Iowa predictions: How did we do?

On Monday, PostOpinions writers predicted who would win the Iowa caucuses. Mitt Romney’s victory Tuesday night was barely a win, but we still like to hold ourselves accountable for our prognostication. With the results in, how did we do? In a roughly descending order of accuracy:

David Ignatius predicted that Iowans would choose Romney because he is the candidate who looks to be the most competent and presidential. According to entrance polling, Romney attracted huge pluralities of those Republicans who made electability and “the right experience” their top concerns.

Kathleen Parker forecast that Romney would take Iowa because of his strength on economic matters. Romney won a clear plurality of voters who said that the economy was their primary concern.

Stephen Stromberg argued that Romney would win because Republicans hate Obama more than they do the former Massachusetts governor. Half of caucus-goers who voted based on electability backed Romney. Romney also got the most votes among those who picked their candidate “with reservations.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel said Romney would succeed with the backing of corporate-types amid the fragmentation of the evangelical vote. Romney took a plurality of votes from those who make over $100,000 annually, and he still won the state despite losing big among the 57 percent of caucus-goers who identified as evangelicals.

Michael Gerson argued that Romney would attract the “unspectacular support” of party regulars, and, indeed, Romney did capture a plurality of voters who had caucused before. But Gerson’s most interesting point — that Tim Pawlenty would be kicking himself by now for dropping out of “a winnable race” — remains tantalizingly unconfirmed.

Jennifer Rubin predicted a Romney victory over a second-place Santorum, but by a much larger 3 percent margin.

Richard Cohen predicted that Romney would get north of 21.5 percent of the vote, which he did. But Richard also said that Romney would be the “clear” winner, which he wasn’t.

Jonathan Bernstein picked Santorum, but he admitted that the most important thing was who the top three were — particularly that Rick Perry wasn’t one of them — not in which order. That analysis has yet to be tested.

Alexandra Petri chose Santorum to win because he spent so much time in Iowa shaking hands and buying voters coffee. The entrance polling doesn’t directly address this analysis — perhaps the retail politics worked in the end. But not until the very end. A plurality of Santorum’s supporters didn’t decide to back him until caucus day, and 68 percent of his caucusers didn’t decide before a few days ago.

Eugene Robinson picked Santorum to win because his wave of support crested at just the right time. Given how many Santorum supporters hadn’t committed to him until this week, Robinson seems to have been right about that, even if he wasn’t right about Romney losing in the end.

James Downie predicted a Santorum victory based on the enthusiasm of his supporters in Iowa. Santorum netted more Republicans who caucused for their candidate enthusiastically and fewer of those who cast their votes with reservations than Romney did, perhaps propelling Santorum to his narrow second-place finish. Yet Ron Paul bested both Romney and Santorum in these measures.

E.J. Dionne predicted Santorum would win, because of the momentum that ended up lifting the candidate into a close second-place finish. But E.J. also predicted a close race between Romney and Paul for second, which wasn’t quite as prescient.

Marc Thiessen predicted a Paul victory because of the enthusiasm of his many young supporters. Paul did take nearly half of caucus-goers aged 17 to 29, and he had the most enthusiastic supporters, but it still didn’t get him past Romney and Santorum. Still, Marc will no doubt be pleased that he was wrong.

Dana Milbank argued that Gary Johnson would win Iowa, since every other right-wing not-Romney had already enjoyed some time in the sun. His prediction fared about as well as he expected it to. We hope.

Check PostPartisan next week for more predictions about New Hampshire.

Stephen Stromberg is a Post editorial writer. He specializes in domestic policy, including energy, the environment, legal affairs and public health.

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