Back in 2011, at the dawn of a long presidential campaign, I established a fine baseline for my credentials as a political prognosticator: I told readers that
Neither one has been heard from since.
Could I top that record in 2012?
Pretty close. Last spring, I announced in a column that Sen.
But, hey, Portman seemed perfect: a bland, budget-savvy conservative from the most important swing state.
Yes, I noted, Romney seemed to like Rep.
The smart money was on Portman, I wrote. That was true. But the smart money and I were wrong.
That was only one of several bad calls, blind alleys and blunders that I lavished on readers in the course of 2012, an election year with a lot of surprises.
My biggest wrong turn, in retrospect, was a theme I sounded several times during the campaign: the
Not just close, but "razor close … and headed toward an unpredictable finish," I wrote in October, after
Only it wasn't close. When the dust settled, Obama defeated Romney soundly, winning 51% of the popular vote and all but one of the swing states.
Heck, it wasn't even unpredictable. As political junkies know, several people, including statistician Nate Silver of the
Simple: Obama voters, especially Latinos and young people, turned out in greater numbers than most forecasters expected. Romney voters didn't.
To quote Romney's pollster, Neil Newhouse, who thought his candidate was going to win: "We saw, in the last two weeks, an intensity advantage" — but it turned out to be a mirage. "The real hidden story [was] the number of white men who didn't vote."
My only consolation is that I wasn't as wrong as Newhouse or his Republican colleague
On the eve of the election, I wrote that Obama had a clear advantage in the swing states, making his electoral-vote victory almost certain. But the popular vote, I warned, was still "too close to call."
Instead, Obama won the popular vote by almost 4 percentage points and became the first Democrat since
Beyond the perils of horse-race punditry, the scale of Obama's victory was significant for several reasons. It demonstrated that the demographic transformation of the American electorate has occurred more quickly than expected, which means the
Did I get anything right? Sure. I forecast early and often that Romney would survive challenges from that dizzying chorus line of primary opponents, from
On some predictions, the jury is still out. I wrote that an election that returned a Republican House and a Democratic Senate would guarantee two more years of gridlock; I hope I was wrong about that. After the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., in July, I wrote that the debate on gun control was long over and the
And only a few weeks ago, I peered over the edge of the "
"It's not really a cliff," I wrote. "It's merely a steep, scary slope…. If
I was correct on the first half of that prediction — that a "grand bargain" on taxes and spending wouldn't happen by the end of the year. As for the second half — that the economy wouldn't be too badly hurt as a result — I only hope I got that one right too.