Obama would get a tremendous amount of “walk the talk” points that would ice his nomination in 2016 and probably be forever known as “the uniter”. And Democrats might have the White House locked for 16 years.
You’d have a pretty large number of Obama supporters feeling let down, either by him or by the whole process, and I’m not sure how they would bounce back. Some would be really mad: “I went out and canvassed and donated [$XXX] and he quits while he’s winning?”
Any talk about what this would mean in 2016 is hopelessly premature. I’ve seen people try to play the “they could hold the White House for 16 years” game before, but it’s absurd. Obama and his VP choice could do the same, in theory. It’s too soon to predict most of what’ll happen in 2008 and almost anything that will happen in 2010. 2016? Forget it.
To take this seriously…
I would be highly disappointed, and would not really care about Obama in 2016. He can’t replicate all of the things that make his candidacy great. It’s not about him, so much as it is about the moment. It’s important that he win now, in my opinion, instead of in 8 years because we need to fix the country now. We’re really on the edge of serious problems that need some serious attention. A half-hearted at solving the looming energy problems simply won’t do it.
So this would be different from a Hillary superdelegate coup because it wouldn’t be her fault. I suppose I’d vote for her reluctantly, although i wouldn’t need to given my current location.
I would feel betrayed if Obama quit now since there is no logical reason for him to accept less than the top of the ticket. Here is an illustration of Hillary’s logic in dangling the veep spot for Obama.
The only comparable instance I can think of would be Perot’s dropping out of the 1992 race in mid-July (when he was virtually in a 3-way tie with Bush and Clinton), and re-entering the race at the beginning of October. While he still got 19% of the vote that November, he never attained his previous levels of support.