[Washington Babylon ]Yes We Can’t: Pundits fail, flail | Harper's Magazine

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[Washington Babylon]

Yes We Can’t: Pundits fail, flail


Yesterday I planned to write a post about the likely outcome of the Super Tuesday voting, but gave up when I saw the glut of over-excited punditry filling the newspapers and jamming the Internet’s tubes. When the votes finally came in, it was clear that most of what had been written and said was little more than idle speculation, much of it based on a combination of worthless polls and the personal hopes of the pundit in question.

During the past week, the media narrative has been that a wave of momentum was building for Barack Obama. There were all those endorsements from top Democratic elected officials, the backing from MoveOn.org, that music video, and the tightening polls. Meanwhile, it was said that Bill Clinton had singlehandedly destroyed Hillary’s chances, even though this theory is illogical because the former president, no matter how high-profile, is not on the ballot.

In Massachusetts, backing from Ted Kennedy and assorted family members was supposedly going to turn the tide for Obama. Last night, Hillary Clinton won there easily. (Who knows, perhaps an Obama endorsement from Michael Skakel, the one Kennedy family member who seemingly did not to make an official endorsement, would have tipped the race?) There was fevered speculation that Al Gore might endorse Obama, which was going to turn the tide in his favor in Tennessee (and possibly nationally). No endorsement came and it clearly wouldn’t have a made a difference anyway given that Clinton trounced Obama in Tennessee by 13 points. Obama also lost decisively in a number of other states where the hype, and the early exit polls, suggested he would either win or come very close.

Now that the votes have (mostly) been counted and there’s actually something to analyze, I’d say that Hillary Clinton came out slightly ahead last night, but the future favors Obama. But given how tight the race is at this point everything is essentially guesswork.

It’s far more simple on the G.O.P. side. The Republicans are stuck with John McCain whether they like it or not. The press keeps reviving Mitt Romney from the dead, but last night should prove to be the final stake through his heart. (You could tell during Romeny’s “victory” speech that even wife Ann has had enough. The look on her face said it all–Please, Mitt, pull the plug on this thing and stop blowing through the kids’ inheritance.) Mike Huckabee performed well, but his base of support is narrow and it’s hard to see how he could possibly stop McCain now.

All told, the best state-of-the-game analysis I’ve seen today is this one at The New Republic. Check it out, get back to your normal life and don’t read anything more about the presidential race until after the next set of primaries. You’ll free up a lot of time.

I still can’t muster much enthusiasm for either of the Democratic candidates. There’s a lot to admire in Barack Obama and the excitement he has generated on the campaign trail is genuinely stirring. On the other hand I still don’t know what he really stands for and fear that he’d be a cautious, middle-of-the-road president who’d disappoint his followers. Hillary Clinton is meaner and tougher and that in some ways seems preferable to Obama’s naïve calls for bipartisanship. Also, you know from the get-go what Hillary is all about. Hence, it’s possible to skip the phases of betrayal and disillusionment and go straight to opposition, which is almost always the best place to be in American politics.

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