I think it was the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel, when he was still with Slate, who introduced the idea of an annual “Pundit Audit” five years ago. It’s a pretty straightforward exercise: professional political pundits look back over the previous 12 months, and in the interest of accountability, they highlight instances in which their predictions and/or expectations were plainly wrong.
It’s always struck me as a worthwhile, albeit painful, endeavor, which pundits should subject themselves to at least once a year.
And so, without further ado, let’s review my most notable missteps.
1. Trump, Trump, Trump
Wow, was I wrong about Donald Trump. I initially made the case that he wouldn’t run for president at all, and then when he launched, I dismissed him as a joke who stood no realistic chance of seriously competing. It’s safe to say he’s done a little better than I expected. OK, more than a little.
2. Scott Walker really did look like a strong presidential contender
It was a recipe for electoral success: a far-right governor, with plenty of far-right accomplishments, who enjoyed broad credibility with the Republican establishment and its activist base, was running for president. I expected Walker to be one of the last men standing, not realizing just how horrible a candidate he would turn out to be.
3. Gov. Bevin?
In Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, Democrats saw Matt Bevin as the weakest of the three GOP candidates, and I agreed with them. When he won the Republican primary, and the polls showed him trailing, I expected Bevin – a bad candidate with a bad message – to lose. Instead, he won easily.
4. Paul Ryan as House Speaker
In October, when House Republicans were descending towards chaos, I thought it might be a long while before they found a successor to Speaker John Boehner. Even after Paul Ryan grudgingly made himself available, I argued that the House Freedom Caucus would balk and keep the gavel from his hands. Instead, Ryan dropped his demands and made the process far simpler – and less dramatic – than I expected it to go.
In my defense, 2015 wasn’t all bad on the punditry front. I argued Ted Cruz would be a top contender for the Republican nomination, and he is. I expected Jeb Bush to struggle and forfeit his frontrunner status, and he has. I expected the Supreme Court to side with the left on marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act, and it did. And I argued President Obama would find a way to succeed on the Iran nuclear deal and the international climate agreement, and he did.
But no one bats 1.000, and the hits don’t erase the misses.
Here’s to an even more accurate 2016.