Predict politics, pigskin at your peril

Published 10:15 am Monday, November 5, 2007

By Staff
Presidential politics experts do about as well as pigskin prognosticators when it comes to peering into the future.
Michigan losing to Appalachian State was just the start.
By the time two months of the college football season elapsed, only Louisiana State remained from the top five preseason favorites.
Experts, secure in the knowledge that the University of Southern California was invincible, never saw the Oregon Ducks or Boston College coming.
Neither cracked even the top 25.
Political pundits are also as fallible as Trojans touters.
We have endured almost a year of unrelenting White House horse-race coverage, even though ordinary people haven't been paying attention, and we're still months away from actual 2008 votes being cast.
Democrat Hillary Clinton's supporters have especially encouraged the notion that her nomination is a foregone conclusion and her time would be better spent planning her move back to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. than on the campaign trail.
Her coronation was delayed by a fusillade of attacks in Tuesday's debate.
Commentators have also kept busy writing off Republicans.
Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul are given no chance. Latecomer Fred Thompson was hastily categorized as a flop when he failed to meet pundits' unusually high expectations.
John McCain must know something they don't, because he's still out there after they put a fork in him.
It would be easy to surmise by their attacks on each other that Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani believe they're the only two with a shot at the GOP nod.
Yet voters in early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire pride themselves on bursting such balloons.
In the 1988 Iowa caucuses, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush were written about as in a commanding lead over four competitors, yet Bush actually finished third, behind televangelist Pat Robertson.
Four years later Bush received another nasty surprise in losing New Hampshire to Pat Buchanan.
Conventional wisdom in Iowa in 2004 was that Howard Dean was cruising to victory, with John Kerry running a distant third.
When the dust settled caucus night, the opposite occurred.
Remember the November 1991 ranking of the Democratic field? Mario Cuomo, Jerry Brown, Doug Wilder, Bob Kerrey, Tom Harkin and, last of six, Bill Clinton.
In November 1975, Jimmy Carter would have been written off based on just 3 percent of the Democratic vote.
In fact, only twice in the modern era did the eventual Democratic nominee rank first in the polls among fellow Democrats a year before the election, which ought to give Mrs. Clinton pause.
This may be an exceptional year for Republicans, who are usually more predictable than Democrats.
But among GOP voters favoring a particular candidate, two out of three say they may change their minds.
There's a reason college football still plays the games and the people casting ballots decide elections – not "experts."
A lot can still happen.