News & Politics

Pundits Eat Crow

Election results are one of the few things on which pundits’ on-air or online predictions can be held to account. Who got it right in the first two contests of the 2008 presidential race?

Robert Novak had mixed results. In Iowa, he got the Democrats right but not the Republicans, and vice versa in New Hampshire. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News guessed wrong on the GOP in Iowa but got the Democrats right. On the left, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of the progressive blog and a columnist for Newsweek, got it right in Iowa, matching the 1–2–3 finish of Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Rodham Clinton almost to the percentage, but he was way off the mark in New Hampshire, predicting wins for Mitt Romney and Obama.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews missed Mike Huckabee’s win in Iowa but did see John McCain’s revival in New Hampshire, while E.J. Dionne saw Edwards pushing “one of these other two into third” in Iowa. David Brooks guessed wrong on Iowa, while his NewsHour counterpart, Mark Shields, correctly foresaw McCain’s rebound.

The best election predictor might be the guest lineup on NBC’s Meet the Press. Although host Tim Russert was circumspect in his own guesses, he hosted three of the four Iowa and New Hampshire winners the Sunday before—Huckabee and Obama just before Iowa and then McCain just before the Granite State.

Of course, predictions are a tricky business in any field. Washington Post sports columnist Tom Boswell wrote on January 8 that he was “95 percent” sure Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and team owner Dan Snyder would work out a contract extension. Later that day, Gibbs resigned.

This article can be found in the February 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.