Quick Hit: Jonathan Bernstein’s Foresight
Reading through some old posts I came across Jonathan Bernstein’s TNR article from 12/2 aptly titled “Yes, Newt’s Up in the Polls. No, You Shouldn’t Take His Candidacy Seriously.” The relevant info is in the title. Now the blogosphere can be quite harsh when people are wrong in their predictions (and politics can be difficult to predict sometimes), so I think we should be equally laudable when someone makes a prediction and hits it on the head. And though I’m not sure I necessarily agree that we “shouldn’t take Gingrich seriously”, I think Bernstein’s article is starting to ring true more than two weeks after the fact. As you may know Gingrich is currently slipping in Iowa according to recent poll results (and the speculation is that this is due to recent attack ads highlighting Gingrich’s past). I found these two paragraphs from Bernstein’s two-week old article especially perceptive and enjoyable in light of these recent developments:
The reasons why we don’t have to take Newt seriously are many, but the most obvious is that, despite his recent polling, he’s still the same candidate with all the same baggage. He’s still got his history of deviations from party orthodoxy on practically every issue, and the ethics violations, and the marital problems. He’s still the same guy who wound up not being trusted at all by those who worked with him when he was in office. And he’s still got a long history of just not being very popular with anyone outside of the most intense of intense partisans—and even they are likely aware that he’s risky at best and more likely pure poison in a general election.
The main reason for all this instability in the polls is that most Republicans just aren’t paying very much attention to the contest right now. That’s hard for the sorts of people who read The New Republic to accept, because for us politics is an active ongoing part of our lives, verging for some on an obsession. But that’s not how it is for most people. Even for those who will eventually care enough to vote, politics most of the time is background noise and an occasional conversation topic, not something to stay up-to-date on; it’s the difference between season ticket holders and people who start watching when the playoffs begin.