Worst Primary Predictions

Jim Newell has a fun article wrapping up some of the worst primary predictions made by political pundits and columnists over the course of the past year regarding what would happen in the race for the Republican nomination. Reading through it, you’ll find predictions about the inevitabiity of everyone from Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump to Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry, and how Mitt Romney would wrap the race up quickly. This one, though, has to be my favorite “miss” of the whole primary season:

The One Person Who Knew That Newt Gingrich Would Be the Nominee

“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.” — Newt Gingrich on Newt Gingrich’s chances to win the nomination, Dec. 1, 2011, a week or two before his national poll numbers nosedived 30 percentage points overnight. Gingrich is rumored to still be running, but no cameras can confirm.

I had my own share of boners over the past year or so. I vastly over estimated Rick Perry’s abilities as a candidate and his ability to sweep candidates like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum off the stage. Additionally, on more than one occasion since January, I vastly underestimated the staying power of candidates like Santorum and Newt Gingrich despite the fact that it seemed clear that, in the long run, they really had no prospect of catching up to Romney, never mind overtaking him. In that last respect, it would appear that I underestimated the impact of both SuperPACs and the new primary calendar and delegate allocation rules would have on the race.  Perhaps the one lesson learned in that respect is the realization that history doesn’t necessarily always repeat itself even when it seems like that’s whats going to happen.

I look forward to Newell’s selection of worst General Election prediction in November.

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. I vastly over estimated Rick Perry’s abilities as a candidate and his ability to sweep candidates like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum off the stage.

    To be fair, until the debates started, it wasn’t obvious that Perry was a complete idiot.

    My own lousy primary prediction: I still can’t believe that Virginia stuck to its election law and had only Romney and Paul on the ballot.

  2. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I still say the all-time primary brain drain was in 2004 with Howard Dean. That the political media actually believed that a bunch of college students would propel an unknown from Vermont to a nationwide victory was the apex of political cognitive dissonance.

    Regarding this year’s primary and Rick Perry, don’t beat yourself up. Had it not been for the back surgery and the medication things might have been different. Perry also fell victim to the extraordinarily bad demographics of the GOP primary selectorate.

    Concerning Gingrich, the man became a parody of himself way back in 1999. Not all that much for him since then has changed, except perhaps that Callista further has him by the balls.

  3. Davebo says:

    I had my own share of boners over the past year or so.

    TMI Doug and what does it have to do with the GOP primary? Be honest, Rick Perry’s hair had a profound effect right? :o)

  4. @Davebo:

    In retrospect that may not have been the best choice of words

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    The opening paragraph says it all.

    The dirty little secret about political punditry, that is not actually a secret to anyone who watches and reads it, is that it’s all lies. It requires very little knowledge or skill, and there are no consequences for being wrong. For a major newspaper to fire one of its columnists for getting something wrong would bring down the whole pundit industry, as that logic would necessitate the firing of them all. Every election pundit is wrong about everything, nearly all the time, and there’s usually a direct correlation between a pundit’s frequency of wrongness and his or her status — see the Washington Post’s stable of columnists for a prime example. The entire punditocracy is a sham, but thank you for reading anyway.

    There is simply no reason that anyone should take “the Very Serious People” seriously.

  6. rodney dill says:

    This prediction seemed to have held for Romney.


    Though back from last October it still had Perry and Cain highly ranked. It seemed like during the process the main predictions were always ‘Not Romney’

  7. RonLovePaulBot says:

    @Ron Beasley: But …but…but the dictionary says a pundit is a “a learned person” and “an expert in a particular subject” or “a person who gives opinions in an authoritative manner”!
    Like this scribe at Reason.com http://reason.com/blog/2012/04/24/how-ron-pauls-delegate-strategy-is-worki
    He quotes other writers who say “Several Paul loyalists said they harbor hope for getting Paul nominated at the national convention in Tampa, Fla., in late August.” and “his supporters could…attempt to nominate him from the floor.”
    These are stories in real newspapers like The Des Moines Register and…and Rachel Maddow even said “I think Ron Paul just won Iowa”!

  8. matt says:

    @Stormy Dragon: It was only obvious to us Texans 😛