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“Regrets, I’ve had a few,” Frank Sinatra sings in one of his signature songs, “My Way,” and that should be a sentiment that every political analyst, handicapper and forecaster feels as he or she looks back on a body of work from the previous 12 months.
Few people like to admit mistakes, but when you write or speak about current events for a living, errors are an inevitable part of the process. All you can do is hope they are not too glaring or memorable — and that the astute things that you’ve written or said more than compensate for the dumb stuff.
This year, I have plenty of mistakes to acknowledge, as well as a few columns of which I am particularly proud.
Which one of my many comments and columns strikes me as the most ridiculous? It’s difficult to pick just one.
I’d have to vote for my Sept. 15 column (“Will GOP Choose John Kerry or Howard Dean?”), in which I proclaimed the Republican presidential race a contest between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney and argued that “Newt Gingrich’s victory scenario disappeared when his campaign launch flopped” and “Herman Cain lacks the experience to be taken seriously.”
Of course, it wasn’t long after that column that Cain shot to the top of the GOP pack, followed a few weeks later by Gingrich. The former Speaker currently looks like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s toughest contender for the Republican nomination.
Actually, I had buried Gingrich repeatedly during the spring and summer of this year and dismissed any chance that he could compete seriously for his party’s nomination, both in interviews and in speeches I gave.
One example is a comment of mine in an “NBC News” package that aired May 18 during the “Today Show,” in which I said Gingrich’s candidacy “is almost imploding before the candidate leaves the starting gate.” True, it did implode, but Gingrich obviously reassembled it somewhere along the way. I couldn’t even conceive of that happening.
Of course, my May 24 column (“Shrinking Republican Field Benefits Pawlenty”) also looks pretty stupid now. It was one of many times I offered a very positive assessment of the former Minnesota governor’s prospects.
“So for now, forget the early polls. They are meaningless. Keep your eye on Pawlenty,” I wrote delusionally, less than three months before Pawlenty pulled the plug on his presidential bid after a third-place finish in the Ames straw poll.