Presidential politics is an interesting and uniquely American experience. While there are many other countries which have presidential campaigns, none exhibits the gamesmanship and theatrics we enjoy every four years in the U.S. Watching the drama play out is nearly as entertaining as observing the political pundits time and again make predictions that prove to be completely inaccurate.

Webster’s dictionary defines pundits as:

  • a person who gives opinions in an authoritative manner usually through the mass media : critic

Political pundits, or as they’ve come to be known, “talking heads,” like to declare candidates “dead” months before the outcome is determined. In 1992 the major networks had all but proclaimed the little-known Bill Clinton nothing more than an asterisk in presidential political history after being blown-out in the Iowa Caucus. If a governor of Arkansas can’t do better than fourth place, behind “uncommitted” and a barely known Massachusetts Representative, Paul Tsongas, what chance could he have against a far better known field of Democrats? Clinton only name-recognition came from the revelation of his affair with Gennifer Flowers, a former night club singer and television reporter from Little Rock, Arkansas; just weeks later the mainstream media was declaring Clinton the “come-back kid” after a second place finish in New Hampshire. By spring of 1992 the pundit’s premature eulogy of Clinton was proven completely false as he seized the nomination and eventually beat George H.W. Bush in November.

In 2007 nearly 6 months before the first primary vote, political pundits had assured the voting public that John McCain had no chance in the upcoming GOP primaries. The Senator’s campaign was in complete disarray, unable to raise funds and the pundits declared that McCain would likely pull out of the race before the first vote was cast. We all know how good those predictions turned out.

Of course while the pundits were writing off John McCain they were holding a media coronation for Hillary Clinton. Oh let’s not forget the pundits odds-on favorite for the GOP nomination in 2008, Rudy Giuliani; then Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney V1.0.

Sadly much of this media chatter not only commonly misidentifies the eventual winner but their views often have a negative effect on others in the race. When the pundits make their picks they often influence fund-raising. We’ve seen this demonstrated repeatedly this election season. Early on the media focused on Mitt Romney and he easily outperformed all other hopefuls in building his war chest. Surely Mitt has his own fund-raising prowess, but it’s much easier to get people to open their wallets when the press has granted you front-runner status a year before the Iowa Caucus.

This past summer the pundits were intoxicated by rumors of Texas Governor Rick Perry entering the GOP primary race, pronouncing him a force to be reckoned with before he even announced; though months behind the other competitors the gushing pundits helped Perry raise millions of dollars in a very short time. Those that had been written off by the media pundits like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum had a very difficult time accumulating campaign funds.

At every turn the media pundits have been proven wrong; they over-analyze polls and underestimate the electorate. In just the past 8 months the media has written off and written back in Newt Gingrich twice. After the Florida primary they gave Mitt Romney the Hillary Clinton inevitability label, which educated political junkies might call “the kiss of death.” The pundits as recently as this past month considered Rick Santorum just a bit player in the Romney biography, now after 3 wins this past week they’re proclaiming him the anti-Romney candidate and once again writing Newt’s epitaph.

Frankly we’d all be better off if the pundits would stick to reporting the results and stay out of the prediction business. Perhaps they should toss a few chicken bones and see if that improves their predictive abilities?

If you want to know who will be competing against Barack Obama in November 2012 there’s only one way to be sure: the magic number is 1,144 delegates; until and unless someone has exceeded that number you’ll have to wait for GOP convention in Tampa, Florida this coming August.

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