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Nov 9, 2012

How could they all get it so wrong?

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.’ Ground game. 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 …”

Wait, it gets better. “Don’t be surprised when Obama loses,” Red State‘s Dan McLaughlin noted:

“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.)

But let’s conclude with Dick Morris, the Republican genius, in his October 31 article “Here Comes The Landslide“:

“[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 …


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23 thoughts on “How could they all get it so wrong?

  1. Cross Byron Douglas

    Thanks for the Storm Sandy Devotional Guy. I have been waiting for it from someone all week. David McComb would have been thrilled.

  2. paddy

    LOL I just hope you had as much fun writing that, as I had reading it Guy.
    Whoever says schadenfreude is a bitter draught is wrong?
    It’s bloody delicious!
    Cheers and enjoy the scotch. You’ve more than earned it.

  3. sean

    Ah Schadenfruede…can’t get enough of it..particularly when it concerns the gallery of freaks and deadheads that comprise the Republicans. Bring on Abbott

  4. CL de Footscray

    This is terrific stuff. Only HST could do it as well, but he’d probably be too whacked to meet deadline. Thanks Guy.

  5. Clytie

    No wonder Republicans were so shocked by this loss. They’d had a Reality Distortion Field extended around them. Their (thought) leaders have been hyping them up for weeks. Now they feel betrayed.

    “We hope our candidate will win, but mathematical polling shows X,” would have been much more honest.

  6. Alderson Mary

    You forgot to mention the House of Representatives. Don’t the Republicans have the numbers in that? And aren’t both places designed to block whatever is passed by the other? That the American system is based on stopping progress instead of promoting it?

  7. ianjohnno1

    …a Cheshire Cat with fluid retention problems.
    What a beautiful image to retain in memory of the event.
    Bottoms up!

  8. zut alors

    Emmett Tyrell: ‘Next week President Obama goes into retirement. I hope he will consider Hawaii.’

    I imagine The Donald’s response would be “Why Hawaii? He’s never been there!!”

    These are buoyant times, Mr Rundle, relish every minute. And remember not to dehydrate.

  9. tonyfunnywalker

    The resemblance to News Ltd and the Liberal party is extraordinary. Abbott and News Ltd have played the same game assuming a short tenure at the Lodge. They did not have to work on policy but having long lunch with their mates and doing many good but insignificant things while the attack dogs did their dirty work. In a previous blogg I wrote about the fact that they were playing the game assuming it was won at the first bounce. It cost Obama the House, Gillard only had to contend with Rudd and the Polls.
    Obama defined the ” genius” Gillard is defying Alan Jones. At this stage the Liberals need a ” hail Mary” or 2 to win the next election and changing Abbott for Turnbull is too little to late. Gillard is kicking goals from outside 50 and even reversals are now counted as ” behinds” and the scoreboard is kept ticking over. Even Kevin is prepared to handball a few as he wants to keep his seat and return to to the front bench.

  10. Andrea

    There is a lovely bit in the book “Winnie the Pooh” about Wol, who was known as the wisest one In the Forest, “because he could spell Tuesday, even though he couldn’t spell it properly”. Just like the Republican pundits like Fred Barnes, “deferred to for his expert analysis”, even though that analysis is completely wrong.

  11. Bill Hilliger

    It seems that Fux News and their – the spin stops here – and their portrayal and feature of a collection of right wing loons with their views has actually helped Obama to his magnificent win. I believe Obama should thank Fux News for their assistance.

  12. Graham R

    Free-form Interview Poems. That’s just beautiful.

  13. mattsui

    So, it’s all over…. and no zombie apocalypse?
    Thanks, GR. Looking forward to 2016.

  14. Ari Sharp

    Thrilled to see pundits are being held to account for their inaccurate predictions. Should happen in politics, economics, and plenty of other contexts.

    And track record should then be a key determinant of whether we should bother listening to them next time.

  15. michael r james

    Hey GR, Slate finally caught up:

    How Bruce Springsteen Elected Barack Obama
    Sandy, Snooki, Christie, Bruce, and Barack.
    By Ron Rosenbaum | Posted Friday, Nov. 9, 2012
    Sandy—the elusive, iconic Jersey girl—appears on Bruce’s album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. “Fourth of July …” is a song that evokes in a strained but heartfelt way the poignant and seamy, the doomed wild and innocent romanticism of the old Jersey shore.
    If you listen—it doesn’t quite come across in cold type—you can hear the beautiful desperation that would run throughout Springsteen’s best work:
    Sandy (the song) has even got a dangerous fortune teller on its boardwalk:
    “Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do?” (A prefiguration of Nate Silver?)]
    Rosenbaum is probably my generation. That was my coming of age era and so those first three albums were imprinted on me forever. Yeah, even/especially the verbose Dylanesque first two. By the time the later ones came around I was too distracted by all the usual to pay as much attention. Funny thing is, 2 decades later one of my doctoral students in Oxford was a big Bruce fan but was surprised when –in response to him playing the 80s works over and over– I played those early albums on our lab ghetto blaster (Well, Wild & Innocent; everyone knows Born to Run).

  16. michael r james

    Further to previous post, and in response to Guy’s question of how the Repubs could get it so wrong? Obviously they are not Bruce fans, and Chris Christie (and of course BO); Rosenbaum: (I can’t imagine there will ever be a NJ politician to claim they not Bruce fans but Christie appears to be genuinely OTT!)

    [Several more days are then devoted to analyzing what it all meant. Some exit polls show that 40 percent of voters felt that Obama’s hurricane response—or what they saw of it—was an important factor in their vote.
    This, by the way, is the Chris Christie who claims to have attended 100 Bruce Springsteen concerts (which is a little sad you have to admit—it’s true I have mixed feelings about the fat guv). He’s an emotional guy whose sense of urgency about the plight his coast faced must have been shot through, somehow, with a Springsteenian sense of the perilous beauty and tragic aura of the devastated boardwalk towns. And then we learn that Obama got Bruce Springsteen—who’d previously been standoffish with the GOP gov—to call Chris Christie from Air Force One. After which a jubilant Christie confessed that when Bruce had hugged him during a brief meeting at a Sandy telethon—before Bruce went back on the road with Obama—Christie had gone home and wept! Bruce was Chris Christie’s Sandy. (Which must have led to more teeth-grinding at Romney HQ: What was Bruce doing on Air Force One?)]

  17. michael r james

    OK, can’t help myself citing some more Rosenbaum (for Crikey readers): more on the Bruce hypothesis:

    [The question of sincerity and why Bruce made the difference—OK, a key difference—in the final outcome brings us to the Romney and Snooki connection and the self-tanning controversy. It will be little noted nor long remembered, as some previous president once wrote, that Mitt Romney—when asked, long before Sandy, who was his favorite pop culture icon (between Snooki and Honey Boo Boo)—claimed that he really liked Snooki (“so energetic”), making it seem as if he were a regular, Jersey Shore-watching guy.
    I’m serious. Has there ever been a more transparent and contemptible lie? Sure, it’s a minor point. But it’s contemptible because it displays (like the 47 percent line) Romney’s contempt for the “little people.” Throw them a name from their vulgar culture and they’ll eat it up on the food-stamp lines.
    He thinks ordinary people are so stupid they’d actually believe he and his wife and maybe his “dancing horse” (as Snoop Dogg, among others, memorably called the steed) sit down together to watch Snooki and the Sitch. Give me an effen’ break.
    The nature of this inauthenticity, this shallowness, is so deep it’s almost fathomless. Couple that with another forgotten pre-Sandy campaign controversy: Does Romney use self-tanner, as this Jezebel roundup suggests? Or is it just “full makeup,” as this Times story euphemizes?
    I don’t begrudge Snooki her self-tanning. But a presidential candidate who needs to be so heavily made up can be said to be, on some fundamental or at least metaphorical level, “made up.”
    And I think that’s where Bruce’s championing of Obama comes in.
    For just enough of those voters, the doubting ones, the election of the president became a choice not between Obama and Romney but between Bruce and Romney. You know who won.]

  18. MacKinnon Jenny

    Nice one. That is all.


    The GOP was for ‘anyone but Mitt’, and then the entire nation was for ‘not Mitt’ too.

    Who couldn’t see this coming? Apart from the world’s smartest CEO and his cronies, that is.

  20. Holden Back

    Pundit is derived from pandit, Sanskrit for knowledgeable. OED definition of pundit is, partly “someone who makes knowledgeable or authoritative pronouncements”.

    So technically, these people aren’t pundits anymore.

  21. EKDV

    If you enjoy a good dose of schadenfreude, go to Facebook, look up Mitt Romney’s page and hit Refresh every ten seconds and watch the number of Likes drop like flies. It’s hypnotic.


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