Predicting the election

Now that Florida has FINALLY counted its ballots (why can 49 states conduct an efficient election but Florida can’t?), we know the final tally.  The Sunshine State went for Obama, giving him a total of 332 electoral votes.  Here are the results:

CandidatePopular votePercentageElectoral votes (270 to win)
Barack Obama61713086 51% 332
Mitt Romney58510150 48% 206

This enables us to assess how we did at our pre-election post Your predictions.

The winner?  MY BROTHER Jimmy Veith.  He nailed it EXACTLY.  Here is what he said at comment 22:

My brother is good at predictions. I am a little better.

Obama: 332
Romney: 206

Popular vote: Obama: 51%, Romney: 48%, Others: 1%

Congratulations, Jimmy!  You have proven yourself to be this blog’s  top prognosticator.  And thanks for keeping it in the family.  (Imagine what I am going to have to put up with at Christmas!)

I predicted Obama would get 291, coming short by 41.  The Veith boys, Jason, Todd, Klasie, Darren, & ADB were the only ones who correctly predicted an Obama victory.

I appreciate SKPeterson’s comment in a post-election thread:

It would appear that the Republican Party would be better served if it followed the commentary on Cranach and quit listening to the Limbaugh’s, the Rove’s and the WSJ hack commentariat (as much as I enjoy reading the WSJ too, natch).

He links to this article:  How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File.  According to the author, Conor Friedersdorf , the conservative media and punditocracy were nearly unanimous in predicting a Romney victory.  They didn’t predict a McCain victory in the last presidential election, but this time wishful thinking trumped reality across the board.

Perhaps my brother Jimmy will explain how he reached his completely accurate conclusion.  (I wouldn’t be surprised if wishful thinking had some influence, Obama fan that he is.  I myself wished for the opposite of what I predicted, which I daresay is even rarer.)  But here is my reasoning, first, in regards to the election results; and second, in regards to the arguably more impressive feat of predicting Obama’s election in 2008 before he won any primaries, Romney’s nomination before the Republican primaries, and Obama’s re-election at the lowest point of his popularity.

For the election, I ignored the popular vote, which has little to do with electing a president.  The electoral vote is everything, so the state-by-state results are everything.   In general, unlike most conservatives, I trusted the poll results.  Survey research has gotten extremely sophisticated.  Journalists might be biased, but it does no good for professional pollsters to be biased, since their livelihoods depend on accuracy.  One can question their sampling techniques, but these guys usually know what they are doing.  That is to say, it’s a matter of vocation.  It’s true that poll results will vary, so I paid most attention to the poll aggregators at RealClearPolitics, which posts the average of all polls.  Most of the states were strongly for one candidate or the other, with neither scoring the necessary 270 total.  So everything hinged on eight too-close-to-call “battleground states.”   For Romney to win, he would have to win virtually all of them.  I thought that was unlikely.  Obama only needed a few.   The day before the election, the polls showed him leading slightly in most of them.  As my brother somehow knew would happen, he won all but two.

So much for my quantitative analysis.  For my qualitative analysis that predicted the outcomes before the races even started, I picked Romney as the best of an exceedingly weak field.  And by “best” I do not mean the most conservative or the one who would be the most effective chief executive.  I mean the one who presented himself the best and seemed least likely to pull something embarrassing.  (Republicans have GOT to field better candidates.)  Americans like their presidents, for better or for worse, to be inspiring and have a compelling story, to have a mythical quality about them, to be larger than life.  Not all presidents are that way.  George W. Bush wasn’t,  but then again neither was Al Gore or John Kerry.  Nor do such figures necessarily make good presidents.  But Barack Obama had the “it” factor, so I thought he would go far.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Thank you for my well deserved praise, Don’t worry about me rubbing it in at Christmas. As you well know, humility is one of my greatest virtues.

    This is how I did it.

    First, I do not listen to “Fox News”. (Except when my MSNBC programs, John Stewart and Stephen Cobert, play clips of their broadcasts to make fun of them.)

    Second: I trusted the public polls on the final weekend.

    Third: I figured that Obama’s superior ground game plus his positive response to Hurricane Sandy, was worth about 2 points. When you add these 2 points to the final poll results, you get Obama winning every state he did in 2008 except for Indiana and North Carolina. The rest is simple arithmetic, which Democrats are really good at.

    Fourth: I am wise beyond measure.

    Thank you very much.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Thank you for my well deserved praise, Don’t worry about me rubbing it in at Christmas. As you well know, humility is one of my greatest virtues.

    This is how I did it.

    First, I do not listen to “Fox News”. (Except when my MSNBC programs, John Stewart and Stephen Cobert, play clips of their broadcasts to make fun of them.)

    Second: I trusted the public polls on the final weekend.

    Third: I figured that Obama’s superior ground game plus his positive response to Hurricane Sandy, was worth about 2 points. When you add these 2 points to the final poll results, you get Obama winning every state he did in 2008 except for Indiana and North Carolina. The rest is simple arithmetic, which Democrats are really good at.

    Fourth: I am wise beyond measure.

    Thank you very much.

  • Cincinnatus

    Congrats Jimmy. Did you get all the states right?

    While we’re here, I’d like to point out that I highly doubt Obama’s “response” to Sandy had anything to do with it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Congrats Jimmy. Did you get all the states right?

    While we’re here, I’d like to point out that I highly doubt Obama’s “response” to Sandy had anything to do with it.

  • SKPeterson

    Thanks for the hat tip. :)

    As to predictions, I never even attempted to determine the breakdown of EC votes against the popular votes. In general, my expectations for this election were met. I think I did hold out the possibility of the Republicans winning the Senate, but I also noted that it would be despite Romney, not because of him. I advanced the notion that Romney had no coattails that would result in a Republican sweep. How that notion entered the conservative media is definitely an exercise in desperate wishful thinking.

    Another telling article from the WSJ (I ironically note the volte-face “I-told-you-so’s” emanating from the editorialists that never seemed to say “I told you so” during the campaign) castigates the National Republican Senate Committee and their lack of any coherent plant to actually win the Senate. One meme I’m seeing as well is that this election is a repudiation of the Tea Party, which is rather more indicative of how well the media can tarnish or burnish a social/political movement. This was alluded to in the WSJ article, while also recognizing that the Tea Party (and those darn Ron Paul kids) are the intellectual wave of the future for the Republicans. Remove the pro-war militaristic antics from the Tea Party ideology and you actually begin to have a coherent set of policy options that have been regularly ignored (via cooption and neutering) by the old guard of the GOP.

    Here is the WSJ article (subscription required): http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323894704578107394141496804.html?KEYWORDS=National+Republican+Senate

  • SKPeterson

    Thanks for the hat tip. :)

    As to predictions, I never even attempted to determine the breakdown of EC votes against the popular votes. In general, my expectations for this election were met. I think I did hold out the possibility of the Republicans winning the Senate, but I also noted that it would be despite Romney, not because of him. I advanced the notion that Romney had no coattails that would result in a Republican sweep. How that notion entered the conservative media is definitely an exercise in desperate wishful thinking.

    Another telling article from the WSJ (I ironically note the volte-face “I-told-you-so’s” emanating from the editorialists that never seemed to say “I told you so” during the campaign) castigates the National Republican Senate Committee and their lack of any coherent plant to actually win the Senate. One meme I’m seeing as well is that this election is a repudiation of the Tea Party, which is rather more indicative of how well the media can tarnish or burnish a social/political movement. This was alluded to in the WSJ article, while also recognizing that the Tea Party (and those darn Ron Paul kids) are the intellectual wave of the future for the Republicans. Remove the pro-war militaristic antics from the Tea Party ideology and you actually begin to have a coherent set of policy options that have been regularly ignored (via cooption and neutering) by the old guard of the GOP.

    Here is the WSJ article (subscription required): http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323894704578107394141496804.html?KEYWORDS=National+Republican+Senate

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    I had Obama at 305 votes; I admit I was a little surprised that he got over 310. But looking at the “swing states” as early as March along with the exit polling (and its consistency throughout the summer) was a dead giveaway. I really don’t think this election was ever even close.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com John

    I had Obama at 305 votes; I admit I was a little surprised that he got over 310. But looking at the “swing states” as early as March along with the exit polling (and its consistency throughout the summer) was a dead giveaway. I really don’t think this election was ever even close.

  • DonS

    Jimmy’s precise “prediction” is yet more evidence that the election was fixed. ;-)

    Seriously, congratulations, Jimmy.

  • DonS

    Jimmy’s precise “prediction” is yet more evidence that the election was fixed. ;-)

    Seriously, congratulations, Jimmy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m pretty certain a few others predicted an Obama win, including Cincinnatus and Tom Hering, but apparently on another thread.

    Of course, Cincinnatus was off in predicting a Romney win in the popular vote (PV). In fact, with the Florida count more or less in, Obama has now pulled ahead of Bush’s 2004 PV victory, meaning that neither of his elections are now in the top 5 closest PV counts of the past century (can you name them all?).

    And, as to Veith’s comment:

    Republicans have GOT to field better candidates.

    It is almost certain that the 2016 field will be better than the 2012 one. Any candidate who thinks he has a good chance in the future was unlikely to run this time against an incumbent, no matter how beatable he once seemed.

    Look at past elections and tell me I’m wrong: John Kerry, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale … middling candidates, all.

    Of course, Republicans are just as likely as Democrats to be taken in by “inspiring” and “compelling” candidates. So look for Republicans to take a cue from the Democrats in 2008 next election and fall in line behind an empty suit with a good story.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m pretty certain a few others predicted an Obama win, including Cincinnatus and Tom Hering, but apparently on another thread.

    Of course, Cincinnatus was off in predicting a Romney win in the popular vote (PV). In fact, with the Florida count more or less in, Obama has now pulled ahead of Bush’s 2004 PV victory, meaning that neither of his elections are now in the top 5 closest PV counts of the past century (can you name them all?).

    And, as to Veith’s comment:

    Republicans have GOT to field better candidates.

    It is almost certain that the 2016 field will be better than the 2012 one. Any candidate who thinks he has a good chance in the future was unlikely to run this time against an incumbent, no matter how beatable he once seemed.

    Look at past elections and tell me I’m wrong: John Kerry, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale … middling candidates, all.

    Of course, Republicans are just as likely as Democrats to be taken in by “inspiring” and “compelling” candidates. So look for Republicans to take a cue from the Democrats in 2008 next election and fall in line behind an empty suit with a good story.

  • http://www.frankgantz.com Frank Gantz

    As a resident of Palm Beach County in Florida, I am ashamed that we cannot count ballots in an accurate or timely manner.

    To the rest of you, I apologize.

  • http://www.frankgantz.com Frank Gantz

    As a resident of Palm Beach County in Florida, I am ashamed that we cannot count ballots in an accurate or timely manner.

    To the rest of you, I apologize.

  • JunkerGeorg

    Great post Dr. Veith!

    Aside from the fact that it’s hard to compete against Santa Claus, I’d still like to hear a good explanation as to the reason for the significant decrease in voter turnout since 2008 to the tune of 12 million voters, primarily with regard to Republican voters. Even with the increase in 3rd party votes (e.g., Libertarian party doubled its vote totals from 2008), it still doesn’t add up. Many independents/Republicans simply didn’t vote. While some Republican pundits are laying the blame solely changing demographics (e.g., Dick Morris), I’d still like to hear what the Republican establishment has to say about this. (Yes, you, Mr. Priebus.)

    As for Veith’s comment that the Republicans have got to field better candidates, well, yeah. I would argue that overall, every since Johnson’s landslide defeat over Goldwater, the statist establishment running the Republican party has been much more moderate/left-leaning in presentation. Whether this has been merely short-term pragmatic grounds of “what will win elections” or also on long-term principles of “what we believe is right”, is open for debate. Yet the Republican establishment running things is distinct from the conservative Republican BASE which has to support it all and appeal to their neighbors, a base which eventually might ask why bother having a Republican party if we’re gonna keep putting up candidates who sound no different than John F. Kennedy at best? If the voting numbers tell anything, might it be that the breaking point has come within the party as far as the divide between the establishment and its base? Again, the shenanigans which happened in the late spring and at the summer convention may have signaled this, as it wasn’t just the young Paulbots who have been poorly treated, but to some extent some Tea Party types.

    What can overcome this divide between the moderate establishment and the conservative base is having a candidate who has both the style/communicative skills to appeal to the masses and the substance in terms of conservative principles which inspire the conservative base of the party. This is what Reagan had. It’s what Goldwater arguably lacked, although I did love much of Goldwater’s substance.

    As for history, the establishment backed Ford over Reagan in 76 and Bush Sr. over Reagan in 80′. The Republican party is its own worst enemy. It takes no less than a Reagan to overcome itself. But Reagans don’t come around very often. Note: Not that I deify Goldwater or Reagan–Goldwater may have been too hawkish for my taste, and Reagan sadly became very un-Reaganite in some of his decisions in his 2nd term (e.g., never reforming monetary policy back to the gold standard Nixon had eliminated, along with sticking with Keynesian economics by appointing Greenspan to be Fed Chairman, are two that stick out.) Yet on substance overall, they are both in the opposite direction on substance (i.e., away from the cliff) than the establishment which has directed things since Reagan.

    I’d be more confident that Rand Paul may be a hope for the future, but I do question whether he has the “it” factor in terms of sufficient style/charisma/populist appeal to go along with his excellent substance and constitutional conscience. I mean, we can’t forget to factor in that he also has to have enough charisma to overcome the Mainstream Media, and even moreso overcome the surrogate of the statist establishment, namely, Fox News. Now, if you could the substance of Rand into the style of someone like Marco Rubio, one might have a formidable candidate that energizes the base, overcomes the statist establishment, and appeals to the masses. Yes, I know, dream on…..

  • JunkerGeorg

    Great post Dr. Veith!

    Aside from the fact that it’s hard to compete against Santa Claus, I’d still like to hear a good explanation as to the reason for the significant decrease in voter turnout since 2008 to the tune of 12 million voters, primarily with regard to Republican voters. Even with the increase in 3rd party votes (e.g., Libertarian party doubled its vote totals from 2008), it still doesn’t add up. Many independents/Republicans simply didn’t vote. While some Republican pundits are laying the blame solely changing demographics (e.g., Dick Morris), I’d still like to hear what the Republican establishment has to say about this. (Yes, you, Mr. Priebus.)

    As for Veith’s comment that the Republicans have got to field better candidates, well, yeah. I would argue that overall, every since Johnson’s landslide defeat over Goldwater, the statist establishment running the Republican party has been much more moderate/left-leaning in presentation. Whether this has been merely short-term pragmatic grounds of “what will win elections” or also on long-term principles of “what we believe is right”, is open for debate. Yet the Republican establishment running things is distinct from the conservative Republican BASE which has to support it all and appeal to their neighbors, a base which eventually might ask why bother having a Republican party if we’re gonna keep putting up candidates who sound no different than John F. Kennedy at best? If the voting numbers tell anything, might it be that the breaking point has come within the party as far as the divide between the establishment and its base? Again, the shenanigans which happened in the late spring and at the summer convention may have signaled this, as it wasn’t just the young Paulbots who have been poorly treated, but to some extent some Tea Party types.

    What can overcome this divide between the moderate establishment and the conservative base is having a candidate who has both the style/communicative skills to appeal to the masses and the substance in terms of conservative principles which inspire the conservative base of the party. This is what Reagan had. It’s what Goldwater arguably lacked, although I did love much of Goldwater’s substance.

    As for history, the establishment backed Ford over Reagan in 76 and Bush Sr. over Reagan in 80′. The Republican party is its own worst enemy. It takes no less than a Reagan to overcome itself. But Reagans don’t come around very often. Note: Not that I deify Goldwater or Reagan–Goldwater may have been too hawkish for my taste, and Reagan sadly became very un-Reaganite in some of his decisions in his 2nd term (e.g., never reforming monetary policy back to the gold standard Nixon had eliminated, along with sticking with Keynesian economics by appointing Greenspan to be Fed Chairman, are two that stick out.) Yet on substance overall, they are both in the opposite direction on substance (i.e., away from the cliff) than the establishment which has directed things since Reagan.

    I’d be more confident that Rand Paul may be a hope for the future, but I do question whether he has the “it” factor in terms of sufficient style/charisma/populist appeal to go along with his excellent substance and constitutional conscience. I mean, we can’t forget to factor in that he also has to have enough charisma to overcome the Mainstream Media, and even moreso overcome the surrogate of the statist establishment, namely, Fox News. Now, if you could the substance of Rand into the style of someone like Marco Rubio, one might have a formidable candidate that energizes the base, overcomes the statist establishment, and appeals to the masses. Yes, I know, dream on…..

  • David M

    As I understand it (which I may not) everyone being critical of the Republican Party for “listening to Limbaugh, et. al” too much seem to conveniently forget the Limbaugh, et. al didn’t want Romney. In fact, Donna Brazile actually said at one point that Obama WANTED to run against Romney, because he knew he could win. The radio right trumpeted that all over the place hoping it would gain some traction. Oh well…

    If you’re interested, Limbaugh’s audio with Brazile’s comments are here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/01/09/limbaugh_dems_want_to_run_against_romney.html

    The Limbaugh/Hannity/WSJ/Tea Party axis of inconvenience has had one mantra which permeates all their opinions: moderates don’t win. If anything, this election has proven that. When the Tea Party principles were out in force in 2010, there was a strong shift toward the right in Washington.

    Yes, I’m conservative. And as a conservative, I’m getting VERY tired of the party running moderates (Dole, McCain, Romney), losing, and then telling conservatives that we can’t win unless we tack left. At this point, I think the burden of proof is on the moderates to win a Presidential election before they start lecturing the conservatives on what the platform should look like.

    And for those of you ready to respond with “Aha! But what about Akin?! He was a disaster!”, I would remind you that McCaskill wanted to run against him and advertised for him during the primary. Murdoch’s comments only mattered because of Akin’s. So I wouldn’t find that sort of response compelling. But, as stated before, I may just have this whole thing wrong.

  • David M

    As I understand it (which I may not) everyone being critical of the Republican Party for “listening to Limbaugh, et. al” too much seem to conveniently forget the Limbaugh, et. al didn’t want Romney. In fact, Donna Brazile actually said at one point that Obama WANTED to run against Romney, because he knew he could win. The radio right trumpeted that all over the place hoping it would gain some traction. Oh well…

    If you’re interested, Limbaugh’s audio with Brazile’s comments are here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/01/09/limbaugh_dems_want_to_run_against_romney.html

    The Limbaugh/Hannity/WSJ/Tea Party axis of inconvenience has had one mantra which permeates all their opinions: moderates don’t win. If anything, this election has proven that. When the Tea Party principles were out in force in 2010, there was a strong shift toward the right in Washington.

    Yes, I’m conservative. And as a conservative, I’m getting VERY tired of the party running moderates (Dole, McCain, Romney), losing, and then telling conservatives that we can’t win unless we tack left. At this point, I think the burden of proof is on the moderates to win a Presidential election before they start lecturing the conservatives on what the platform should look like.

    And for those of you ready to respond with “Aha! But what about Akin?! He was a disaster!”, I would remind you that McCaskill wanted to run against him and advertised for him during the primary. Murdoch’s comments only mattered because of Akin’s. So I wouldn’t find that sort of response compelling. But, as stated before, I may just have this whole thing wrong.

  • Tom Hering

    Romney may be a moderate at heart. No one really knows for sure. Romney himself may not know for sure. But the thing is, he didn’t run as a moderate until the last weeks of the race. Until then, he was hard right all the way – and that’s what the majority remembered and rejected on election day.

  • Tom Hering

    Romney may be a moderate at heart. No one really knows for sure. Romney himself may not know for sure. But the thing is, he didn’t run as a moderate until the last weeks of the race. Until then, he was hard right all the way – and that’s what the majority remembered and rejected on election day.

  • trotk

    Tom, if you actually think that Romney was running hard to the right, you need a reality check. The man was no more to the right than Clinton.

  • trotk

    Tom, if you actually think that Romney was running hard to the right, you need a reality check. The man was no more to the right than Clinton.

  • Tom Hering

    trotk, if you think Romney wasn’t perceived by the majority as being hard right on a number of issues, like immigration, then you need to get out of the conservative bubble more often. (And I seem to remember more than one person here, before the election, lauding Romney for his conservative positions.)

  • Tom Hering

    trotk, if you think Romney wasn’t perceived by the majority as being hard right on a number of issues, like immigration, then you need to get out of the conservative bubble more often. (And I seem to remember more than one person here, before the election, lauding Romney for his conservative positions.)

  • trotk

    Tom, I’m not really in the conservative bubble, but come on. Romney didn’t have a truly conservative policy to his name. Immigration? Are politics so static that talking about self-deportation gets a moderate some conservative street cred?
    The primary problem he had with his own party (and the majority of Americans) seems to be that no one actually believed that he was what he said he was – ie, a conservative. Each person I know who voted for him did so holding his nose, because Romney was only worth voting for because he was running against Obama.
    He was perceived by the majority as a fake, a rich guy, a women/black/poor/whatever else hater, but not as a conservative. Anyone who says that he will create 12 million jobs if elected is by definition on the left side of the spectrum.

  • trotk

    Tom, I’m not really in the conservative bubble, but come on. Romney didn’t have a truly conservative policy to his name. Immigration? Are politics so static that talking about self-deportation gets a moderate some conservative street cred?
    The primary problem he had with his own party (and the majority of Americans) seems to be that no one actually believed that he was what he said he was – ie, a conservative. Each person I know who voted for him did so holding his nose, because Romney was only worth voting for because he was running against Obama.
    He was perceived by the majority as a fake, a rich guy, a women/black/poor/whatever else hater, but not as a conservative. Anyone who says that he will create 12 million jobs if elected is by definition on the left side of the spectrum.

  • Michael B.

    Nice job, Jimmy.

    Gene, you might not be a prophet or son of a prophet, but you’re the brother of one.

  • Michael B.

    Nice job, Jimmy.

    Gene, you might not be a prophet or son of a prophet, but you’re the brother of one.


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