Stick to your strengths

Feb 1, 2012 By Steven R. Peck

Note to TV election pundits: We are not asking you to declare a winner in the Republican presidential nominating process in January (or, now, February). We can wait for the actual voting to determine the outcome.

So quit trying to call the game in the first quarter. For one thing, you're so bad at it that your continuing insistence on trying is almost comical.

Why, exactly, is it so important to call the winner when the real campaign has barely begun? Is there some secret prize the rest of us aren't aware of, a trophy given to the cable TV host or network commentator who makes the earliest prediction that "it's all over"?

Much of what you do is great. We followers of national politics do appreciate the discussion of how and why a primary state's voters did what they did. We enjoy watching the debates, and we like following the twists, turns, entrances, exits, attacks, counterattacks, mistakes, triumphs and tactics of the candidates.

All those things are more than enough to make it interesting. You all have something useful to bring to the discussion, whether it be a lifetime of experience covering politics, a term or two of duty in elected office yourselves, a particular talent for collecting and distilling data, or an incisive interview or analytical skills that help us understand.

But not a one of you is any good at predicting the future. So why do it all the time? No one wants you to do it, your track record is terrible, and it serves no real purpose. Why dedicate so much energy and screen time to sweeping declarations that the race has been decided after one, two or three primaries? Don't you want us to keep watching in the future?

In the past year or so, we've been told to prepare for President Palin, President Pawlenty, President Daniels, President Perry, President Cain and President Christie. Some even talked of President Santorum, President Bachmann and President Paul.

None of these people will be the next president. None of them is a frontrunner. Some of them didn't even run.

Three weeks ago it was all about President Romney, the "inevitable" winner. Ten days ago it was President Gingrich, the "unstoppable" candidate. Four years ago it was about President Clinton (Hillary, not Bill), President Giuliani, and President Thompson (Fred, remember?). Each had unbeatable charisma, or peerless experience, or sterling credentials, or unmatchable money, and/or those all-important "intangibles" that voters would find irresistible.

Wednesday morning, after Mitt Romney dominated Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary, the same experts who three months ago were all but guaranteeing a Rick Perry presidency now note with "certainty" that Romney will be nominated to face President Obama in the fall.

What is the god-awful rush? After the months of announcements, straw polls and debates, the nation's voters finally are getting their chance to choose the nominees. Why not let them do it?

Analysts, go ahead and analyze. Stick with your strengths. Predicting the future isn't one of them. Even if it were, the political public would rather watch the race for themselves.

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