-election. i i

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., speaks to young Hispanic voters at a Nevada Democratic Party event on Nov. 11 in Las Vegas. Campaign staff and volunteers for President Obama are pushing the Hispanic vote in swing states like Nevada, which can help congressional candidates like Berkley in her run for re-election. Julie Jacobson/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Julie Jacobson/AP
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., speaks to young Hispanic voters at a Nevada Democratic Party event on Nov. 11 in Las Vegas. Campaign staff and volunteers for President Obama are pushing the Hispanic vote in swing states like Nevada, which can help congressional candidates like Berkley in her run for re-election.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., speaks to young Hispanic voters at a Nevada Democratic Party event on Nov. 11 in Las Vegas. Campaign staff and volunteers for President Obama are pushing the Hispanic vote in swing states like Nevada, which can help congressional candidates like Berkley in her run for re-election.

Julie Jacobson/AP

It's still too early to call the 2012 elections, but some political analysts are predicting that the odds are against congressional Democrats in 2012, though the presidential race may still be a toss-up.

NPR's Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving says the Republicans need to pick someone who can go toe-to-toe with President Obama in the debates and bring together the party. But one of the most important things is that the chosen candidate should be able to win the key swing states — Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Colorado — because Obama needs to take three of those four to win in November.

As for the Senate, while the Democrats hold the majority at 51-47, Elving says that it "would appear highly likely that the Republicans will take control." A third of the seats in the Senate are going to open up because of term limits, and two-thirds of those are Democratic seats. The Republican seats opening up are in very red states, while the Democrats' seats are in states that could go either way.

The Republicans are also likely to keep control of the House, Elving says. They currently have 50 more seats than the Democrats, and the district lines being drawn across the country seem to benefit the GOP.

Global Economy Might Improve In 2012

What's the economic prognosis for 2012?

"It's kind of a meh, it's a B-minus," says Annie Lowrey, an economic policy reporter for The New York Times. "It's not going to be very good, but it's also not going to be very bad."

Lowrey says that most of the trends seen at the end of 2011 will continue into 2012. The unemployment rate is high, but improving. Economists are excited about the housing market because the low cost of housing has started a house-building mini-boom.

As for Europe, the weak banks will continue to have problems, which could spill over in the U.S.

The good news? Nobody is worried about a double-dip recession.

Expect The Unexpected: Global Politics In 2012

Anti-government protesters shout as they carry a banner with portraits of several prisoners during a rally organized by the Moroccan Arab Spring movement in Casablanca on Dec. 25. The banner reads, "We demand the release of all prisoners because of anti-terror laws." i i

Anti-government protesters shout as they carry a banner with portraits of several prisoners during a rally organized by the Moroccan Arab Spring movement in Casablanca on Dec. 25. The banner reads, "We demand the release of all prisoners because of anti-terror laws." Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP
Anti-government protesters shout as they carry a banner with portraits of several prisoners during a rally organized by the Moroccan Arab Spring movement in Casablanca on Dec. 25. The banner reads, "We demand the release of all prisoners because of anti-terror laws."

Anti-government protesters shout as they carry a banner with portraits of several prisoners during a rally organized by the Moroccan Arab Spring movement in Casablanca on Dec. 25. The banner reads, "We demand the release of all prisoners because of anti-terror laws."

Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP

The world will see big political changes with leadership shifts in China, Mexico, Russia, Europe, Egypt and particularly the Middle East in 2012, says David Rothkopf, a contributor to Foreign Policy Magazine.

"We're halfway through the initial wave of these [Middle Eastern] revolutions," says Rothkopf.

But it is possible that one of the biggest political changes won't happen in a physical location, but on the Internet. Rothkopf says he thinks we could see a big escalation of cyberwars between nations.

He also predicts that a critical piece of U.S. infrastructure will be shut down by a cyberattack, bringing online wars to the forefront of politics.

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