One of the most difficult parts of writing an opinion column is that your opinions are then saved in the public record. A columnist who makes a prediction that turns out to be inaccurate leaves a trail at which his detractors can later point when they seek to undermine the value of his opinions.
Of course, there are ways to avoid this problem. I am aware of at least one columnist who, week after week, writes a column about the upcoming election, sometimes taking a break to write about the 2016 race, pontificating as to whether this candidate or that candidate is positioned to win a specific race or primary. That analysis, however, will always end the same way, a reminder that only time will tell if said candidate/ party/ issue will emerge victorious.
That way the writer can never be wrong. But as a wise man once told me, “If you can never be wrong, you are never right, either.”
So as a rule I shy away from writing columns along those lines. The main reason for that is because I generally aim to add something to the conversation — a bit of knowledge that some are unfamiliar with that might make them see things differently, or a unique way of looking at an issue that might make other people rethink how they feel about something. Saying that something “might be” a certain way accomplishes nothing.
There is a well-known saying that every rule has an exception. This week, I will be making an exception to my rule. The reason is because the thing I’m unsure about is fascinating in and of itself, and it is something interesting to keep in mind as the coming week unfolds.
I have written about the Republican National Committee (RNC) effort to boost voter turnout across the nation to give their candidates a better chance of winning. In previous columns I expressed optimism at the news of these efforts, and the ability of chairman Reince Priebus to see them through to a successful outcome.
Elections and the election season are to political observers as candy is to children. Put simply, we just can’t get enough of them. It affords us the chance to see, in a concrete way, whether our theories about strategy and policy are indeed correct.
This new effort on behalf of the Republican Party, however, is extremely hard to gauge. I recently asked a polling and election expert if any of the polling data recently published would provide an indication as to whether or not these efforts are being successful. His response was that the likely voters formula used by the most accurate of pollsters was based on history, changes in the electorate, and other minor tweaks used to gauge whether or not registered voters were likely to go out and vote.
In other words, I asked him, we’ll only know how successful these efforts truly are on election night?
On election night, was his response. That makes the senate races all the more fascinating to watch. According to Real Clear Politics, using an average of all the major polls, there are currently nine Senate races that are close enough to be considered toss-ups. Republicans’ chances of taking control of the Senate are very good, regardless, when you consider that six of these races are over seats currently occupied by Democrats and only three are held by Republicans. Republicans need to win four or five of those to be in control of the Senate. Most analysts predict, based on current polling data, that Republicans are likely to win six or seven of these races.
But in a recent interview with The Federalist, Priebus insisted that the party is “light years ahead compared to the past… The obsession on the ground is different.” If the difference is indeed that vast, then the raw polling data is only telling us half the story. It is conceivable, then, that the GOP can actually win all nine of those races.
If they can do that, then we know that they have indeed made tremendous progress from where they were in 2012, when the Democratic machine embarrassed the RNC. Real progress on that front can also give conservatives more cause for optimism at winning back the White House in 2016.
But let us not get too far ahead of ourselves. First we have to wait and see.