The fact that Barack Obama was elected President is a pretty clear indicator that Politics is not scientific. That is, with all due respect to the President, his resume was the thinnest in memory, with no real substance to support his claims that he should lead the country. Nevertheless, Barack Obama won, defeating first a powerful Democratic party rival with an impressive political resume and efficient campaign machine, then a Republican opponent with far greater experience on most of the issues important to voters. In the 2008 election, however, style won over substance, although it may be fairly argued that neither party's nominee made an effective case on the merits of their qualifications.
The election of 2008 was hardly unprecedented. Bill Clinton beat the first President Bush on pure style and media spin, just as the first President Bush beat Michael Dukakis on rhetoric and style in 1988. While Reagan beat Carter with arguments supported by evidence, his most effective tactics used style - we still remember and ask if we are better than four years ago. This goes back at least to JFK's victory over Nixon in 1960, effective use of media and style to win over the public.
This brings up the question on 2012. Many Republicans have assumed that Obama would follow the path of Jimmy Carter and implode, opening the door to the 'Next Reagan'. A closer look at the matter indicates such optimism may be unfounded. First off, Carter recovered from most of his mistakes, and Obama has learned how to move beyond his blunders; the plain fact is that wit ha compliant media Obama's blunders have a political half-life of only a few weeks at most, far too short to damage his re-election chances significantly unless he either commits a major mistake immediately before the election, or makes so many mistakes that the weight of their total overwhelms him. It could happen, but it would be foolish to expect it to be so.
The second problem is the missing New Reagan. By the time the GOP Convention finished in 1976, many Republicans knew that if Gerald Ford lost, Governor Reagan would have the de facto lead for the 1980 race. Reagan was tested by other would-be nominees, but he was clearly the leading man from the start. Putting it bluntly, the GOP has no such candidate now. Look at 2008; John McCain frankly took the nomination by default, because no one really showed up to make a strong case. Conservatives got excited about Fred Thompson, but to be blunt Mister Thompson lacked the stamina and energy to sustain a serious campaign. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were too thin and brittle to be successful, showing no ability to attract supporters outside a limited spectrum. John McCain got the nomination for the same reason that John Kerry won the Democratic Party nomination in 2004; he was believed to be the most "electable" in a field of uninspiring contenders.
Who, frankly, inspires the nation from the Right? Those with strong followings, like Sarah Palin, tend to attract support from a tight range of political opinion, lacking the means to attract and win over the undecided and doubters. Others do their jobs well, Like John Boehner, but have no evident charisma to build a national following. Worse, the national party has two serious problems - they are out of touch with grassroots Republicans, supporting senior Republicans even when they do not represent the party's ideals (one notes that the GOP has refused to condemn Governor Sanford's adultery and malfeasance, even after his confession) and sometimes even opposing fresh contenders in the party who have broad support and represent reason for hope. And second, the national GOP has siloed, with factions standing off against each other in petty feuds, preventing unity on critical issues and campaigns. The matter has become serious enough, that many who oppose the Democrats and President Obama, do so without declaring support for the Republicans who might run for reform. The simple fact is that right now the voting public has little confidence in the Republican Party to be any better than the Democrats. And until that changes, President Obama and the Democrats have little to fear from the next election or two.