Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Tuesday, October 22, 2002
 
As Republicans announce their impending election victory, the pundits are starting to fall in line agreeing. But before you take this too seriously, take a moment to recall the last midterm elections. Here's what those same pundits were saying days before the 1998 elections:

The Senate: Conventional wisdom among the opinion mafia is GOP gain of two seats (George Will, Stephanopoulos, and Sam Donaldson, This Week; Eleanor Clift, The McLaughlin Group; Margaret Carlson and Al Hunt, CNN's Capital Gang). Cokie Roberts (This Week) expects a GOP gain of only one seat; Mark Shields (Capital Gang) expects no net gain for either party. On the other side, a few prognisticators expect GOP gains of three seats (Gwen Ifill, NBC's Meet the Press; Michael Barone, The McLaughlin Group), four seats (Tony Blankley, The McLaughlin Group; Bill Kristol, This Week), or more (John McLaughlin and Pat Buchanan, The McLaughlin Group; Robert Novak, Capital Gang). A gain of five seats would give the GOP a filibuster-proof majority in the senate, which everyone agrees would be a very important victory.

14 out of 15 predicted Republican gains. In fact, there was no Senate change in 1998.

The House: Conventional wisdom is a GOP gain of seven to ten seats (Kate O' Beirne, Capital Gang; Blankley, Hunt; Barone; Novak; Margaret Carlson; Donaldson; Stephanopoulos, Charles Cook, Meet the Press). Clift and Shields expect GOP gains of less than six seats; Buchanan, McLaughlin, and Kristol expect GOP gains of over 12 seats. Borger predicts that if the GOP gains less than five to eight house seats, Republicans will attempt to unseat Newt Gingrich as top Republican in the house.

Every pundit predicted a Republican gain in the House. Voters inexplicably failed to listen to their betters and produced Democratic gains instead.

It was the same story in 2000, when pundits before the election predicted a popular vote victory for Bush, and even predicted that Hillary Clinton was in danger of losing to Rick Lazio. The truth is that pundits are like anybody else - they see what they want to see. And since they are Republicans, they see evidence of Republican victories. Democrats did better in both the 1998 and 2000 elections than pundits predicted. The 2001 off year elections were misreported even after they had taken place - what was actually a major Democratic victory was reported as a draw. Expect the same pattern this year.



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