Not everyone predicted President Barack Obama’s victory in the 2012 election. In fact, though the polls showed Obama gaining steam in the finals days of the election, many pundits claimed that the numbers oversampled Democratic voters and explained that voters were more enthusiastic for Mitt Romney. It’s worth immortalizing who said what, and why they did. Here’s a list of ten of the most egregiously blown calls:
1. Dick Morris: “This is going to be a landslide.” The former Clinton adviser predicted a dominant Romney win, calling it “the biggest surprise in recent American political history.” Claiming that polls were oversampling Democrats, Morris wondered if “it will rekindle the whole question on why the media played this race as a nailbiter.”
2. Roger Kimball: “Obama is toast.” The publisher of prominent right-wing book imprint Encounter Books and a frequent contributor to conservative outlets, Kimball boldly predicted that Romney “is going to win, big time.” It was easy, he could “tell you in three syllables and a few numbers…Ben-gha-zi.” Though the Benghazi story played big in right-wing media before the election, a vanishingly small number of voters reported foreign policy being the top priority in the election — let alone the Embassy issue, which the Romney campaign had completely dropped in the stretch.
3. Karl Rove: “At least 279 electoral votes.” “It comes down to numbers. And in the final days of this presidential race, from polling data to early voting, they favor Mitt Romney,” Rove wrote in a WSJ op-ed ignoring the fact that most polls showed growing momentum for the president. He predicted that Romney will win 51 percent of the popular vote and “at least 279 electoral votes.”
4. Peggy Noonan: “There is no denying the Republicans have the passion now.” Noonan is one of the most respected political columnists in the country despite her penchant for deciding things based on her gut rather than actual data. But her Romney prediction wasn’t exactly well thought out even by her own standard. According to Noonan, “all the vibrations [were] right” for a Romney win because “something old was roaring back.” While this might be the right way to open an H.P. Lovecraft novel, it probably isn’t the best way to think about presidential elections.
5. Larry Kudlow: “Yes, that’s right: 330 electoral votes.” CNBC personality Larry Kudlow bet Romney would “sweep the Midwest,” a point on which Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio beg to differ. He was so excited about his prediction that Romney would get 330 votes that he repeated it twice — despite the fact that he was making the call two weeks out from the election.
6. Fred Barnes: “Romney will be elected the 45th president of the United States.” Barnes, the editor of the Weekly Standard, didn’t attach a particular number to his prediction, but his reasoning for betting on Romney was beyond silly. According to Barnes, despite the fact that “there’s no empirical evidence” that undecided voters break for the challenger before the election, “it helps Romney.” He also bet that Romney would win because of significant advantages among seniors, evangelicals, and gun owners — that is to say, Republicans.
7. Michael Barone: “Fundamentals usually prevail in American elections.” Considered by many to be the dean of Washington politics coverage, Barone predicted a 315–223 Romney blowout in which Romney took easy Obama states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Barone’s principal reason for calling it huge for Romney, the economic fundamentals, looks even stranger, as they actually favored Obama.
8. Dean Chambers: “The race has shifted profoundly in favor of Mitt Romney.” It appears the election has unskewed the unskewer. Chambers, the proprietor of the famous “correcting biased polls” UnskewedPolls.com, made two predictions before the election. While both obviously called a Romney win, the first one predicted a landslide — 359 electoral votes, even larger than Barone’s — the second, more sober assessment called a more modest 275. Chambers may owe Nate Silver, whom he described as “a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the ‘Mr. New Castrati’ voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program” in what appeared to be a takedown piece, something of an apology.
9. Newt Gingrich: “A Romney landslide.” The former House Speaker predicted that Romney will take 53 percent of the popular vote and at least 300 electoral college votes. “My personal guess is you’ll see a Romney landslide, 53 percent-plus . . . in the popular vote, 300 electoral votes-plus,” Gingrich said. He also predicted that Republicans “may come very close to capturing control of the Senate.” He apologized for the faulty call the morning after the election.
10. Jim Cramer: “The presidential race is nowhere as close as the polls suggest.” The Mad Money finance “expert” famous for being humiliated by Jon Stewart predicted an Obama landslide, 440–98 in the electoral college and 55–45 in the popular vote. To put this in perspective, Obama would have had to win every semi-competitive state and, er, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, Kentucky, Missouri, and West Virginia.