Articles

My 2012 Mistakes and Fearless 2013 Forecast

January 03, 2013

A year ago, I offered political predictions for 2012. It's time to assess what I got right and wrong—and to make some predictions for 2013.

What did I get right? Republicans kept the House, and Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell their leadership roles. In 2012, voters got even more of their election news from the Internet, instead of from newspapers, than they had in 2008. Texas Rep. Ron Paul did not run as a third-party presidential candidate.

ObamaCare remained unpopular, with Rasmussen finding in November that 50% favored its repeal while 44% didn't, little changed from the 54%-42% split in April 2010. President Barack Obama didn't corral any new high-profile Republican endorsements.

The president offered a crude tax-reform proposal, calling for higher taxes on the wealthy. This allowed Mr. Obama to best Mitt Romney on the question of who would better handle the issue of taxes (the margin was 49% to 44% in the October Washington Post/ABC poll).

As predicted, the Obama campaign mounted efforts to diminish the GOP's advantage among military families and veterans. But it unexpectedly ignored white evangelicals, who gave Mr. Romney a whopping 78%.

Democrats did play the race card with explicit appeals such as Attorney General Eric Holder's attack on state voter-ID laws as threatening "the achievements that defined the civil-rights movement."

On other predictions, I was dead wrong. Republicans did not win the Senate, in part because of at least two bad GOP candidates and an $80 million Democratic spending advantage. Neither Rep. Nancy Pelosi nor Sen. Harry Reid left their leadership posts. Despite a sluggish start, Team Obama did indeed hit its campaign funding target, raising $1.07 billion.

And then there was the presidential election—my biggest missed call. While Mr. Obama's support declined among independents, women, young people and Jews, he was re-elected. I assumed that, propelled by a normal turnout among all voters (including white middle-class voters) Mr. Romney would win. But Mr. Obama gained ground among Latinos and held onto 95% of the people who supported him in 2008.

So what are my prognostications for 2013 and beyond? By year's end, Mr. Obama's job approval will be lower than the 53% it is today, and the unemployment rate will be about the same at around 8%.

There will be more Democratic than Republican retirements from the House as Democratic hopes for a takeover dim. Come the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans will field a stronger group of Senate candidates than expected.

On immigration, Republicans will advance a framework that includes border security, guest workers and a lengthy, difficult road to citizenship. Meanwhile, an immigration proposal put forward by Mr. Obama will go nowhere because it lacks a credible guest-worker program and contains too speedy a path to citizenship.

The drip-drip-drip of news about the fiasco in Benghazi and the "Fast and Furious" gun running investigation will be joined by other administration scandals. The implementation of ObamaCare will be ragged and ugly and prove a continuing political advantage to Republicans.

There will be no grand bargain on the budget. Mr. Obama can't (and won't try to) deliver Democrats for structural reform of entitlements, and Republicans are tiring of seeing taxes go up so Democratic spending can go on. The debt ceiling will be raised, but after Mr. Obama is forced to make spending cuts.

Syria's Bashar Assad will be forced from power, but Mr. Obama's failure to provide active, sustained U.S. leadership will result in a new Islamist regime in Damascus friendly with Iran. In our hemisphere, Venezuela's dictator Hugo Chávez, and probably Cuba's Fidel Castro, will die.

In November, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will win re-election handily. The Virginia gubernatorial race will be very close: Democrat Terry McAuliffe will be a more controversial candidate than expected and Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli less so.

Assuming her health is good and she's serious about running, Hillary Clinton will be the front-runner among 2016 presidential hopefuls. But there will be increasing buzz about other potential Democratic nominees, including Vice President Joe Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and others.

On a lighter note, President Obama's girls will get the second dog they desire and President George W. Bush will get a grandson.

A final offer: If you're inclined, write your own predictions and send them to me care of The Wall Street Journal. At 2013's end, I'll be happy to assess yours as well as mine.

A version of this article appeared January 3, 2013, on page A11 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: My 2012 Mistakes and Fearless 2013 Forecast and online at WSJ.com.

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