Glenn Greenwald called me out for saying (over at Plum Line) prior to the Ames debate that Tim Pawlenty was still a viable candidate, and then for noting his demise without referring back to my previous Pawlenty optimism. I'll talk about it a bit, because I think it's worth exploring a bit more about how I think about nomination politics. My apologies if this post is overly self-indulgent.
I plead: not guilty! I certainly make my share of mistakes, and I try to mention them myself when I do -- and I'm happy to have people remind me if I don't. But I'm going to defend my "buy Pawlenty" recommendation from a few weeks back. I obviously wasn't predicting that the Minnesota Meh would win (I said 1 in 7 chance in the post in question) -- just that he was still a plausible nominee, while the betting consensus on him was "toast." I'm comfortable with that one. Had he been the perceived winner of the Ames debate, or had he proven to have organizational strength in Iowa that translated into a better finish in the Straw Poll, he would I believe still be around today. Were those things very likely? Perhaps not. Were the odds of them better than the odds that were being offered at the time? In my view, yup.
To put it another way, or perhaps to better explain the context: way back in the fall I recommended "buying" DeMint, Barbour, and...Rick Perry. Obviously, I didn't think that all three would win, since at best only one could do so. What I thought about them then, and what I thought about Pawlenty really up until Saturday, was that they each had a much better chance than was perceived. I don't think I was really "wrong" about DeMint or Barbour and "right" about Perry; what I was either right or wrong about was my understanding of how the process works, and what was going on in general.
In general, I try to avoid absolute statements about the future, not because I'm being weaselly but because I think in most cases we live in a world of probabilities, at least as I see it. To step back a bit more...much of what I'm trying to do here is to match what's happening right now with what political scientists know about how the world of US politics works. So three things can go wrong: I can misunderstand what's happening now; I can misinterpret what political scientists know; or we (that is, political scientists) can get things wrong, which in turn can be because something hasn't been studied enough yet, or has been studied poorly, or because reality changed and the old studies no longer apply.
Anyway, I do think that I try to 'fess up when I get stuff wrong, but I don't at all think that I got Pawlenty wrong. He ran a serious race for the White House, and lost. In my view, given what was public, he was a plausible nominee right up to Ames. Could I have been wrong? Sure. But not based on what was public then, or how I understand the process. To say that Pawlenty is undervalued isn't to say that he's going to win. If it turns out that Michele Bachmann wins or comes close to the nomination, or if a Paul Ryan jumps in now and wins or comes close, or if someone (really) skips Iowa and wins and comes close, or if a New York City mayor wins or comes close to being nominated (note: who came close to winning can be tricky to judge)...then, yup, I'll have been wrong. But not on this one.