The Daily Need

Why you’re wrong about who’s going to be elected president next year

Newt Gingrich interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press." Photo: AP/NBC News, William B. Plowman

It’s 2011, do you know who’s going to win the presidential election next year?  The answer is no, you don’t. Even if you predict now that someone will win then, and that person ends up winning, it won’t be because you knew. You don’t know.

How do I know what you don’t know? Maybe I don’t. But I do know this: Most of what people “know” in the year or two before a presidential election turns out to be wrong. Take a look at the last half century or so, and you’ll see what most people thought was a shoo-in at some point in the calendar year before the election turned out to be, well, a shoo-out.

Examples:

We begin with a tragedy. Throughout most of 1963, the entire country assumed President John F. Kennedy would most certainly be his party’s nominee in 1964. Perhaps he would be reelected as well. We all know what happened on November 22, 1963. Before that date, no one knew Lyndon B. Johnson would be president.

Next comes a shocker. In 1967 – excuse the repetition — the entire country assumed President Lyndon B. Johnson would most certainly be his party’s nominee in 1968. Perhaps he would be reelected as well. In March 1968, the sitting president did the unthinkable: he announced he wouldn’t run.

In the ‘70s, we had a twofer in Gerald Ford. In 1972, when Richard Nixon was elected, few Americans outside of Michigan had even heard of Ford. By October ’73, he was vice-president!  (This came after Nixon’s ethically challenged veep, Spiro Agnew, resigned.)  Less than a year later, Ford was president! (This came after the crooked Nixon himself resigned.)

In 1975, did people think he’d be elected in ’76?  Surely some did. What nobody thought in ’75 was that the governor of Georgia would be elected president in ’76. In fact, in 1975 most people outside Georgia couldn’t name the governor of Georgia.

Then there was Ronald Reagan. He’s remembered now as one of the most popular presidents ever, and he was. But during the deep recession of ’82, Reagan looked a lot like a one-termer. He wasn’t.

Fast forward to early 1991. The governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, is known nationally – if he is known at all – as the guy who had given the windiest convention speech in Democratic history three years earlier. President Bush, meanwhile – defender of Kuwait, smiter of Saddam’s forces (if not Saddam himself), had an approval rating at one time of a remarkable 89 percent.  The Democratic heavyweights of the day – Mario Cuomo and Ted Kennedy, to name two – appeared to have been scared off by Bush’s popularity, and didn’t run. They left the remarkably unheralded trio of Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown and the aforementioned Governor Clinton to fight it out to see who would lose to Bush in ’92. One deep recession later, Clinton won.

Two years later, Clinton’s Democrats were walloped in the ‘94 midterm elections, losing 53 seats. The man had one-termer written all over him. Wrong.

Then there was the late ‘90s. Looking toward 2000, anyone could be forgiven for wondering how Al Gore could fail to capitalize on Bill Clinton’s legacy. Peace and prosperity, a roaring stock market, still the economy, stupid.  Simultaneously who – really now – thought the fumbly, stumbly governor of Texas, George W. Bush, would ever be president. Brother Jeb, sure, but not George. Then along came Monica. Then came Gore campaigning as if running from Clinton’s legacy rather than on it.  Then came President George W. Bush. Hero of 9/11, later smiter of Saddam himself.  And reelected in 2004, which serves as an exception that proves the rule. I can’t argue that nobody in ’02 or ’03 could predict George W. Bush would serve two full terms.

But we quickly get back on track in 2007. Who can forget (actually, who even remembers) that then the presidential frontrunners were none other than Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. Giuliani’s candidacy fizzled completely by early ’08. Clinton’s turned out to be much more resilient, but she too fell short, losing the nomination to the guy who was too-young-and-inexperienced-and-besides-America-will-never-elect-a-black-president.

As I write this, Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential bid is “falling apart.” His campaign manager just quit; ergo, he’s dead in the water. Just like John McCain was dead in the water in the summer of ‘07 when his campaign manager quit. Except he wasn’t dead in the water. McCain went on to be, well, not the president. But he came closer than anybody thought he would in ’07.

Does that mean Gingrich has a shot? I could say I know that he does. But no matter how it turns out, I’d be wrong.

 
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Comments

  • Jnwired

    This is perfect, with just one caveat: Al Gore WAS elected President.

  • Anonymous

    Yes I like this article because it makes a farce of the media driven need to have multiple “likely presidential candidates” from the opposition and even to play the guessing game about who might 23/24months before the Mid term election!! It is even more amusing when the republican way of choosing is via caucus votes in the party, with confirmation at the Party convention.
    Predicting the future as you point out is like guessing who might want to be The Next presidential candidate in any party.
    Then you have Iowa and New Hampshire as being bell weathers. Thanks for making the rest of us unimportant, or just following thier lead for whatever reason such statistics are equally meaningless.
    I leave you with one thought or question choose which you support  Palin will be elected President In 2012 and reply accordingly.
    Regards,
    Hodg40 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709664528 Jon Vandenberg

    I would put my money on Palin.

  • Sidekick

    Get over it, Lib, even the New York Times said he lost Florida.

  • Everyone89

    I’ll see that bet. How much?

  • Everyone89

    But the Florida Supreme Court said that he didn’t. Still, move on already. We’re still working on cleaning up W’s mess and would rather forget about him as quickly as possible.

  • http://abevoelker.com Abe Voelker

    Vote for Ron Paul or we’re doomed.

  • http://abevoelker.com Abe Voelker

    Vote for Ron Paul or we’re doomed.

  • Kittyluv

    Hillary fell short because they  thought she was the nominee even before the race began, but the Democrats don’t operate on the premise of whose turn it is  like the republicans do. She was shy half a million votes in the end  to get the nomination. She  was truly close— if  she  ran a better campaign she  would have had  it. In reality the republicans WANTED Obama over Hillary. They knew she would not compromise with them and she knows  how to play hard ball against  them. It is  a  shame Hillary  would have been better but we will never  know.  

  • Kittyluv

    Hillary fell short because they  thought she was the nominee even before the race began, but the Democrats don’t operate on the premise of whose turn it is  like the republicans do. She was shy half a million votes in the end  to get the nomination. She  was truly close— if  she  ran a better campaign she  would have had  it. In reality the republicans WANTED Obama over Hillary. They knew she would not compromise with them and she knows  how to play hard ball against  them. It is  a  shame Hillary  would have been better but we will never  know.  

  • Powlineman

    Are the republicans really thatbrain dead to do something like that?

  • Kittyluvdmd

    On the republican side the CNP  is a factor that most people  are unaware  of — Council on  National Policy, Secretive ultra  conservative group of a handful of very wealthy mostly religious  right. They are  the  ones  who selected  Sarah Palin  for  McCain— they liked  her as they liked Bush. Empty headed with very  conservative beliefs.  So  they told McCain  if  you want our support and money  then this is your  VP. McCain  called her as ordered, that  is why  she was not vetted. that  is why  it was such a disaster in the  end. That  is why you can never say who will be president. There are a handful of people  running this game and it is  not  you and I folks.

  • Kittyluvdmd

    yes

  • http://www.facebook.com/meclimber Ted Peterson

    Palin can rally people’s emotions, but she can’t seem to articulate well-informed and thoughtful ideas off the cuff. Even if she can get the Republican caucus to back her, I don’t see her winning any debates and I certainly can’t see her brokering any complex agreements with foreign leaders where her joe-six-pack charisma just doesn’t culturally align.

    As shown in the VP debates, if she needs to write notes on her hand reminding her to address “energy,” “budget cuts,” and “lift american spirits,” then she clearly doesn’t have the cognitive skills for the most influential job on the planet. 
    Gingrich may not be glamorous like Palin, and may not speak so vaguely that his words can’t be picked apart, but he has some serious critical thinking skills and that’s what’s important for making executive decisions with such enormous implications. If constituents would evaluate their party’s message rather than merely accepting it, we would be having much more informed and pointed dialogue without the group-think that has permeated all public decision-making. As far as predictions go, it’s more impossible to know today than ever with the speed at which ideas and information can spread. However, I will say that Obama is a savvy dude I think he will use legislative timing to make jabs at just the right moments throughout the campaign. Basically, he can campaign what he will do as he is doing it. There will be lots of fierce congressional opposition to those moves and his reaction to that resistance is what will make or break his campaign. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VVNVRLBCNCYBHHFXZ7BWC6O6NY LindaF

     And, it won’t be soon enough into they die off and take their old money with them. . .

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VVNVRLBCNCYBHHFXZ7BWC6O6NY LindaF

     Women are smarter than that Abe. . . He is just another old white guy that is uptight and has nothing to offer us!

  • Anonymous

    I disagree that Reagan didn’t have an easy road to a second term.  Walter Mondale was so desperate he chose a female running mate (a big plus to a few of us) and said he’d raise taxes.  Even those of us suffering in the ag depression in the Midwest knew Reagan was a shoe-in. 

  • http://abevoelker.com Abe Voelker

    Ron Paul is about as close as you can get to the ideals of our founding fathers. Are you against those old white guys too?  :-)

    A short list of ideas he supports: massively cut the federal gov’t (think Milton Friedman here), abolish the Fed, bring our troops home and end our interventionist foreign policy, repeal the Patriot Act, end foreign aid, leave the United Nations, decriminalize controlled substances (i.e. no more War on Drugs), etc.  A lot of it has to do with shrinking the federal gov’t, and getting the gov’t generally out of people’s personal business – i.e. respecting individuals’ rights.

    He is nothing like any slimy Republican or Democrat candidate you can think of.  He only campaigns as a Republican because he thinks that he is the only one who actually qualifies as a candidate under the definition of the term “Republican”.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DATH64AMUIC3D5SJHD7A5ACL44 Iggy

    Massively cut the federal government, including the departments that oversee food and drug safety, occupational safety and who prosecute white collar crime? Abolish the Fed, because  free market market fluctuations of the dollar and on lending rates on the global economy have no possibility of causing global disaster? End interventionist global policy because it is better to allow for ethnic and religious wholesale slaughter in, say, the Balkans?  End foreign aid because we hated when the second president Bush spent all that extra money trying to save lives in the developing world?  500 million deaths from preventable causes in children under the age of 6 in my lifetime, so of course we should stop federal aid because people out of the goodness of their heart will make this calamity stop even though they have never bothered to do so yet.

  • http://abevoelker.com Abe Voelker

    I hate to get into a big political discussion on a comment system, but I’ll give you a quick response to your points / rhetorical questions from my own POV, but I probably won’t follow up any further.  Just some things to ponder.

    >>Massively cut the federal government, including the departments that
    oversee food and drug safety, occupational safety and who prosecute
    white collar crime?

    Prosecution for crime is something that certainly must be safeguarded. Your other examples can be handled simply through the combination of free markets and Tort Law.  It’s important to consider the efficiency of gov’t bureaucracy in all things, as well.  The sluggishness of the FDA in approving drugs, for instance, costs lives by delaying treatment, but of course that’s a hidden factor that you won’t read about in a newspaper since it’s not caused by a direct action like a life taken by a faulty drug.  I think Milton Friedman explains this pretty well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUDV0YII6lk&t=4m04s

    >>End interventionist global policy because it is better to allow for
    ethnic and religious wholesale slaughter in, say, the Balkans?

    I didn’t say isolationist. Sometimes it’s worth intervening, but the action must be approved by Congress (cf. what didn’t happen w/ Libya).  Even then it can be a slippery slope (cf. Iraq).  War should be a last resort.

    >>End foreign aid because we hated when the second president Bush spent
    all that extra money trying to save lives in the developing world?  500
    million deaths from preventable causes in children under the age of 6 in
    my lifetime, so of course we should stop federal aid because people out
    of the goodness of their heart will make this calamity stop even though
    they have never bothered to do so yet.

    It’s not the job of the U.S. gov’t to redistribute U.S. citizens’ wealth to other countries. This is something that should be up to individual citizens to do on their own, and indeed something the private sector does more efficiently than gov’t bureaucrats (contrast the effectiveness of gov’t policy dropping crates of money in Africa vs. what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done in terms of efficiency).  Also, it’s much more ethical this way, as citizens have fine-grained, direct control over where their money goes.  I certainly am not pleased about my federal tax money going to Pakistan, for instance.

    Those who want the gov’t involved in solving all of our problems probably have the best of intentions, but the truth is that in nearly every case the free market (i.e. individuals) are the most efficient at solving our social issues, not gov’t.  You could make the case that the more efficient solution is also a measure of the most ethical.  Milton Friedman would also point out that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. :-)

  • Anonymous

    He only runs as a Republican, according to his own admission, because the election system and laws are heavily rigged against independents and third parties.  And BTW, I’ve been a Ron Paul supporter for the last 20 years or so, even before he became well known over the last four years.

  • Jeotte8888

    Obama Baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jimmyjackson

    Gingrich won’t be elected because people don’t like him.