Air Balls and Slam Dunks: Grading Political Pundit Predictions

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US President Barack Obama gives the thumbs-up to a crowd of supporters on stage on election night November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. President Barack Obama swept to re-election Tuesday, forging history again by transcending a slow economic recovery and the high unemployment which haunted his first term to beat Republican Mitt Romney
Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Image

Florida hasn't quite gotten around to sharing its voting results with the rest of America, but now that the Romney campaign has conceded the state, we can finally weigh in with an assessment of the pundit predictions for the presidential election. Needless to say, almost everybody was wrong about the particulars: 332 electoral votes for Obama, 206 for Romney. And, predictably, most Democrats predicted Obama would win (they were right), and Republicans picked Romney (they were wrong). A scant few crossed party lines. A special shout-out to Josh Barro, Ross Douthat, and Buzz Bissinger for predicting that Romney would lose. There weren't any Obama supporters predicting a Romney win, but who can blame them?

Some of the Republican pundits, including some of the biggest whiners about "skewed polls," were way off: Larry Kudlow (330 electoral votes for Romney), Dick Morris (325), George Will (321), and Glenn Beck (321), we're looking at you. Across the crazy optimism aisle, Jim Cramer (440) deserves a special mention, though he ended up closer to the actual total than Ludlow, Morris, Will, and Beck.

Meanwhile, most of the Democratic pundits underestimated the size of Obama's victory. So did many journalists and unaligned pundits and analysts, including Nate Silver. In the end it was two political experts from academia with perfect scores in our prediction roundup: Drew Linzer of Emory University, and Simon Jackman of Stanford. Princeton's Sam Wang initially had the right number, but lowered his estimate to 303 votes based on late polling data.