Real politics

Opinion

In a poll that came out last week, current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton jumped out to a commanding lead among Floridians queried as their choice for Democratic presidential nominee for 2016.

Garnering a whopping 61 percent of the vote, she easily trounced Vice President Joe Biden, who came in at second place with 14 percent of the vote,, followed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with 8 percent.

In a poll of their own, Republicans in the same state shared their views on the upcoming 2016 Presidential ticket. Former Governor Jeb Bush leads the pack with 28 percent of supporters, followed closely by Sen. Marco Rubio with 22 percent of the vote. Rounding out the field—in order—are Mike Huckabee (11 percent), Chris Christie (9 percent), Paul Ryan (8 percent), Condoleezza Rice (8 percent), Sarah Palin (5 percent) and Rand Paul (3 percent).

If you’re like me, one thought immediately springs to mind: Holy cow, didn’t we just finish the 2012 elections?!

(Not for nothing, from all the Democrats who swore they’d move to Canada when Bush was elected, followed by all the Republicans who swore they’d do the same when Obama was re-elected, I’m surprised it’s not Canada that doesn’t have to solve immigration reform—of all us Americans!)

We can collectively roll our eyes over the kind of political prognostication found in the polls cited above, but I’ve taken a philosophical approach: Let the fortunetellers tell, but let’s keep them honest. That’s why I thought it would be fun—and insightful—to review the same sort of prediction-making from four years ago. How right were they then?

In a world before Honey Boo-Boo...
Not long after Obama-Biden trounced the McCain-Palin ticket (365 to 173 in the electoral college), speculation began regarding who would square off in the distant future of 2012. Just four months into Obama’s first term, the same polling firm cited above considered the electability of four prominent Republicans: Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. Although the President led each of them handily, Huckabee was by far the most popular of the short list. As a historical footnote, Obama led future rival Mitt Romney by 11 points back in early ’09, with 40 percent of Americans viewing the Massachusetts Governor favorably, 35 percent unfavorably, and 24 percent still unsure about the man.

One month later, things hadn’t changed much: “None of the most mentioned potential Republican contenders are finding a lot of momentum. In hypothetical contests Obama leads Mike Huckabee 52-39, Newt Gingrich 53-36, Mitt Romney 53-35, and Sarah Palin 56-37.”

Let’s fact-check the accuracy of this forecast surrounding the four hopefuls:

Neither the frontrunner Huckabee, nor the wildcard Palin chose to run in 2012. Newt Gingrich’s campaign veered in popularity until he finally suspended it in May of 2012. Ultimately the GOP poured their hopes in Mitt Romney and—could anyone have seen this coming?—Paul Ryan.

Fascinated by economics, horrible at math
Finally, which issues were most important to the American electorate four years ago? You may be unsurprised to learn that “Economy & Jobs” were far and away the leading choice in a finite list presented to survey respondents (chosen by 42 percent). Compared to the issues which dominated the three presidential debates last month, can we finally conclude, “It’s the economy, stupid?” (Speaking of Jobs, for readers familiar with this author’s piece Real Economy—also found on LifeHealthPro—you are aware how frequently unemployment stats are misinterpreted.)

Perhaps more interesting than Economy & Jobs were the issues of secondary importance. Next up was “Moral & Family Values”, followed closely behind by “Education.

Do we feel that either of these topics was covered in any great depth during 2012? To some extent, the character of the candidates was raised tangentially (“Show me your transcripts!”… “Show me your tax returns!”), but the election of 2012 hinged on much larger issues. (For what it’s worth, I think we all know in our guts that had the “Petraeus sex scandal” broken a few weeks earlier, the Romney campaign would have diverted all power to the “Moral & Family Values” engine.)

Barely making a dent back in 2008 were “Health Care” and the “War in Iraq” (7 percent apiece), followed by “Taxes” and “Immigration” (5 percent equally). What a difference 4 years makes! In light of the President’s signature Affordable Care Act, healthcare has moved centerstage. Paul Ryan introduced his Medicare voucher plan, while Romney vowed to “Repeal or Replace”. And of course, with the so-called fiscal cliff looming so near to the election, “Taxes” became a central battle front, waged particularly around a $250,000 trench.

Four years ago, Americans were still mindful of Iraq. In 2012, the Republicans attempted to raise the spectre of Benghazi during the debates, but it never quite took root. Four years from now, which country will the United States be entangled with whose name today is yet unknown? It’s a crazy and sad game, is it not?

I don’t mind the fortunetelling, but let’s keep them honest. In 2016, let’s go back to the archives we’re making today, and check how many predictions “they” got right!

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