By Mark Shields

The calendar reminds us that it’s that special time of the year to make reckless predictions and fleeting resolutions. So let us do a little of both.

I predict that with history and national poll numbers warning them daily that 2018 is shaping up as a truly bad year electorally for Republican candidates, there will be a sharp increase in the number of GOP incumbents announcing that rather than seek re-election, they have decided to spend more time with their families.

Before doing so, each would be wise to check with David Letterman, who, having retired after his career as the longest-tenured late-night host in TV history, explained that he was now leaving his two-year retirement to return to work: “Here’s what I have learned: If you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first.”

None of the 2018 retirees in either party will, I predict, match the refreshing self-awareness of the late Sen. Henry F. Ashurst of Arizona, who publicly stated about his own impending return to private life: “The welfare of the United States, and the happiness of our people, does not hang on the presence of Henry F. Ashurst in the Senate. When that realization first came to me, I was overwhelmed by the horror of it, but now it is a source of infinite comfort.”

Speaking of predicting, President Donald Trump’s pledge, during the 2016 campaign, that given eight years in office, he would wipe out the national debt (now standing at $20.6 trillion) was echoed this week by his daughter Ivanka on “Fox & Friends.” She endorsed the belief that her dad’s tax cuts, combined with his administration’s mass termination of federal regulations, will “ultimately eliminate the national debt.” To pretend that tax cuts will magically abolish the national debt goes way beyond any “rosy scenario” and deep into delusional fantasyland; it is frankly the political equivalent of leaving the landing lights on for Amelia Earhart.

I resolve to check out the anonymous rumor that one of the reasons for the obvious tension between President Donald Trump and Sen. John McCain of Arizona is that they had an awkward exchange. Apparently, in a rare lapse of self-doubt, Trump, upset by his increasingly unfavorable poll numbers, almost plaintively asked the senator, “John, why do so many people take such an instant dislike to me?” The blunt McCain is said to have answered, “Because, Mr. President, it saves them time.”

If it is true that curiosity really did kill the cat, then there’s a good chance that President Trump will live forever. The great American humorist Will Rogers regularly announced, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Before you ask, no, Will Rogers never met Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Pre-eminent political humorist Mark Russell makes this sage prediction based upon census figures: “By the year 2020, 214,000 living Americans will have reached the age of 100 -- and all of them will have valid Florida driver’s licenses.”

At least one staunch defender of the Republican tax cuts, when criticized for the law’s burdening our children and grandchildren with paying such a bloated national debt, will offer this rebuttal: “What did posterity ever do for us?”

I predict, sadly, that no 2018 candidate, Democrat or Republican, will have anywhere near the self-confidence or wit of former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who, when asked what his “church preference” was, dared to answer, “Red brick.”

Happy new year.