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I have one piece of holiday advice. Everybody calm down

I see you out there. You are the Bernie Sanders supporters up in arms that your guy is getting big union endorsements and attracting huge crowds, yet losing the headline wars to Hillary Clinton — or worse — Donald Trump.

You are the Martin O’Malley supporters unhappy that Democrat debates scheduled on weekends are way less “buzzy” than the GOP ones and therefore deprive your guy of a big platform.

And you are the vast majority of the 14 Republican presidential candidates raging against the dying light — infuriated you cannot break through, or, in some cases, even make it onto the main stage to snag some of the 18 million eyeballs who watched the last GOP faceoff.

I have one piece of holiday advice to offer. Everybody calm down.

I have. Every time I get caught up in the latest polling, I click on the Washington Post Twitter feed @PastFrontrunner, which reminds me to keep things in perspective.

It tells me that at this time in 2003, Howard Dean was leading the Democratic field by 15 points, a lead he kept for 46 more days. In 2007 at the same time, Hillary Clinton was ahead by even more — nearly 18 points — and held the lead for nearly another two months. (Rudy Giuliani topped the Republican field.)

Four years later, it was Newt Gingrich who held the early lead. Need I say that none of these people snagged their party nomination, let alone the presidency?

But this year, you say, is so different. Donald Trump has changed all the rules and made fools of anyone who dared predict where the race would stand today. This is true.

But here is another reason to keep your powder dry. As eminent Iowa pollster J. Ann Seltzer reminds us, first-in-the-nation voters like to take their time before deciding.

Seltzer’s last Iowa poll was the one that had Ted Cruz vaulting ahead of Trump in the Hawkeye State. But as she told Judy Woodruff last month: “People are often asking me, ‘Are these numbers going to hold through caucus night?’ And I always reply, ‘I hope not, and it’s hard to imagine they would.'”


Or as Republican analyst Kristin Soltis Anderson said in a National Review post, there is a difference between whether polls are predictive versus when they are valid. “The ground is always shifting beneath us,” she writes. “Of course a poll today isn’t ‘predictive’ of what will happen a month and a half from now.”

Using this distinction, it is possible to grasp why Mike Huckabee and Howard Dean seemed like good bets at the time. The numbers were valid; they just weren’t predictive.

These calming voices provide a reason to climb down from that political precipice so many partisans seem to be on. Take a break. Spend the holidays with family. Leave the poll-reading to the experts.

And I’ll see you again in January.

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