John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Don’t Believe the Prognosticators

Posted on September 11, 2018
On October 13, 2016, Charlies Cook, the famous political prognosticator, tweeted that the race for the White House was over and that Hillary Clinton was going to be our next President.

A few weeks later, Larry Sabato, another predictor of the future, followed suit, asserting that Hillary Clinton would get 322 electoral votes and that the United States Senate would fall into the hands of the Democrats, thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Tim Kaine.

Not to be outdone, Stu Rothenberg, another famous visionary, said that Hillary would get 323 votes. The Los Angeles Times, showing their clear grasp of reality, predicted that Hillary would get 352 electoral votes.

In a roundup of its elite opinion leaders, the Washington Post, the last redoubt of the political establishment, published the predictions of Jonathan Capehart, EJ Dionne, James Downie, Carter Eskew, David Ignatius, Charles Lane, Ruth Marcus, Eugene Robinson and Jennifer Rubin. Not one predicted that Hillary Clinton would get less than 300 electoral votes.

Two weeks before the election, at an event held by a local high school, I appeared on a panel with Marcus and Dionne, as well as Matt Bai and Ashley Parker. I predicted that Donald Trump was going to be President. The reaction was predictable. They all thought I was certifiably nuts.

EJ Dionne was particularly brutal in his assessment of my assessment. It is now my considered opinion that Mr. Dionne has no earthly idea what he is talking about when it comes to politics.

Every one of these same commentators, prognosticators, and left-wing ideologues  boldly predicted that Trump was going to lose, and now they are doubling down on the coming midterm election.

The House is gone. It’s only a matter of time before the Democrats take over and give the proper oversight to President Trump. Nancy Pelosi might have to do some cajoling, but she is a lock to be the next Speaker.

It all sounds so familiar.

The liberal elite here in Washington is once again boldly making assertions about the future without really understanding what is happening in the country, even in their own backyard.

Here is an example.

Barbara Comstock is a sure lock to lose her race. She represents the Northern Virginia suburbs, which theoretically is virulently anti-Trump. It’s a diverse district, an affluent district, with lots of educated women who theoretically are going to punish Barbara because of Trump.

Of course, if this race were a lock, the DCCC, the chief campaign wing of the Democratic Party, wouldn’t have poured a million more dollars running ads against her in the last couple of weeks. They have already spent close to six million dollars on this race, and yet, according to internal Republican polls, Comstock is up 6 points.

Comstock is no political novice. She is well-known in the district and more importantly, she knows her district inside and out. She has won 7 races (three state delegate races, 2 primaries and the Congressional races) over the last 9 years. Each time, the pollsters and pundits have predicted that she would lose, but she outperformed the polls. In 2016, Democrats showed off a poll that had her losing by 5 points, but she ended up winning by 6. In 2014, they released another poll close to the election day, showing her Democratic opponent down by a point, but Comstock ended up winning by 16 points.

The district might be socially liberal or libertarian, but it is economically conservative. They don’t their taxes to go up or to pay for socialized medicine. But that is what her opponent is offering to the voters this year.

And they aren’t buying it.

Winning elections is an exercise in coming up with messages that resonate with your voters. It is also an exercise in serving your constituents and doing your job.

Donald Trump won his election because he cleverly came up with a message that resonated with voters. Make American great again by sparking economic growth, getting better trade deals and cracking down on illegal immigration.

Comstock’s message is consistent with Trump’s message when it has to be, especially when it comes to sparking economic growth, but she is not shy at expressing her displeasure when the President does things that are unpopular across the river.

Comstock’s story is not a one-off. There are plenty of Republicans who are in far better shape than the political pundits would like to admit. Jeff Denham and Steve Knight in California, John Faso in New York, Peter Roskam and Rodney Davis in Illinois, Carlos Curbelo in Florida, all are doing better in their internal polls and are likely to win reelection.

For a wave to hit, you need many factors to hit at once. An unpopular President is one element, but his unpopularity has to be something novel, something new, something unexpected. Trump has never been popular and probably never will be. He was the most unpopular candidate to ever to win the White House, and if anything, his polls numbers have improved not deteriorated.

A wave is usually fed by a weak or weakening economy. But that certainly isn’t the case this time around.

An unpopular war can feed a wave, but peace is breaking out all around the world. That won’t be a factor.

I don’t see the wave coming. Republicans, of course, could lose seats in the House. As a matter of fact, I think it is certain that they will lose a few.

But they won’t lose the Comstock seat. And they won’t lose the House. That’s my prediction.  The liberal elite prognosticators have their predictions.  Let's see who is right.