My Political Punditry In 2011: How Did I Do?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I engage in a fair bit of political punditry.

There’s nothing even remotely unique about being a pundit – but there is something unique about a pundit who actually grades himself on his successes and failures.

Since I regularly grade public figures and try to hold others accountable, I felt it was only fair to turn the pen on myself and see how I did. So I spent an evening going through all of the political posts I wrote during 2011.

On the whole, I got it right more than I got it wrong. But it was far from a perfect year, and this article will summarize my hits and misses.

RIGHT: Mitt Romney’s Mandate (March 8, 2011): Back in March, I wrote that Mitt Romney should disown his Massachusetts health care plan instead of continuing to defend it. Gov. Romney has continued to defend his plan – and, like when Hillary Clinton continued to defend the Iraq war in 2007, his party’s base has not forgiven his apostasy. Although he might end up getting the nomination, he’s lucky – had Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Thune, Mitch Daniels, or Haley Barbour gotten in the race, he might have been in real trouble.

WRONG: Chris Christie’s Storm (January 3, 2011): As a major snow storm blanketed his state, paralyzing roadways and knocking out electrical lines, I wrote that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would pay a political price for vacationing in Disney World instead of staying home. His approval ratings actually went up. Didn’t see that one coming.

RIGHT: Rick Perry’s Gaffes (June 29, 2011): Well before the infamous debate gaffes that likely doomed his campaign, I accurately predicted that Rick Perry would get into trouble with words. I wrote, “Perry is not a particularly strong extemporaneous speaker…he could be prone to some major gaffes that take his campaign far off message.”

RIGHT: Donald Trump Takes The Lead (April 18, 2011): When circus sideshow Donald Trump was polling as the top choice in the Republican field, I reminded readers that his “first-place showing at this point means little” and compared him to Howard Dean, Ross Perot, and Pat Buchanan – all of whom once briefly flirted with the lead.

I have to admit I missed the Ron Paul surge. Many readers didn't make the same mistake.

WRONG: Ron Paul’s Support (September 7, 2011): Throughout the campaign, I’ve consistently missed the mark on the breadth of Rep. Ron Paul’s support. In fairness, he had a similarly enthusiastic base in 2008 that yielded him few delegates. But this year seems different, and he’s a legitimate threat to finish near the top in Iowa next month.

RIGHT: Anthony Weiner’s Crisis Response (June 1, 2011): In the earliest hours of the Anthony Weiner scandal, long before we knew the lurid details, I wrote: “Mr. Weiner has been married for less than a year…I can’t help but thinking that his decisions are being influenced, at least in part, by those concerns.”

WRONG: Tim Pawlenty’s Mild Debate Response (June 13, 2011): I praised GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty for refusing to go after Mitt Romney on “Obamneycare.” Turns out most pundits cited that moment as the reason he had to drop out of the race. As Rick Perry might say, “Oops.”

RIGHT: Herman Cain’s Bubble Will Burst (October 18, 2011): When Herman Cain was leading the polls (and before his alleged sexual misconduct came to light), I wrote: “Based on his performance thus far, it’s hard to see how he uses his recent momentum to win the White House.” In hindsight, that one seems rather obvious.

Newt Gingrich represents both my greatest failure and success as a pundit this year. Photo: Gage Skidmore

MY BIGGEST MISTAKE: Newt Gingrich’s Campaign Suicide (May 31, 2011): After Speaker Gingrich blasted fellow Republican Paul Ryan’s “right-wing social engineering” during the first week of his campaign in May, I wrote that “Gingrich is still in the race. But my odds of winning the Republican nomination are probably better.” I should have known better than to declare a campaign over, and hope to avoid repeating that mistake in the future. My biggest mistake of the year.

MY BIGGEST SUCCESS: Newt Gingrich’s Impending Surge (September 12, 2011): When Newt Gingrich was polling just five percent in mid-September, I wrote: “If Mr. Perry falters, someone else is likely to emerge to threaten Mr. Romney for the nomination – and if Mr. Gingrich continues to perform this well, he could emerge as that person.” My biggest success of the year.

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