Commentary: Owning up to election predictions

Nov 15, 2012

Time to check my election predictions.  Even though they were a group project – three good and knowledgeable friends helped – I take full responsibility.

I said Claire McCaskill would be reelected by at least five points.  Was she ever – by 15 points.  I said Jay Nixon would be reelected by fewer than ten points.  His margin was 12, so I get partial credit.  I said Peter Kinder, Chris Koster and Clint Zweifel, all incumbent statewide office holders, would be reelected and they were.  I said the Republican would win the open Secretary of State seat.  He lost by one point.  The Republicans who lost statewide were victims of the Todd Akin Effect – he was a serious drag on the ticket.

I said Vicky Hartzler would beat Teresa Hensley and she did by 25 points.  Whew.  Is the Fourth District Republican or what?

I said Kurt Schaefer would beat Mary Still for state senate and he did, handily.  I said John Wright would win his race for state representative and he did.  I said the Caleb Rowden - Ken Jacob race was too close to call – and it probably was two weeks before the election – but I did say later that Rowden would be the surprise of the night, so I get more partial credit.

I said Prop B would pass and it was narrowly snuffed out.  Missouri voters do not like earmarked taxes, it seems.

I said President Obama would be reelected with between 270 and 300 Electoral Votes.  He ended up with 332 and carried every state he won in 2008 except two – a more comfortable win than I expected.

In 2002 a book entitled The Emerging Democratic Majority argued that Democrats were in the ascendancy because three key voting groups increasingly favored them: women, professionals and minorities.  This book was ignored or derided at the time because of the two Bush elections and the GOP takeover of Congress that same year.  It turns out the authors were simply ahead of their time.  Obama’s coalition was 45% minority.  The gender gap favored Obama.  Hispanics voted  71% for Obama.

If you have listened to these commentaries in the past you have heard me call Karl Rove a political genius.  Against heavy odds he narrowly elected and reelected George Bush president and won  Congressional majorities for several terms.  He also pioneered some fabulous micro-targeting capability for getting out the vote.  But in the great poker game of presidential politics the Obama campaign called and raised him in 2008 and 2012.  And, most ominously for Republicans, the Rove strategy concentrated on identifying and motivating the base, effectively dismissing – where did we just hear this? – women, professional and minorities.  In 2008 the chickens flew and in 2012 they came home to roost.

If the GOP sticks with the Rove approach, it will become a permanent minority party at the national level, like it was for the fifty-year wilderness between Roosevelt and Reagan.  But Democrats have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory before and may overreach.   The emerging Democratic coalition is fragile.  And the emerging Democratic majority is high-maintenance and needy.

I’ll be back in a couple of years to see how this is playing out.  Thanks for listening.