The Washington Post

Pre-debunking much of the analysis you’ll hear tonight

It's Super Tuesday!

A lot of us are going to be watching the pundits on the cable networks tonight. As usual, these pundits range from excellent to . . . well, it's not clear why some are there. Some are very good at their jobs, but that job is to spin for a party or a candidate, not to give us neutral analysis. So we're going to hear some dubious spin and analysis, and I figured I can try to help by pre-debunking some of it.

1. Assuming that the polls are correct and Mitt Romney wins the most delegates, and especially if he wins more than half of those contested today . . . ignore any spin that suggests he needs to win certain states, or certain kinds of states, to win the nomination. He doesn't. 

2. Ignore all spin saying that exit polls or losing certain states indicate that Romney will have difficult uniting the party. He won't. Romney is weakest with the most conservative Republicans, who are also going to be the most loyal Republicans in the fall. If he loses, they'll turn on him quickly, but in a competitive race they'll be with him. Exception: This does not apply to Ron Paul voters, who really could potentially bolt the party, although they probably won't.

3. Ignore any analysis of Romney’s victory that ignores the role of campaign spending. Jamelle Bouie had a nice post about this today; money does matter in primary elections, and Romney just buried everyone else. Note that money itself can be properly treated as a function of other advantages (such as support from party actors). 

4. Ignore statements about the fall based on Romney's weak national polling numbers. Romney has lousy numbers because he's lost several contests and because he's being attacked from his own party. Once he's the nominee, he'll have several months in which he's a winner — and those attacks will disappear. It's highly likely that his favorable ratings in polls will consequently recover. 

5. And ignore analysis that assumes the issue environment of October will be simply a continuation of the issue environment right now. We’re probably not going to be talking about birth control and Rush Limbaugh in the final weeks of the campaign. We have no idea what will be happening in Syria or Iran, or what new foreign policy issues emerge over the year. We have only hints about what how the economy will be doing by the fall. Eight months is a very, very long time, and major issues can come and go and be forgotten during that stretch. 

I’m pretty tempted to add that you should ignore anything about the Republican Party that uses the word “establishment,” but I’ll hold off, and just caution you to proceed with caution. 

With all that said: enjoy the coverage! If it goes as well for Romney as his campaign hopes, it may be the last we see of presidential nomination politics until . . . well, until mid-November, when the next round of invisible primary(s) begin. 


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