On Friday, PostOpinions writers predicted the standings in the South Carolina primary. On Saturday, South Carolinians voted: Newt Gingrich came in first, Mitt Romney second, Rick Santorum third and Ron Paul fourth.
How did we do?
Everyone thought Gingrich would win, but the rapidly-changing race let to diverging opinions about where the rest of the candidates would perform — and what that would do to the contest. Some were spot-on — others, not so much.
Jonathan Bernstein, Gene Robinson and Marc Thiessen correctly predicted the standings, and Bernstein gets the prize for the most prescient commentary:
Newt has taken a real lead in the polls and should hold it through Saturday. Perhaps the bigger question right now is whether Santorum finishes strong enough to stay in the race a while longer, or whether his voters leave for the South Carolina frontrunners. My guess is that he revives a bit to finish in third place.
Indeed, Santorum defied pre-primary polls to finish third, and he appears set to stay in the race, which could make it more difficult for Gingrich to consolidate the anti-Romney vote in the Jan. 31 Florida primary. Thiessen, meanwhile, argued the debates last week would be critical to Gingrich’s turnaround, which they were: the 64 percent of voters who said the debates were the most important or an important factor in their decisionmaking very lopsidedly preferred Gingrich.
Richard Cohen, Jennifer Rubin and Stephen Stromberg predicted that Gingrich’s win would be narrow. But Gingrich beat Romney by 12.5 points. Cohen and Rubin still nailed the order of the four major candidates. Stromberg, though, joined James Downie and Alexandra Petri in predicting that Paul would beat Santorum for third, which was consistent with pre-primary polling but inconsistent with the results.
E.J. Dionne wins the award for most unlikely prediction, arguing that Santorum would come in second. But he tempered his bold (and inaccurate) prognostication by noting that predictable predictions aren’t as fun.
Check PostPartisan next week for more predictions about the Florida primary.