Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In defense of Dick Morris.

The results are in:

Quant geek number-crunchers 1; Narrative-mongering campaign whisperers, 0.

And so at least for a little while, those who predicted big wins for Mitt Romney are getting their deserved share of ridicule. Let's indulge in that a little, shall we?

Dick Morris: Romney 325, Obama 213. “It will be the biggest surprise in recent American political history. It will rekindle the whole question as to why the media played this race as a nailbiter where in fact I think Romney’s going to win by quite a bit.” 
George Will: Romney 321, Obama 217. “The wild card in what I’ve projected is I’m projecting Minnesota to go for Romney.”
Dean Chambers (Unskewed Polls): Romney 311, Obama 227. “Despite the pattern of skewed polls, most of them commissioned by the mainstream media, the overall electoral landscape is looking more and more favorable for Romney.” 
Rush Limbaugh: “All of my thinking says Romney big. All of my feeling is where my concern is. But my thoughts, my intellectual analysis of this — factoring everything I see plus the polling data — it’s not even close. Three hundred-plus electoral votes for Romney.”

OK. That was fun. A mountain of polling evidence was predicting for weeks, almost perfectly, the outcome last night, but this is what these supposed experts thought. Ha ha ha.

But wait a minute. The truth is, it's not fair to Dick Morris and all the other loyal REPUBLICAN PARTISANS to expect them to make accurate predictions. That's not their job. Their job is to motivate their team, tell them that, sure, they're behind and there are seconds on the clock, but I believe in you, so go out there and win one for the Gipper! (By which in this case we mean quite specifically this Gipper.)

Just as it would be unfair to have gone up to Mitt Romney, in late October, and said, but really, Mitt, you're toast, right? Just as it would be unfair to mock Nancy Pelosi, a loyal DEMOCRATIC PARTISANS, to not dream a comically unrealistic goal for her party in the House.

So cut Dick Morris some slack. But also ... cut him loose from Politico. Partisan cheerleading is fine. But it's not analysis. Last night, as Karl Rove was pleading with Fox News to take back their call of Ohio for Obama (as if a networks' call is the thing that matters), Chris Wallace said that "we know that Karl Rove has a rooting interest, but at this point, I think he's just telling us the facts." In fact, no. Rove was showing exactly what it means to have a rooting interest. And hey, I've been there. When my HoyasWildcats or Bruins are down by 7 in the last minute of a basketball game, I start thinking through scenarios. If they can draw the foul quickly, or even better, get fouled shooting a three, or ... or ...

There's nothing wrong with that. Frankly, it's entertaining to watch partisans bask in the thrill of victory, and also to writhe in the agony of defeat. It's part of what makes politics a spectacle. So let them do it.

But it's not analysis.

The irony is that number crunchers like Nate Silver get called ideological hacks, while the real hacks get treated like analysts. And that's the state of political commentary in America.

UPDATE: I included Dean Chambers of "Unskewed Polls" among those to be laughed at. But Chambers deserves incredible credit for stepping up and admitting that he was wrong. I think it's safe to say that Chambers is a partisan, but he also appears to be able to separate his rooting interest from his desire to do analysis. Good for him. I am sure that George Will, Rush Limbaugh and Dick Morris will follow his lead and make similar pronouncements shortly.

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