Republican-leaning pundits predicted the US election result more on hope more than common sense. Now there’s egg all over their faces as Democrats celebrate.
Boy oh boy have I been looking forward to this. Two months after Mitt Romney looked toast, five weeks after the disastrous first debate, two weeks after the Mittmentum, and a week after storm Sandy devotional hit the coastline, the result has been nailed down and every tensed muscle in the body can relax.
When I started the final leg of this jaunt, Romney was in his cups, and it appeared that it would be a stroll down to the inauguration. Then it became a nail-biter all the way through to the last weekend, with the dim prospect that one would be witnessing not the confirmation of the Barack Obama era but its dismissal as an aberration, and the return to power of just about the whitest man in America.
But by the weekend, I was pretty convinced Obama had it in the bag. A lot of people will now say they knew it all along, but that is 20/20 hindsight — or the product of not paying great attention to how badly the polls had dipped for Obama in the middle. Nevertheless, even though the raw numbers were tight, the nature of the state-by-state contests made Obama’s victory overwhelmingly likely. I remember on Friday afternoon atone of the dozen or so German beer houses on Columbus’ south side suddenly thinking it was won, feeling all the adrenalin drain out of my body, so much so that I could barely stay on the barstool. I shambled to the jukebox and put on Katy Perry’s Waking Up in Vegas, which was about as inappropriate to the décor and the moment as you could get, and only because they didn’t have, yes, Don’t Stop Believin’.
So on the one hand, the last three days seemed like a last, redundant slog to the finish line. Yet on the other it was at this point the Right decided to go nuts about the polls, returning to the notion that they were “skewed”, and dismissing dozens of mainstream firms as propagandists. Most prominent was Dick Morris, known as the “genius” by Fox News, who told us that he had looked at the same numbers Nate Silver had and had come up with a different result — it was going to be a landslide for Romney. Sitting there like a Cheshire Cat with fluid retention problems, Morris told viewers the GOP would take not only Florida, Ohio and the small states, but Pennsylvania as well, Michigan, “and we might get Minnesota”. Even Sean Hannity was starting to look askance at that, and Morris was excitable, clearly manic. His effusive predictions were shared by Michael Barone of DC’s Examiner. Charles Krauthammer was a little more circumspect but believed that Romney had clearly won.
By Sunday these dudes were starting to freak me out. Part of the talk-up was strategic of course, so that people didn’t get dejected and not turn up. But this was over the top. Were they delusional, or were they preparing the ground for a stolen election, in such a way that the disparity between polls, exit polls and the final vote could be plausibly explained?
Well, that may well have been part of it, especially on the part of some of the insiders. But as it turned out, that didn’t come into play — and there is now every indication from insiders in the Romney campaign, the think tanks, etc, that delusionality was the key. These folks simply believed it was a walkover, and they couldn’t understand how a majority of the American people could vote the other way. This was proved on election night, with Karl Rove having a meltdown on Fox as they called Ohio for Obama and then the country. Earlier there had been Sarah Palin doing one of her free-form interview poems about how disappointed she was in the American people.
“Nobody knows anything. Everyone’s guessing …” began Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, before going to give us the benefit of here wisdom:
“I think it’s Romney. I think he’s stealing in ‘like a thief with good tools’, in Walker Percy’s old words. While everyone is looking at the polls and the storm, Romney’s slipping into the presidency. He’s quietly rising, and he’s been rising for a while …”
“His blog FiveThirtyEight wasn’t updated for a day and a half after the election because Silver was out, getting laid, almost continuously, I would expect.”
Getting into her stride, she noted: “Obama and the storm, it was like a wave that lifted him and then moved on, leaving him where he’d been.” We await Noonan’s next column with enthusiasm. Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, another handsomely paid pundit, doubled down on the wrong:
“Mitt Romney will win. The tie in the polls goes to the challenger. Here’s why. Enthusiasm. It matters enormously, and it’s disproportionately on the Republican side, in good measure because of an intense desire to defeat President Obama … Says Republican pollster Ed Goeas: ‘The nearly half the electorate that strongly disapproves of Obama’s performance in office will need little else other than the opportunity to vote against President Obama to motivate them to go to their polling place.’ Groundgame. The Obama get-out-the-vote drive (GOTV) is not quite the powerful juggernaut it was in 2008 and the Republican effort is far better than four years ago … Conclusion: Romney will be elected the 45th president of the United States”
Barnes, in this article, was wrong about everything. Nevertheless, he will still pop up on the TV, deferred to for his expert analysis. The Standard’s twin, The American Spectator went even better, via its nutbag editor Emmett Tyrell on November 3:
“Obama has come across as an amazingly close approximation of Jimmy Carter, complete with a slow-growth economy and a foreign policy disaster, though one of Obama’s empty boasts was he understood the Arab world especially well. His back-up team of David Axelrod and David Plouffé serve as second-rate Jody Powells and Ham Jordans. Frankly, I preferred Jody and Ham.
“I must in all humility admit that it took me all of two weeks into his presidency to recognize that Obama was over his head. On February 5, 2009, I said in this space that Obama’s presidency was doomed. I pronounced him a dud, unlikely to be re-elected president. Said I, ‘… with the economy in crisis and American national security in the hands of a starry-eyed novice, one can argue that we are in for a reprise of the Carter years complete with the self-righteous pout’. Well, I argued this for almost four years and today I rest my case. Next week President Obama goes into retirement. I hope he will consider Hawaii.
“Given my perspective, it was an easy case to call. A few months back I published my findings in The Death of Liberalism. In that book I noted that …”
“There’s a very large gulf between my conclusion, explained on Friday, that Obama is toast on Election Day and confident projections like Nate Silver’s poll-reading model still giving the president (at last check) a 77.4% chance of victory. Let me explain why, and what that says about the difference between my approach and Nate’s … Nate Silver’s much-celebrated model is, like other poll averages, based simply on analyzing the toplines of public polls. This, more than any other factor, is where he and I part company.
“If you read only the toplines of polls — the single number that says something like ‘Romney 48, Obama 47’ — you would get the impression from a great many polls that this is a very tight race nationally, in which Obama has a steady lead in key swing states … My thesis, and that of a good many conservative skeptics of the 538 model, is that these internals are telling an entirely different story than some of the toplines: that Obama is getting clobbered with independent voters, traditionally the largest variable in any election and especially in a presidential election, where both sides will usually have sophisticated, well-funded turnout operations in the field. He’s on track to lose independents by double digits nationally, and the last three candidates to do that were Dukakis, Mondale and Carter in 1980.”
OK Dan, I won’t be surprised. Silver, as you will have heard, got it almost exactly right. (His blog FiveThirtyEight wasn’t updated for a day and a half after the election because Silver was out, getting laid, almost continuously, I would expect.)
“[Obama’s] erosion began shortly after the conventions when Indiana (11 votes) and North Carolina (15) moved to Romney (in addition to the 179 votes that states that McCain carried cast this year). Then, in October, Obama lost the Southern swing states of Florida (29) and Virginia (13). He also lost Colorado (9), bringing his total to 255 votes.
“And now, he faces the erosion of the northern swing states: Ohio (18), New Hampshire (4) and Iowa (6). Only in the union-anchored state of Nevada (9) does Obama still cling to a lead.
“In the next few days, the battle will move to Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10) and Minnesota (10). Ahead in Pennsylvania, tied in Michigan and Wisconsin, and slightly behind in Minnesota, these new swing states look to be the battleground.”
And now comes the corker:
“Or will the Romney momentum grow and wash into formerly safe Democratic territory in New Jersey and Oregon?”
Yeah, Dick, Jersey’s going red state. OK, so he got the presidential race wrong, but that’s just one race, right? Surely this professional political pundit can accurately assess a multiple race like the Senate? Uh, not so much. Take it away, Dick:
“The impact on Senate races could be profound. Give the GOP easy pickups in Nebraska and North Dakota. Wisconsin has been a roller coaster. Once an easy win for Republican Tommy Thompson, then a likely loss as Democrat Tammy Baldwin caught up, and now Republican again, it will probably be a third pickup. Romney’s surge in Virginia is propelling George Allen to a good lead for the first time all campaign …
“The GOP now leads in these six takeaways. But it is also within easy striking distance in Ohio and Florida, where incumbents are under 50 percent and Republican challengers Connie Mack (Fla.) and Josh Mandel (Ohio) are only a few points behind. It may even be possible to entertain daydreams of Rhode Island (Barry Hinckley) and New Jersey (Joe Kyrillos) going Republican …
“In Indiana, Republican Richard Mourdock had established a 5-point lead over Democrat Joe Donnelly. But his comments about rape knocked him back to a tie. With Romney carrying the state by 15 points, however, Mourdock could still make it … The most likely outcome? Eight GOP takeaways and two giveaways for a net gain of six. A 53-47 Senate, just like we have now, only opposite.”
The result? A 55-45 Senate in the Democrats’ favour, counting in two independents. The easy pick-up in North Dakota was a Democrat take, Wisconsin was a non-pick-up, selecting out lesbian Tammy Baldwin, George Allen was creamed, so was Josh Mandel, Mourdock didn’t make it and Joisey and Rhode Island. Ha!
Yesterday, after 36 hours radio silence, Morris posted an article on his site saying: “I have egg on my face …” Yeah, it was messy and runny Dick, but it wasn’t egg.
Good times. Good times. There will be a lot more of it. I’ve got a lot of scotch, and an armchair, and I intend to use them. But hell, that’s what you get for wakin’ up in Vegas …