Bad Predictions from the 2012 Race

Time for some Wednesday morning quarterbacking!

If the pundit’s job is to take America’s temperature and offer us predictions, then there are a few columnists who have some explaining to do after last night’s election. Locally, it was a tough night for the predicative powers at the Boston Herald, in particular. Luckily, we’re here to do some Wednesday morning quarterbacking and offer you a few of the worst predictions from the past week or two coming out of the local media scene:

Prediction: Mitt Romney will be President.

Advocates: A lot of Boston Herald readers could be forgiven for thinking this might be the case. Among the Herald columnists pitching it, Michael Graham probably looks the silliest. He wrote, “One week from today, Mitt wins. I’ll even go a step farther. I’ll ask the question poll watchers across America are thinking but afraid to ask: Is this election over?” A few others at the Herald had similar swagger. Holly Robichaud, speaking of the chance we might elect Elizabeth Warren, wrote, “Will we cut off our nose to spite our face by electing a Democrat when it looks like our former governor, Mitt Romney, will be our next president?” The Herald also syndicated Washington Examiner columnist Michael Barone who gets points for walking furthest out on a limb by offering his state by state predictions. He gets fewer points for the predictions themselves. He wrongly predicted Romney would win Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Result: President Obama won.

Prediction: The polls are lying to you.

Advocate: You saw this myth all over the national punditocracy, but locally, The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld set the tone. Yesterday he wrote, “They’re nervous. They’re scared. In just a few hours, their careers could be over. We’re not talking about the candidates. The people really sweating out Election Day are the dreaded political pollsters.”

Result: The pollsters have not lost their jobs. (Oddly, we imagine the pundits who said they would won’t lose their jobs either.) There were a lot of polls this year, and some variability in each of their results. But if you looked at those who aggregated the polls, their predictions were fairly solid. Perhaps the most embattled of number crunchers, Five Thirty Eight’s Nate Silver, is taking a big victory lap after yet again coming darn close to predicting the election down to the state.

Prediction: Richard Tisei will win.

Advocates: No one pretended the race between Rep. John Tierney and Richard Tisei would be a blow out. But there was a growing sense among political watchers (with this writer included) that Tisei had Tierney beat in the final days, as evidenced by the surprise with which people greeted the actual result. The Globe‘s Yvonne Abraham offered the heavily caveated prediction, “Anything can happen between here and Tuesday. But for now, let’s assume Tisei goes to Washington.”

Result: You know what happens when you assume … Tierney beat Tisei by a few thousand votes.

Prediction: The electoral college will fail us.

Advocate: Whether it be because Romney and Obama tied with 269 votes each or because Obama lost the popular vote but won the electoral college, pundits across the land wondered whether this would be the year America gave up on its quirky election system. Glen Johnson at the Globe wrote a long piece pondering the possibility. We noted at the time that the odds of this were far smaller than the space it was being given.

Result: With Obama taking both the popular and electoral college votes, it seems the electoral college won’t get another hard look this year. That said, we can’t say we’re not a little sad to see the chance of a a 269-269 tie resulting in a Romney-Biden administration go. That would have been fun to watch.

And there you have it. Some of these bad predictions were forgivable. Some of them were so willfully distorted that it’s hard to see why readers would put stock in the writer’s predictive powers ever again. (Robichaud and Graham, we’re looking at you.) None of them were right.