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The Best Totally Wrong Predictions of the Republican Primary The Best Totally Wrong Predictions of the Republican Primary

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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field / CAMPAIGN 2012

The Best Totally Wrong Predictions of the Republican Primary

Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry pauses while announcing he is suspending his campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)  (AP Photo/David Goldman)

February 2, 2012

Now that we've had a couple hours to mourn the fact that the most boring Republican candidate will likely be the presidential nominee, it's time to hold all those pundits who tricked us into thinking there would be someone more fun to write about accountable for their mistakes. In the same way that InTrade is inexplicably used as having predictive power--as if online betters reflect anything other than polls and media coverage--sometimes it seems like what counts as prognostication is just whatever sounds smart at exactly the second it's being said. Our guide to the forecasts that sound funniest in hindsight.

Prediction: Rick Perry will own the debates.
Prognosticator: Kinky Friedman
Date: Sept. 5, 2011
Quote: "Unless he starts speaking in tongues, I predict Rick Perry wins the debate."
Reality: Perry was destroyed in the debates. He did almost speak in tongues, though.

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Prediction: Perry is unstoppable.
Prognosticator: CNN's James Moore Date: Aug. 31, 2011
Quote: "Perry will win the Iowa caucuses easily because Michele Bachmann will be running out of money and will have scared the party leadership. In New Hampshire, he will at least finish close to [Mitt] Romney, and in South Carolina he will affirm his run by winning the delegates necessary to seal up the nomination. Perry will take South Carolina by a margin wider than his credibility gap. Romney has the money and the infrastructure (and faltering judgment) to hang tough until Super Tuesday on March 6, but Perry will easily pocket wins in Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. With the nomination wrapped up, Perry will then start talking about jobs and the economy instead of Jesus." Reality: Perry came in fifth in Iowa, sixth in New Hampshire, and dropped out before South Carolina.

Prediction: Jon Huntsman will appeal to the working class.
Prognosticator: Politico

Date: May 11, 2011

Quote: Referring to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels's decision not to run: "Each of the three has qualities that may appeal to Daniels's partisans. Romney shares the business background and focus on competence. Pawlenty and Huntsman have an informal style that appeals to economically downscale voters.... '[Pawlenty's] not as compelling or brilliant as Huntsman, but he's right in the middle of the voter zone for Republican primary- and caucus-goers,' [a GOP strategist said.]"
Reality: Huntsman appealed only to media people, especially fancy media people, most notably when he was profiled in Vogue.

Prediction: Romney is doomed because he won't apologize for "Romneycare."

Prognosticator: The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin
Date: Feb. 14, 2011

Quote: "However, if there is one point of consensus among plugged-in Republicans on the 2012 field, it is that Romney can't win unless he does a mea culpa on Romneycare. Since he didn't and he won't do that, he's not going to be the nominee. Other than Romney admirers (and even some of them!) it's hard to find serious Republican players who disagree with that."
Reality: The Not Romneys never hit Romney that hard on Romneycare, and when they did, it didn't do much. Santorum was very good in comparing the program to Obamacare in the last Florida debate, but Romney still crushed him.

Prediction: Tim Pawlenty's got this.
Prognosticator: The New York Times' Ross Douthat
Date: May 16, 2011
Quote: "In a Huckabee-Romney rematch, or a Huckabee-Romney-Daniels struggle, Pawlenty would have been in constant danger of being outflanked from both sides at once--on social issues one week, and then on the good-government-moderate flank the next. But now he has an excellent shot at a clean victory in Iowa, he’s well-positioned to pick up a lot of Huckabee’s supporters across the South (where his main competition will be Newt Gingrich), and at the end of the day, he’ll still be moderate and safe and competent-seeming enough to woo voters in the Northeast and his native Midwest. Throw in the fact that both Romney and Gingrich infuriated conservative activists this weekend by defending the idea of an individual mandate in health care, and suddenly Pawlenty has perhaps the clearest path to the Republican nomination of any major contender. Unless... somebody else emerges to outflank him from the right in Iowa."
Reality: Pawlenty dropped out in August.

Prediction: Rick Perry is making his gaffes on purpose in order to win the South Carolina primary.
Prognosticator: Human Events' Tony Lee
Date: Aug. 16, 2011
Quote: Comparing Perry's comment that Ben Bernanke would get beat up if he went to Texas to the time Perry hinted Texas would secede, Lee writes, "It is why Perry's comments in Iowa were deliberate to get the same type of effect on a national level and to help him win South Carolina, whose conservative primary electorate Perry was clearing targeting.... These comments were not gaffes and a part of a deliberate strategy by Perry.... His comments about the Federal Reserve ensures that stories about the 'HPV vaccine' do not flood cable television this week when primary voters are getting their first impression of Perry. Instead, their first impression will be that of a man in a seersucker blazer railing against the Federal Reserve."
Reality: Perry was a gaffe machine, and if it was on purpose, it was the stupidest strategy of all time.

Prediction: Mike Huckabee's decision not to run will make it even harder for Romney.
Prognosticator: The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin
Date: March 11, 2011
Quote: "In fact, the departure of Huckabee and Palin may help the anyone-but-Romney voters coalesce around a single candidate. In short, I think Romney is locked into mounting a real race in Iowa, a race he could easily lose.... That brings us to the next question: Is a defeat in Iowa fatal? When the front-runner with the most money, the biggest and most experienced staff, and near-100 percent name recognition loses, it may not be a death blow, but it's a major blow nevertheless."
Reality: Not Romney voters did not coalesce around a single candidate, ever. Romney almost won in Iowa. It was not a major blow that his victory was later retracted.

Prediction: There is room for a moderate candidate to crush the right-wingers in the primary.
Prognosticator: Rudy Giuliani, per the New York Post

Date: Jan. 7, 2011

Quote: "Sources say the tough-talking former mayor 'thinks the Republican race will be populated with far-right candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee, and there's opportunity for a moderate candidate with a background in national security.'"
Reality: Moderate candidates like Pawlenty and Huntsman did not find much success this election. Just kidding—they found zero success. Also, unlike in 2008, no one thinks Romney's a "conservative's conservative."

Prediction: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's endorsement of Romney will help him in the conservative state.
Prognosticator: The New York Times

Date: Dec. 16, 2011
Quote: "The endorsement from Ms. Haley has the potential to help Mr. Romney in a critical, conservative state where he is trailing Newt Gingrich in most polls. Mr. Romney came in fourth in the state in 2008, getting only 15 percent of the vote... It also gives Mr. Romney another stamp of approval from an outside-Washington, tea party conservative who can testify—and will, all weekend long—that Mr. Romney’s conservative credentials are better than Mr. Gingrich’s."
Reality: Romney got creamed in South Carolina, especially among conservatives and tea partiers. Haley is unpopular in her state.

Prediction: Sarah Palin's endorsement will matter a lot.
Prognosticator: CNN
Date: Oct. 6, 2011
Quote: "Greg Mueller, a Washington-based conservative strategist who has worked closely with the Palins in recent months, said Palin ultimately will be hugely valuable to whichever candidate she supports. A Palin endorsement 'packs an incredible one-two punch' in both the primary and the general election, he said. If Palin offers a full-throated endorsement in the Republican primary, she has the potential to rally 'the conservative foot soldiers --social conservatives and tea party activists--'who will go out and work hard and knock on doors.'"
Reality: Palin said she would vote for Gingrich before the South Carolina primary. He won there, but he got crushed in Florida.

Prediction: Gingrich could win because of his organizational and financial strength.
Prognosticator: The New Republic's Walter Shapiro

Date: May 10, 2011

Quote: "Gingrich also boasts unusual financial and institutional advantages that his rivals lack. As The Wall Street Journal detailed in a front-page article on Monday, Gingrich has constructed a daisy chain of think tanks and advocacy organizations to promote his pet causes and his political future. One number stands out in the article: the 1.7 million e-mail addresses that Newt-created organizations have collected."
Reality: Shapiro was right that Gingrich shouldn't have been counted out, but he was crushed by Romney because he couldn't raise enough money. He's expected to do poorly in the upcoming caucuses, which reward organizational strength, which he does not have.

Prediction: Mitt Romney is DOOMED.
Prognosticator: Writer Jonathan Chait
Date: A whole bunch of times, but here's a sample from May 16, 2011
Quote: "In my view, the three main contenders for the nomination are, in order, 1) Tim Pawlenty, 2) A party establishment-friendly Republican not currently running, such as Mitch Daniels or Paul Ryan, and 3) Bachmann. Everybody else, including Sick Man of the GOP Field Mitt Romney, falls into the longshot bin."
Reality: Romney is winning.

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