A friend used to tell me that if you never fell down while skiing you weren’t trying hard enough. I hope it’s true of punditry as well because I sure face-planted with my prediction here yesterday. There’s no way to hide it, especially in the era of the Internet; I could delete the post but some smart-alec would turn out to have a screen capture or something. So maybe I can learn from it instead.
As far as I can tell, here’s what happened. Pollsters really were overestimating the Democrats’ advantage in turnout, in ways I didn’t believe. But they were also overestimating independents’ support for Romney, in ways I did believe. The result of these two errors neither helps me save face nor gives Republicans or conservatives much in the way of consolation.
Unless the GOP can break the pattern into which U.S. politics has settled since 1992, they enter each election with a smaller and weaker base. And it’s happening because, as liberals say, Americans are becoming more liberal and also, as conservatives say, because they are becoming more dependent on the state. Which means the Obama campaign, though competent, wasn’t the key factor so Republicans can’t just vow to run funnier ads or do better at getting their supporters out next time.
The Democrats certainly didn’t fire the imagination of the nation. On top of which they must now govern (holding the executive and half the legislative branches) a great deal more effectively than they did in the last four years or they’ll give the Republicans a major chance to break that disturbing pattern in 2016. But in politics as in chess, you don’t really want to be staring at the board thinking “If only my opponent would commit a couple of major blunders I just might get back into this thing.”
So my advice to the GOP, while they wait for Obama to mess up badly as he very well could, is that for two straight elections they’ve gone with the “moderate” who supposedly could win the election without winning the philosophical argument or even trying. I don’t think it’s a plan worth trying again for a while.