Worst Predictions: Election Edition

The 10 dumbest calls of the campaign.

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

DICK MORRIS: A Romney blowout

DICK MORRIS: A Romney blowout

"It will be the biggest surprise in recent American political history … It will rekindle the whole question on why the media played this race as a nailbiter where in fact Romney’s going to win by quite a bit." Nov. 5

The onetime architect of Bill Clinton’s "triangulation" strategy used to be highly sought after by both parties for his textured understanding of the U.S. electorate. That may no longer be the case after the Here Come the Black Helicopters! author and TV talking head predicted Romney would win 325 electoral votes. He wasn’t entirely alone in bucking the conventional wisdom that, if Romney did win, it would be close. Washington Examiner political analyst Michael Barone had 315 for Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — citing the "Carville rule" — thought he would go over 300.

NEWT GINGRICH: I got this in the bag

"I’m going to be the nominee. It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee." -Dec. 1, 2011  

Speaking of Gingrich, remember this confident assertion by the former house leader? After winning the Florida primary, Gingrich was slightly more cautious, saying, "It is now clear that this will be two-person race between the conservative leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate” — though he would eventually come in a distant third behind Rick Santorum.

JIM CRAMER: Obama superblowout

Obama: 440, Romney: 98Election prediction, Nov. 5

The voluble CNBC host went to the other extreme with an election map giving Obama wins in such liberal bastions as Texas, Georgia, and South Dakota. To be fair, Cramer may not have been entirely sincere in his prediction, tweeting, "No one is going to recall the guy who picks Obama by 10 electorals if it turns out to be 150 margin. Believe me." Maybe not, but they’ll remember the guy who had it at 342 and not in a good way.

WEEKLY STANDARD: The Joe-Hillary switcheroo

"The likeliest time for an announcement that Biden is to be dumped would be just before the GOP convention-around Friday, August 24. This would step on the Republicans’ planned buildup to their convention, and would give Hillary Clinton, perhaps the likeliest replacement, a couple of weeks to resign as Secretary of State to accept her place on the ticket, while arranging a smooth transition at Foggy Bottom." -Daniel Halper. Aug. 15

In retrospect, the speculation that the Obama campaign would drop the gaffe-prone Joe Biden in favor of Hillary Clinton was little more than a Drudge-baiting Washington parlor game in the dull weeks between the end of the GOP primary and the party conventions. But the venerable conservative weekly got just a wee bit caught up in it, posting a countdown clock ticking down the days Obama had left to make the switch. Gird your loins for four more years of Joe, guys.

KARL ROVE: Sarah Palin will run

"She has a schedule next week that looks like that of a candidate, not a celebrity…. This is her last chance. She either gets in or gets out after this visit next week. I think she gets in"Aug. 20

Rove, George W. Bush’s political guru, caused a minor meltdown at Fox News on election night by questioning the network’s own projections for Ohio while on air, but "Bush’s Brain" has been making questionable calls about the race for months. Runner up in this category goes to William Kristol, who wrote in June that Rudy Giuliani would "throw his hat in the ring soon."

RUDY GIULIANI: It’s Rubio. I can feel it.

"My instinct tells me Marco Rubio."Aug. 10

America’s mayor made some questionable predictions of his own, telling Fox’s Sean Hannity that the Florida senator and Tea Party favorite was Romney’s most likely choice for veep. Given that Rubio never seemed particularly interested in the role and disagrees with Romney on a number of critical issues, this was a case where Giuliani might have wanted to second-guess his kishkas.

DEAN CHAMBERS: The polls are skewed

"The latest New York Times/CBS News poll of the presidential race released today is yet another doctored poll that shows President Obama leading when its data indicates a Mitt Romney lead." –Oct. 31

If the now-vindicated New York Times blogger Nate Silver is the big winner among the stats geeks last night, the loser is probably Chambers, who had for weeks been "correcting" what he saw as liberal bias in national polls on his website Unskewed Polls. Chambers’s final projection had Romney winning with 275 electoral votes and 51 percent of the popular vote. Chalk one up for the pollsters. Although…

FRANK LUNTZ: The Denver debate will cost Obama the election

"Thanks to your bookies, this American is preparing to make a lot of money. If the British public currently think Barack Obama is coasting to victory in the Nov. 6 election, they are gravely mistaken. Mitt Romney can win this election. No doubt about it. And it will be because of the first presidential debate on October 3 — a battle of ideas and ideologies that changed American politics as we know it. That day, Romney came to fight and Obama became his punching bag."Oct. 29

Luntz, a Republican consultant and Fox News analyst, wasn’t the only one to overreact a bit to Obama’s tepid performance in Denver. "He choked. He lost. He may even have lost the election tonight," wrote the rabidly pro-Obama blogger Andrew Sullivan. But a professional pollster should probably know better than to think one debate would permanently alter the state of the race. Hopefully he didn’t bet too much.

JOHN MCCAIN: Benghazi could cost Obama Florida

"I know there is 1.6 million veterans in Florida. They are angry. They have lost their trust in this commander in chief." –Nov. 5

Er, not so much. The senator and former presidential candidate was adamant in the closing days of this campaign that the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi consulate attack would cost the president dearly. When, during a CNN segment, the New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza countered that voters were probably more concerned about the economy, McCain shot back: "Veterans are upset. Maybe Mr. Lizza doesn’t understand that and I wouldn’t expect him to, to tell you the truth." In the end, the percentage of voters in exit polls, including in Florida, who cited international issues as a major concern was in the single digits.

NIALL FERGUSON: Obama planning Mideast surprise

"No, the only kind of surprise I can envisage is a foreign-policy surprise. And if the polls get any scarier for the incumbent, we might just have one."Oct. 29

Many wondered whether confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program would lead to war this year. But some took it a bit too far. In a widely panned column for Newsweek, the Harvard historian-turned-pundit suggested that with polls tightening, Obama could "end all talk of his being Jimmy Carter to Mitt Romney’s Reagan… by supporting an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities." Ferguson should probably stick to writing about the past.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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