In the last days of the election, Peggy Noonan had a “feel” that things were moving Mitt Romney’s way. George Will was more cerebral: his brain told him it would be Romney in a rout. And Michael Barone, who used to have a good divining rod to go along with an encyclopedic knowledge for all numbers political, also predicted a Romney landslide.
What they had in common, aside from putting up a brick Tuesday that completely missed the electoral net, was a last-hurrah push for the old-fashioned prediction by gut.
This was the year the meta-analyst shoved aside the old-school pundit. Simon Jackman of Stanford, Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium and, of course, our colleague Nate Silver, all perfected math-based, non-subjective models that produced predictions that closely matched the outcomes.
People who are surprised by the election – and Sarah Palin looked like she was close to tears as the obvious became obvious even to those who live in the Fox bubble – were probably listening to people who are paid to fantasize.
Karl Rove is Exhibit A. Until the very end, he confidently predicted a Romney victory, though he seemed to give himself some weasel room in bringing up Hurricane Sandy at the end as an excuse. But Rove, who collected millions from deep pockets for his independent expenditure groups, had to predict a Romney victory. Otherwise, why continue to give him money? These donors would have been better off reading the In-trade prediction model – based on real money bet on the outcome. They put the odds of an Obama win at 72 percent on election eve.
Newt Gingrich, who has a preternatural ability to slide out of whatever he said in the past, said without blinking or blushing that Romney would win the popular vote by six percentage points and rack up more than 300 electoral votes. “I base that on just years and years of experience,” he said. And it’s taught him – what?
And we have to mention Dick Morris, who has been assuring Fox listeners for months that Obama was a one-term president. He said Romney would end the night with 325 electoral votes, a number about equal to Glenn Beck’s stellar forecast. “It will be the biggest surprise in recent American political history,” Morris said.
The surprise is that people like Morris – Jon Stewart called him “The King of Wrong Mountain” – continue to find work.
Little wonder then, that so many people turned to the math-based prediction models this year. Moneyball has finally beaten down the old scouts. Not romantic, by any stretch, but more reliable. Now, if only the Republican Party would follow suit, on the major issues of the day, into the reality-based community.