Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Still Defending Myself on Pawlenty

Jim Newell has a column over at Salon today bashing people (himself included, so he's trying to be fair) for bad prognostications during the nomination battle -- and I get a nice featured spot:
Pawlenty dropped out of the race about 10 days after Bernstein’s post, which, again, because of science, informed readers, “It’s time to buy Pawlenty stock.” Don’t dump your shares in Lehman Brothers, either!
I'm still going to defend myself on this one. I said, with one debate to go before Ames, that I thought Pawlenty's chances of winning the nomination seemed to me closer to 1 in 7 than 1 in 20. That someone I pegged as a 1 in 7 chance didn't win just doesn't strike me as a bad call, just a reasonable bet that didn't pan out.

I think what I said about Pawlenty at the time holds up pretty well now. The idea is that anyone can catch fire, short-term; who does well in the next debate, or the next news cycle, is essentially unpredictable. However, what happens next is much more predictable. If the candidate who catches fire is Michele Bachmann, or Herman Cain, or Newt Gingrich, then that candidate will have a brief surge followed by a collapse. If it's a candidate with conventional credentials and mainstream views within the party, then that candidate may be able to capitalize on the surge.

As it happens, Pawlenty never had the surge he needed. I still see no reason to believe he could not have had a surge; it's just that he didn't. Which is why, at the end of the day, I suspect that Pawlenty and Rick Perry were the real runners-up to Mitt Romney in the 2012 cycle, and not Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul.

I did get some stuff wrong, or at least not as right as I'd like to be, during the nomination battle; if I recall correctly, all of them (pretty much) were Santorum related. But I don't feel bad about this one at all. More, if you're interested, here.

By the way, whatever I deserved for my "buy Pawlenty" post, I'm certain that Newell is massively off base in bashing Brendan Nyhan for saying that early nomination polls don't tell us much. If there's one thing that was abundantly clear during this particular election cycle, it's that Brendan was absolutely correct about that. Granted, he wasn't right about Pawlenty, but it was a throwaway comment at the end of a long, substantive post, as opposed to what I did -- and, at any rate, "bet on" is just different than "predict."

15 comments:

  1. Yikes! Not only did Newell grossly misinterpret your and Nyhan's predictions, and the explanations of those predictions, but he was bitchy about it!

    The first rule of any attempt to quantify how good a given prediction is should be having an agreed upon, objective way to evaluate that prediction. Neither of these qualify.

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  2. Johnathon I respect your blog and your usual reasoning but in this case I think you are wrong. Running for President is hard work as you have pointed out. Mitt Romney has spent 8 years of his life running for president. Working donors, advocates etc for their support. Organizationally Tpaw was exceedingly weak. His fundraising was lackluster and even if had remained in the race Romney's massive cash would have been used to destroy him just like everyone else. He lacks charisma and was a totally unremarkable governor. His Sam Club Republicanism was much better advocated by Mike Huckabee in 2008 (who has tons of charisma, not that it helped). He never would have won Iowa or NH and NV was always Romney's. He did the right thing dropping out before he embarrassed himself. I'm not Romney is not a viable campaign strategy. He didn't even have the backbone to repeat his Obamaneycare to Mitt's face! No money, no organization, no Fire breathing ala Newt and no social conservative creds and no cajones to the bring the fight = Failure.

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  3. The favorite always wins. Despite the horse racing metaphors that political scientists and pundits like, this is not a horse race. It is basically controlled by the party.

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    1. It is mostly controlled by the party, but the party's decision is not always obvious early on -- because parties may have internal disagreements, and some party actors may not be certain what their best choice is. As in 2008 (was McCain the favorite? Depends when you ask). And, I'd say, 2012.

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    2. Well, McCain was clearly the EARLY favorite. He's the guy the key party actors wanted.

      Now, the reason you have a contested primary is because there are factions of the party who don't like the early favorite. When that is not true, you don't have a seriously contested primary. But the factions would need to have a substantial amount of power to derail a favorite, as oppose to handing him or her a few defeats in some primaries. Obama, of course, had factions supporting him with that much power-- chiefly the anti-war movement and blacks. But that's the exception that proves the rule. What was the faction with enough power to stop Romney who was behind Pawlenty?

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    3. I'd say the guy who came in second the previous time wins, so I disagree with Jonathan's statement (apparently not a prediction) that Santorum won't break the top three in 2016.

      I predict Santorum will be the frontrunner in 2016, unless 1. he really screws up something, which is possible; or 2. Ryan kills it as VP candidate.

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  4. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204224604577030482569015376.html?mod=wsj_share_tweet

    Michael Medved on (R)s in 2012. Just as in 2008, he nailed it. If one wants to see where that party is going... listen to Medved instead of Bernstein.

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    1. Wow, Medved? Yikes! Let's see...

      1. The link you provide does not predict Romney will win; it says he would be a good general election candidate. So we learn nothing from that.

      2. Looking around: oops! Why Newt is stronger than he looks, from November.

      3. Here he takes Cain, Newt, and a late entrant seriously -- that's in October.

      4. And, yes, he even fell for the brokered convention myth.

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    2. With unimportant quibbles left unmentioned, I concede the points.

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  5. I guessed Pawlenty, too, but it's not like he even got to the point where there was a vote. He gave up. That's hardly predictable.

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  6. Roy Perkins, impartial dogcatcherApril 25, 2012 at 6:23 AM

    So, basically, you were right; Pawlenty was wrong in not recognizing what a strong candidate he was; and the voters were wrong for not realizing that they were supposed to support him.

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    1. Yeesh. I thought Pawlenty (at that point) had a 1 in 7 chance of winning. For that to happen, he needed to get something going soon -- either a very good debate, or an Ames surprise, or both. In the event, none of those things happened; he lost.

      Note that I was also recommending a "buy" on Romney pretty much throughout the whole process, and a "buy" on Perry, too (and, earlier, on Barbour, and a few others). I obviously didn't think that all of them would be the nominee; I thought their collective chances were much higher than Intrade and many pundits thought.

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  7. Where was Huntsman's surge? Only the crazies ever surged, and that's because they weren't Romney. But Pawlenty *was* Romney, and so never would have.

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  8. You said it was "just silly" that "numerous pundits have written [Pawlenty's] campaign obituary."

    Can you at least admit that it was, in fact, not silly at all?

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    1. No, I really do think, still, that Pawlenty had a much better than 1 in 20 shot at that point.

      Remember -- at that point there were only Romney, Perry, and Pawlenty that I considered plausible nominees. I've seen nothing at all since to make me change my mind about that.

      Now, if new information shows up, sure. But based on public knowledge at the time, I just don't agree that Pawlenty had no chance.

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