Terrible political predictions are a fact of life, but in 2016, America’s pundits really went off the rails. It was a strange year, and a hard one to predict, but that didn’t stop them from trying. And boy, did they get it wrong. Below are the 20 worst predictions of the year, from Salon to 538 to, yes, Paste itself.
Category 1: TRUMP
Amanda Marcotte: Liberals should root for Trump because he’ll be easier to beat in November
Hoo-boy. As Marcotte’s former Salon colleague Ben Norton said wryly in December, this take didn’t age well.
Marcotte was one of Clinton’s fiercest defenders all year, so it’s ironic she said the following in February:
Confession time: I’m rooting for Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination. And not in a casual, that-would-be-amusing way. When he won South Carolina, there was celebrating at my house. When he won Nevada, I did a happy dance. When pundits on TV say in shocked, repulsed tones that his nomination is starting to look inevitable, I say, “Damn skippy.”
Marcotte would later explain away Clinton’s defeat by alleging that white women voted for the billionaire because they hate themselves and fear their husbands.
Ross Douthat: I told you Trump had a ceiling
I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU
Joe Scarborough: Trump Knows He Is Going to Lose
Scarborough, the co-host of sycophantic must-watch DC TV show “Morning Joe,” looked deep into the Republican nominee’s heart in August and told the nation that Trump was assured he would lose the race.
That’s a guy who knows he is going to lose. That’s a guy who knows he is going to lose. You start talking that way and, again, I don’t know that he’s ever wanted to win. It’s sad. It’s sad and pathetic what’s going on out there.
While it’s likely that Trump didn’t think he would win, knowing he would lose is something else entirely. Remember that Trump is a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth who has never experienced much hardship simply by virtue of throwing tantrums and being very lucky.
Thought he might lose? Possible.
Knew he would lose? Antithetical to the man’s brand.
Drew Magary: Donald Trump Is Going To Get His Ass Kicked On Tuesday
Magary, a good writer for a good outlet, made a pretty terrible prediction here (though he’d hardly be the only one, as we’ll see). Trump would lose, Magary said, because he’s a repellent piece of shit (true) and the polls prove he doesn’t have a chance (wrong).
Donald Trump is going to get his ass handed to him, because he is bottom-feeding scum, and most voters figured that out a long, long time ago.
Adrian Pantoja: Latino Voters Will Stop Trump
Pantoja, a writer for Latino Decisions, posited (as many did) that the increasing Latin population in the US would prove insurmountable to Trump’s chances at the presidency.
Donald Trump set the tone for his campaign in June 2015 when he called undocumented Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers. Experts at Latino Decisions have warned that an anti-immigrant campaign strategy would end in failure. In a number of key battleground states, the Latino electorate is sizable and attacking them would be politically foolish. Those warnings have fallen on deaf ears.
Trump launched his campaign promising to build a wall to keep Americans safe from dangerous immigrants—a promise that was completely unfeasible to all but his supporters. Ironically, Trump has built a wall. It is a wall between him and the Latino electorate. In the end, that wall will block Trump’s path to the White House.
But Trump actually outperformed the more moderate 2012 Republican hopeful Mitt Romney among Hispanics, if only by 28 percent of their vote to 27 percent.
FOX NEWS: Giuliani Favorite to Become Secretary of State
Was it ever thus? Unlikely. In the wake of Trump’s victory, Giuliani’s stock seemed to be riding high. The former New York Mayor was the odds-on favorite for the position, FOX reported a week after the election.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the favorite to be secretary of state in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, a senior Trump transition official said Monday.
The official told the Associated Press there was no real competition for the job and that it was Giuliani’s if he wanted it.
Giuliani wanted it, but it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, the job was offered to Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.
But give Giuliani some credit. He, at least, was right when he said “I won’t be Attorney General.”
Category 2: CLINTON
Newsweek: Madame President Cover
Newsweek, like most of us, was convinced Clinton was going to win the election. So they pre-shipped out editions of the magazine with “Madame President” on the cover across the nation, only to quickly pull them after Trump was elected.
Clinton signed copies of the magazine on the day before Election Day in Pennsylvania in a “Dewey Beats Truman” moment.
Sady Doyle: Victory Hillary
Notorious Twitter troll Sady Doyle fantasized about Hillary Clinton, having won the election, leaning in close to her husband and whispering in his ear that he’d never be as important as her.
“I warned you this day would come.”
While this may end up to be true— running the worst campaign in history, blowing a sure thing through utter incompetence and arrogance, and leading to the eradication of the species would make Clinton a far more pivotal figure in human history than her husband— let’s hope the former Secretary of State and the Democratic Party she represents are quickly forgotten after being discarded into the dustbin of history.
This futuristic political tweetfic would rear its head again when Jill Filipovic posited Michelle Obama telling her husband in bed on January 21, 2017, “it’s my turn now.” This led Twitter user @Mayafecetico to wonder if Filipovic was talking about pegging.
Nate Silver: Final Election Update: There’s A Wide Range Of Outcomes, And Most Of Them Come Up Clinton
Silver hedged his bets a little on this one, but the tone of this piece is unmistakeable. FiveThirtyEight’s premiere pollster ran the numbers through his super secret forecast model and came to the conclusion that Clinton had a 71 percent chance of winning the election.
Our forecast has Clinton favored in states and congressional districts totaling 323 electoral votes, including all the states President Obama won in 2012 except Ohio and Iowa, but adding North Carolina. However, because our forecasts are probabilistic, and because Clinton’s leads in North Carolina and Florida especially are tenuous, the average number of electoral votes we forecast for Clinton is 302, which would be equivalent to her winning either Florida or North Carolina but not both.
Of course, Silver was wrong and it was Trump who crested 300 electoral votes in the end.
Eoin Higgins: Clinton Landslide
I made a hypothetical electoral map on November 6 with my prediction for the race— Clinton wins 434 electoral votes and Trump doesn’t crack 100.
Trump, in my prediction, would only a portion of the deep south and the middle-north western states. I even had McMullin winning Utah.
My prediction was at least as terrible as anyone else’s on here and I should not be listened to, ever, about anything.
Category 3: THE ALSO-RANS
H.A. Goodman: Yes, Bernie Sanders Will Win the Contested Democratic Nomination
Hard to pick just one terrible prediction from Huffington Post blogger H.A. Goodman, but they were all pretty much the same: Bernie Sanders will be the next President. Though Goodman did later predict Clinton would lose to Trump, that was so obviously based in his fever-dream lust for a Sanders Cabinet position it was impossible to take seriously as a prediction on the merits.
Here, in May, Goodman argues that the email scandal will deliver the Democratic nomination to Sanders—another in a long line of fantastical scenarios where Bernie comes down from heaven, ascends to the Presidency, and assumedly adopts Mr. Goodman as his large and martially trained son.
It’s the ongoing FBI investigation of Clinton’s emails, and not merely delegate count, that will hand Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination.
Seth Abramson: John Kasich Will Be the Republican Nominee for President
In April, Abramson made the bold prediction that John Kasich, despite only winning his home state’s primary, would be the Republican nominee. How would the Ohio governor do this? Why, the Republican delegates at the convention would deliver the nomination to him, of course, via Marco Rubio, who would run as his Vice-President.
A Kasich/Rubio ticket would appeal to both mainstream Republicans (Kasich) and Tea Partiers (Rubio), to both white and Latino voters, to younger voters who want to see someone relatively young on the ticket, to those looking for a ticket whose members run the gamut from executive to legislative experience at both the state and federal levels, and to those who believe all members of a presidential ticket should hail from a major battleground state.
Trump won the nomination at the convention on the first ballot.
Red State: This Is The Week That Ted Cruz Won The Republican Nomination
Ah yes, the week of April 10, 2016. When Ted Cruz’s consolidation of his lead to the Republican nomination really began. Historians are already looking at this seminal moment to… um.. Wait, what?
Yes, Red State really thought Cruz had it in the bag in April after he won Wisconsin and gobbled up some delegates in the primary race. The tide had turned! A brokered convention was on the horizon, and there could only be one winner— the most likable man from Texas since Charles Albright.
Victory will go to Cruz, the man who’s run the best campaign and is indeed the best candidate. And history will look back at this week and the Wisconsin victory and other wins this week as the turning point.
Cruz would lose the nomination to Trump, but not before being humiliated on national television by MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson in perhaps the greatest moment in the entire primary.
Jonathan Chait: Paul Ryan is Running for President
Paul Ryan was not running for President…and we’re STUNNED that one of the year’s most embarrassing pundits was so certain despite being so wrong.
Category 4: ODDS AND ENDS
Benjamin Morris: How Evan McMullin Could Win Utah And The Presidency
Morris, a writer for FiveThirtyEight, was likely assigned the unenviable task of constructing a reasonable hypothetical situation where McMullin wins Utah and forces the Electoral College to elect him president. To Morris’ credit, the sub-head to the story reads, “It’s unlikely, but far from impossible.”
McMullin didn’t even win Utah and has spent most of the past month and a half since the election getting into Twitter wars with the President-elect and giving sanctimonious interviews.
Kevin Drum: Brexit Now Looking Like it Will Probably Fail
Drum, a right wing blogger for misnomered magazine Mother Jones, predicted that the UK would vote to stay in the EU, despite the tightening of polls just before the country voted to leave.
You can see Drum’s logic here:
My sense—though I’d prefer actual data if anyone has collected it—is that secession votes usually follow a pattern: the leavers get an upward bump a few weeks before voting day, but stayers get a bump in the few days before voting day. A fair number of people flirt with the idea of leaving, but then get scared at the last minute and decide to vote for the status quo instead.
This logic isn’t unique to Drum, but his writing here is a good explanation of the ideas behind Trump’s sure loss. The pundit class couldn’t see the possibility of the people voting against their interests and against the progress they believed had been made under socially liberal, corporatist governments.
Bill Kristol: There Will be a Viable Third Party Candidate
Those of us who hoped for an alternative to the two-party system this year should have seen the writing on the wall with this May tweet from Kristol. It’s not an exaggeration to say Kristol has the single worst record on political prognostication of anyone in media.
So his prediction that there would be a viable third party candidate this year ensured that we’d be stuck with Trump or Clinton. I just wish Bill would predict something the opposite of which would be good for everyone….
Harry Reid: Merrick Garland Will Be Confirmed
Lord only knows what Reid was thinking in March when he predicted the GOP would allow President Black Man to appoint a nominee to the Supreme Court. Obama has been resisted every step of the way by a party with which he shares many policy goals, yet his agenda remained a non-starter for the Republicans for eight years.
And Reid knew this, having been in Senate leadership for the entire time. So it’s staggering that he would have said that the GOP would allow the nomination to go forward due to pressure from the media (whom the GOP hate) and the public (whom the GOP don’t represent).
POLITICO: Actually, Polls Are Good and Accurate
Here, in a pre-Election Day roundup of bad takes, POLITICO stepped in it when they asserted that, in fact, the polls are accurate and those who don’t believe in them are wrong.
Sure, there are some big indications that polling is in trouble. Typical response rates are below 10 percent. The decrease in landlines—and correlated rise of mobile—changes the equation, too. When Matt Bevin won the Kentucky gubernatorial election in 2015 after every poll predicted that his Democratic rival Jack Conway would win, Governing magazine’s Alan Greenblatt wondered if it was “The End of Political Polling?” Polling, wrote New Yorker contributor Jill Lepore in 2015, was “teetering on the edge of disaster.”
Those predictions have hardly been borne out: Aside from the big Michigan primary upset, this year, polls were fairly accurate throughout the primaries, and news consumers still seem to be as poll-obsessed as ever.
Yet only two days later the polling wound be proven catastrophically wrong as Donald Trump beat expectations and defeated Hillary Clinton. So… maybe the polls were bad?
This is a particularly damning self-own in that it came as a response to bad predictions (and almost assures that at least one snarky comment I’ve made here will come back to bite me).
Category 5: WE BLEW IT
Paste Staff: Election Night Predictions
We blew it. All of us. I’d like to think my predictions (17 and 18) were the worst, but I’m not sure that’s fair to the rest of the Paste crew.
Well… almost all of us blew it. Technically, Emily Glover nailed it.
Trump began displaying his “sore loser” tendencies well before election day, going so far as claiming the whole voting process was rigged against him. There is little doubt that rhetoric will persist after the votes are tallied. So whereas the standard concession script includes congratulations for the victorious opponent, Trump will refuse to accept clear results and will instead claim there was a conspiracy against him. Worse yet, many people will believe that.
Thanks for redeeming us, Emily.
You can reach Eoin Higgins on Facebook and Twitter.