- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The 2016 presidential contest was the year that all the pollsters and pundits got it wrong. Hillary Clinton’s team was so confident in their win, they didn’t even bother doing tracking polls in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, which helped seal her loss. Below are the best of the worst predictions — and some, like mine, that got things right.

Best of the Worst

1. “It’s clear that Evan McMullin’s surge from unknown to contender to win Utah — and become the first nonmajor party candidate to win a state since 1968 — is real.” — FiveThirtyEight blog, Nov. 1, 2016



Yes, the polls at the time showed Mr. McMullin — the NeverTrumper’s last hope at denying Donald Trump the White House — in a close race with Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton at the time. But this was wishful thinking at its best — and the thought Mr. McMullin could send the election to the House of Representatives a pipe dream. Republicans in Utah came home to Mr. Trump, with him winning the state by 45.1 percent of the vote. Mrs. Clinton came in second with 27 percent, and Mr. McMullin third with 21 percent.

2. “Could Clinton actually win [Texas]? Well, sure. She could. … If Clinton beats Trump by a wide enough margin overall, that means she’s pulled a number of states to the left. And it means that, yes, she could win Texas.” — Washington Post’s “The Fix” column, Oct. 18, 2016

Not even close — why there was ever even a column written about this possibility demonstrated the overconfidence both the Democrats and the media had in the Clinton campaign. Only a few polls had been done in the state that had Mr. Trump’s lead at 2 percent to 3 percent. However, instead of betting Mr. Trump would win it by a larger margin (he did, by 9 percentage points), the press decided to go with the option that Mrs. Clinton could win it based on her nationally polling strength at the time.

3. “Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House. As Donald Trump’s poll numbers tank, dragging the whole GOP down with him, the possibility that Pelosi could return to the speaker’s chair after a six-year absence has suddenly grown very real,” — Politico, Oct. 17, 2016

Funny. Republicans held the House for the fourth straight year — they also kept control of the Senate after decisive wins, where Democrats only made modest gains. It seemed Mr. Trump helped lift the Republican ticket instead of erode it — something the press and many establishment Republicans never dreamed.

4. “Donald Trump is not going to win Michigan.” — New York Magazine, Nov. 7, 2016

Author Jonathan Chait wrote a day before the election: “I am here to tell you that Michigan is not a Trump state.” Except it was. Although Michigan voted Democratic in each of the last six presidential elections, by an average margin exceeding 9 percent, Mr. Trump was able to flip blue-collar, once-Reagan Democratic counties like Macomb. His jobs message resonated in the Rust Belt — something Mr. Chait was (and is still) unable to process, despite his intellectualizing of its electorate and polling history.

5. “A Clinton may once again take Arizona come November. According to FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, Hillary Clinton currently has a 53 percent chance to win the Grand Canyon State, compared to 47 percent for Donald Trump,” ABC15, Oct. 15, 2016

Ha. It was a state she didn’t even need to win, yet dedicated more resources there than she did in Wisconsin or Michigan. She had 32 offices open in the state, and her campaign manager said in October it was a battleground state that was “now on the map,” citing its Latino voters. Instead of campaigning in the Rust Belt during the final weeks, Mrs. Clinton made campaign appearances in Arizona and sent Michelle Obama to campaign in the state for her. Mr. Trump won Arizona by 3.5 percentage points.

Winners

1. Professor Alan Lichtman

The history professor at American University predicted in September that Democrats wouldn’t be able to hold onto the White House. Mr. Lichtman, also the author of “Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House 2016,” has predicted 30 years of presidential contests correctly based on a series of true/false questions — not based on polls or other analytics. He, again, was correct this year.

2. “Reminder: Cubs will win the World Series and, in exchange, President Trump will be elected 8 days later,” pollster Nate Silver, May 11, 2016

It was a tweet that was supposed to be funny and ironic — both had such slim odds according to his forecast models, they were fantasy — but that tweet turned out to be Mr. Silver’s most accurate prediction all year.

3. Kelly Riddell

Yes, I’m giving myself some props here. On Nov. 3, 2016, I described in a column how the 2016 election looked a lot like 1980s — where Ronald Reagan had a strong comeback. I predicted Michigan and the Rust Belt were once again in play and that Mr. Trump’s possibility to win was real. On Aug. 18, 2016, I wrote in another column why Mr. Trump should be called Mr. Brexit — comparing how the British vote to exit the European Union was similar to Mr. Trump’s candidacy. I wrote of the hidden, forgotten, silent vote and how that could be essential to Mr. Trump’s win and how the pollsters may miss it.

4. Salena Zito

Ms. Zito wasn’t a pundit or a pollster, but she did real work interviewing potential Trump voters in the Rust Belt. When the pundits said Mr. Trump lost his September debate with Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Zito had a different take, saying he won over a bar of Democrats in Pennsylvania. She was often mocked by the political class for her anecdotal takes on the election — but all of them proved to be right. Trump’s voters were “hidden in plain sight” she wrote — it seemed she was one of the few reporters this election cycle that actually chose to see.

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