Skip navigation.
The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Fearless Forecast from Our Iowa Prognosticator

Between now and tomorrow’s Iowa Caucus, you’re going to hear a tremendous amount of prognostication by journalists. You should keep something in mind: No one really has any idea how the Caucus is going to wind up, least of all the journalists.

Time Magazine’s Joe Klein, a longtime observer of presidential politics, so much as admitted in his column last week that reporters don’t really know what they’re talking about when it comes to Iowa. They might write that so-and-so candidate has the strongest field operation but, in reality, they have no idea. They have no way of knowing. They’re not working inside the campaigns.

So where does the journalists’ so-called “knowledge” come from? Trusted sources, of course, which often times are campaign operatives with extremely vested agendas or worse, political science professors who have even less knowledge than the reporters. They’re not inside the campaigns, either. They’re sitting in their offices on college campuses reading articles and editorials and then giving pithy quotes to their reporter friends.

Now before I’m besieged by e-mail defending political science professors, there are obviously exceptions to the rule. For instance, there are some professors tightly woven into the political fabric of their city and state. They often do have a good idea what they’re talking about.

But I raise all this to shine a little light on what has become a rather ridiculous part of our political system. Perception becomes reality in politics, and journalists shape the perception. But if they don’t really have any idea what they’re talking about, who are they to be playing such a significant role?

For the most part, in any political contest, reporters look at two things: name identification and money. If going into the race, you’re not well known and don’t have a lot of money to put into the campaign, most reporters won’t take you seriously.

The big problem with that approach is not that money and name identification aren’t important — they are — but campaigns are all about getting better known and raising money to help make that happen. If you’re being written off by the perception-shapers from the get-go, it’s very difficult to get people to invest in your effort, which makes it difficult to advertise, which makes it impossible to get better known — a vicious cycle.

Which brings us back to Iowa, a state that every four years seems to demonstrate that the great prognosticators have no idea what they’re talking about. Four years ago, with all Democratic eyes focused on Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt, up sprang John Kerry and John Edwards.

On the Republican side this year, Mitt Romney was busy buying his way to a resounding victory when all of a sudden, along came Mike Huckabee, a guy who had been counted out because, oh yeah, he wasn’t well known and didn’t have any money. Oops.

So who wins? Based on the articles and editorials I’ve read, my “trusted sources,” and my biased point of view, John Edwards and Mike Huckabee will win their respective Caucuses. Since I really have no idea, I’m obviously well qualified to prognosticate.

(Originally published by Examiner Newspaper Group)

Syndicate content