Weeks before the election, when it was reported Mitt Romney‘s campaign was essentially pulling its advertising from Pennsylvania, I emailed a couple of friends saying, “I think this thing’s over.”
This isn’t meant to imply I’m a political genius. But I had been following the election and sites like Nate Silver‘s fivethirtyeight.com, and without Pennsylvania, it looked as if too many dominoes would have to fall into place for Romney to win the electoral college.
The race ebbed and flowed after that, but by the time the actual voting began, President Obama again appeared to be firmly in command according to the polls. The results Tuesday, in other words, didn’t really qualify as a “surprise.”
Unfortunately, those who derive most of their news from the conservative echo chambers were likely ill-prepared for the outcome, with many talking heads predicting a Romney landslide. Such pundits were often hostile toward Silver, accusing him of being an ideologue, which falls into the “I’m rubber and you’re glue” category.
In that regard, the shift toward partisan punditry has done not just its consumers but the entire nation a disservice, to the extent such misleading information prompts the political fringes to question the vote’s legitimacy. And as I noted in my column today (a point also made, in a roundabout way, by Michael Kinsley), there’s virtually no penalty for pundits being wrong. Even Dick Morris issued a rather lame defense of just how terribly off the mark he was, which should have damaged his credibility enough to make Fox News question making him a go-to source for such analysis.
Rush Limbaugh — who also projected a landslide in the GOP’s favor — repeated Wednesday on his radio program that the election “should have been a slam dunk,” before offering a litany of questions (and excuses) regarding why the Republicans lost.
Maybe Bill Clinton got it right at the Democratic National Convention. The blinding influence of partisanship is only part of the problem. When you’re busy fanning the flames, it’s easy to get smoke in your eyes. And that makes it hard to do math.