Tuesday’s just as bad

I got very busy after the election and I haven’t had time to mock all the idiot pundits’ predictions yet. William Galston is, mercifully, mostly absent from the Sunday shows, but he’s some kind of a big wig at Brookings and writes all kinds of stupid “centrist” concern troller at TNR. Jon Chait does a good job of dissecting many of his incorrect predictions here, but I haven’t seen him touch this one yet (from November 1):

In all probability, Obama’s winning margin would be the lowest for the incumbent since 1916—maybe ever.

Bush won by 2.3 points in 2004, Obama by 3.7 in 2012, so Obama’s margin was not the lowest for incumbent since 1916. Anyone can be wrong, but in fact Nate Silver had Obama winning by 2.5 (i.e. more than 2.3), Sam Wang by 2.1 (only slightly less than 2.3). Polling averages like TPM and RCP, which included Rasmussen and Gallup, only had Obama by 0.7 but there was plenty of reason to question the Rasmussen and Gallup methodologies.

So the caveman polling averages (ones that did nothing but add stuff together) had Obama by 0.7, the sophisticated ones had Obama by 2.1 to 2.5?

On what planet did it make sense to say that Obama would win by less than 2.3 “in all probability”? Why does TNR continue to employ Galston?

38 replies
  1. 1
    PeakVT says:

    Why does TNR continue to employ Galston?

    For the same reason that the vast majority of pundits and journalists still have jobs: they write stuff their bosses like. And that has always been especially true at TNR.

  2. 2
    Valdivia says:

    yes, yes a thousand times yes. He is the biggest wanker of them all, always writing about the doom that is to befall Obama with the tiniest violin possible playing in the background. I have never ever understood why he even bothers to write since most of the commenters mock him and Chait (who is a TNR alumn) used to unload the snark even when he was still at the magazine.

    Hopefully though no one’s heart is in misery :)

  3. 3
    MattF says:

    Contrarian trolling is pretty much the reigning style among the pundits. “Just because science, logic, history, and morality say ‘X’ doesn’t mean I can’t say ‘Y’.”

  4. 4
    Raven says:

    The Eagle flies on Friday. . .

  5. 5
    Scott Supak says:

    I love when Dean Baker does this why on earth do these Iraq-war-WMD and no-housing-isn’t-the-largest-asset-bubble-ever types still have jobs? There is no more obvious example of a rigged market than the fact that these people still have jobs predicting things.

    Intrade was a great equalizer of sorts, where you could take wingnut money by betting on what scientists say will happen, but now they’ve shut down to US customers for a while, at least, while they sort out this mess with the CFTC. But if they come back, I will put a lot more money in the climate and political markets where you can literally invest in the fact that scientists tend to be right most of the time.

  6. 6
    Mark S. says:

    Never heard of this jackass but from reading one of his articles it’s how I’d imagine Jennifer Rubin to sound if she were pretending to be a Democrat. For instance:

    For single women, pick a fight over contraception with the Catholic Church and run a national convention in which the centrality of abortion rights startled even seasoned observers. Bill Clinton’s mantra—safe, legal, and rare—is a distant memory. In its place: “Julia.”

    I was kind of shocked when Michelle Obama held up an aborted fetus during the convention, but I don’t remember Julia having anything to do with abortion. Is that in the Director’s Cut?

  7. 7
    Jose Padilla says:

    Actually, Obama is one of only six presidents ever to have twice won by 51% or more. And need I point out that since 1944 only three times has a Democratic candidate received more than 50% of the popular vote: Johnson once and Obama twice.

  8. 8
    DougJ says:


    What is it with these Strauss students?

  9. 9
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Why does TNR continue to employ Galston?

    TNR is a villager rag.

    One does not get fired from villager rags by making shitty predictions. One gets fired for saying the conventional wisdom is stupid, that “balance” is bullshit, and that the problem in DC has three initials. Gee. Ooh. Pee.

    Ask Ornstein and Mann how that works.

  10. 10
    MikeJ says:

    Anybody else getting the “Found” header that refers to smuss.net? Googling that domain shows it to be heavily involved with malware. Perhaps that’s why the site has been dog slow for the past few days?

    The redirect is to a “suspendedpage.cgi”, so you may be safe for now, but somebody needs to grep the source of your templates and plugins for refs to smuss.

  11. 11
    Napoleon says:

    @Mark S.:

    Never heard of this jackass

    I think he was in Clinton’s admin. People like him is why I will never vote for Hillary in a primary.

    He is so terribly wrong every time he opens his mouth he pretty much amounts to Team Dems William Kristol.

  12. 12
    General Stuck says:

    Basic laws of nature. The more pundits you have, the more you have that are wrong. And we are lousy with motherfucking pundits these days. With one or three exceptions, the only pundit I trust is me, where at least if I happen to guess right, I don’t have to share the credit.

  13. 13
    Bruce S says:

    He meant to say “in all ‘probability’ that isn’t actually based on calculations of probability.” Folks who aren’t paid pundits shorten this to “IMHO.” Appropriate response is, more often than not, “LOL.”

  14. 14
    Bruce S says:

    “I love when Dean Baker does this why on earth do these Iraq-war-WMD and no-housing-isn’t-the-largest-asset-bubble-ever types still have jobs? “

    So why do you and Dean Baker hate America?

  15. 15
    Alexandra says:


    somebody needs to grep the source of your templates and plugins for refs to smuss.

    I have no idea what this means, but it sounds vaguely dirty. More, please.

  16. 16
    Anya says:

    Why only pick on Galston since the majority of pundits made similarly idiotic predictions?

  17. 17
    Valdivia says:


    where to begin? the very very curious thing is that if you read European political theory people who have done work on Strauss (ie they were not his students and do not hold conferences that could pass as seances in which they debate the point by point of lecture notes) their take on him is markedly different than the fetishistic American one. So I think it isn’t Strauss per se (though that is an issue but of a different kind I think), and it is more the Straussians themselves and their too-close-knitted intellectually incestuous brotherhood.

    BTW, I don’t know if you saw Sully’s rant about Scalia the other day where he mentioned his debate about gay marriage with Mansfield. If one knows about Mansfield the whole piece takes a whole different spin. Very very amusing.

    Then again: with this crew it always comes down to manliness and projection.

  18. 18
    Valdivia says:

    hmmm. Have no idea what bad word I used but now I am in moderation.

  19. 19
    DougJ says:


    This was especially bad. Most said “I don’t know”, he said “I know Obama will win by less than 2.3”.

  20. 20
    MikeJ says:

    @Alexandra: Geek talk gets a lot of people worked up:

    unzip, strip, touch, finger, grep, mount, fsck, more, yes, fsck, fsck, fsck, umount, sleep

  21. 21
    dmsilev says:

    Speaking of the campaign, how about a nice heartwarming story about Mitt Romney’s campaign’s money-wasting and post-mortem attempts to stick media companies with the bill?

    For example, on Oct. 11, each reporter was charged $812 for a meal and a rented “holding” space, where the press waited before moving to the next event. On Oct. 18, the bill for a similar set of expenses was $461. And on the night of the vice presidential debate, the campaign planned a “viewing party” for the reporters with Romney, complete with a large rented room with a patio, massage tables, fresh cut flowers, and lots of food and booze. One campaign aide told BuzzFeed that campaign officials’ orders were to “go big” — a nice gesture, perhaps, but one that wasn’t discussed with every media outlet. The tab for the party: $745 per reporter.

  22. 22
    DougJ says:


    Fixed it.

  23. 23
    Redshift says:

    Punditry is hit-based, not win/loss based. You succeed in punditry by making unlikely predictions, not safe, well-supported ones. The Village will forget any number of failed predictions, but get one right when everyone was expecting something different, and your reputation will be made forever.

    Needless to say, or discourse would be much better if the opposite were true, not least because if a reputation was permanently ruined for making a bad prediction, we’d have no pundits at all.

  24. 24
    Valdivia says:


    thanks! The censor here is like a mysterious 17th century entity. Arbitrary and you are left always guessing exactly what was offensive.

  25. 25
    General Stuck says:


    Fixed it.

    Well, la tee da. Showing on yer FP muscle for the ladies?

  26. 26
    Scott Supak says:

    @Bruce S:

    It’s a love-hate thing for sure. But it sure was fun taking money from the 27% I hate. Figures that the one mechanism by which I could exact revenge in the form of cash from wingnuts would get in hot water with regulators who regularly grant big investors a pass on the rules.

  27. 27
    cathyx says:

    @General Stuck: Do you really think that impresses the ladies?

  28. 28
    Anya says:

    @DougJ: I missed that…. Well, carry on, then.

  29. 29
    Redshift says:

    @dmsilev: Wow. I honestly had no idea that the media reimbursed campaigns for food and lodging, though I guess it makes sense to avoid at least some level of the appearance of bribery. To me it sounds as much a “run like a corporation” values as it does like general mismanagement – somebody else is paying, right? You think any of Romney’s executive buddies think twice about the cost of a meal they’re putting on the expense account?

  30. 30
    Alex S. says:

    By the way, Obama’s victory margin is still going to grow. Several hundred thousands of votes from NY are still not counted. Dave Wassermann @Twitter estimates that Obama is going to end up with 51.1-51.2% and Romney will drop to 47.1-47%.

  31. 31
    PsiFighter37 says:

    I would just like to say that I predicted Obama to win between 3-4% on this blog, rounded up to 4%. I also got the exact number of EV right. I also predicted Mitten’s vote total at 47% rounded.

    I also made all of those predictions a few beers deep.

    Where is my sweet, sweet pundit job filled with loads of cash? I make smarter predictions with my gut, when my gut is loaded with booze. It sounds like a win-win-win.

  32. 32
    Lojasmo says:


    L337 speak for “find out why this is happening” as far as I can tell. MikeJ is way smarter than me, so I could be wrong.

  33. 33
    burnspbesq says:

    In which Dan Larison (of all people) excellently pantses Dana Milbank.


    We need a new center-right party in this country, one in which Larison and Frum are the extremists, not the token sane guys.

  34. 34

    Obama’s win was a pretty significant landslide. This story is dated today:

    The Los Angeles Times said Saturday the Election Day margin of just over 2 percent has gradually widened out to nearly 4 percent.
    The Cook Political Report Friday gave Obama 50.97 percent of the popular vote to Mitt Romney’s 47.3 percent. The totals include 47 states where the results have been certified as final.
    Cook’s David Wasserman told the Times the majority of the estimated 413,000 uncounted ballots were mainly in New York, a state that leaned heavily Democratic.
    The Times said if Obama surpassed 51 percent of the popular vote, he would be only the fifth president in U.S. history to win election twice with 51 percent of the vote.
    The last president to accomplish that feat was Dwight Eisenhower. The others included Franklin Roosevelt, Ulysses Grant, William McKinley and Andrew Jackson, the Times said.

  35. 35
    MattF says:

    @Southern Beale: I only note that Saint Ronnie is not in that short list.

  36. 36
    General Stuck says:


    Do you really think that impresses the ladies?

    Prolly Not as much as a well delivered fart joke/ Witch happens to be my specialty.

  37. 37
    Joel says:

    @Redshift: In other words, spam.

  38. 38
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Southern Beale:
    I see a problem with the LA Times’ copy editing.

    The Times said if Obama surpassed 51 percent of the popular vote, he would be only the fifth president in U.S. history to win election twice with 51 percent of the vote.

    The last president to accomplish that feat was Dwight Eisenhower. The others included Franklin Roosevelt, Ulysses Grant, William McKinley and Andrew Jackson, the Times said.

    Ike + FDR + Grant + McKinley + Jackson = 5 already. Obama would be the sixth.

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