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Another Year of Prognostication Ups and Downs

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
One of Stuart Rothenberg’s prouder columns was his personal take on traumatic brain injuries and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ political ambitions.

In fact, the polls did pick up that Pawlenty had failed to excite voters, though I continue to believe that he might have ultimately emerged as the top conservative alternative to Romney had the former Minnesota governor not bet everything on the Ames results.

Once again, I was a little late in understanding what was happening in a special House election. While I finally got to the right place before ballots were cast in New York’s 26th district in May, I certainly wasn’t ahead of the curve in expecting Democrat Kathy Hochul to defeat Republican Jane Corwin.

Corwin, I thought, wasn’t Dede Scozzafava, the moderate Republican whose nomination caused a revolt from conservatives and resulted in a special election victory by Rep. Bill Owens (D) in New York’s 23rd district in November 2009. But Corwin had her own problems, and I was late in seeing them.

Luckily, along with the blunders were at least a few columns of which I am particularly proud.

My March 1 column (“Tim Pawlenty’s Michele Bachmann Problem”) actually anticipated the Minnesota Congresswoman’s effect on the race and the problems she could create for Pawlenty.

In my May 12 column (“Debt Limit Vote: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”), I wrote, “I don’t know how the vote to raise the debt ceiling will eventually turn out, but I am willing to make one of the very few ‘predictions’ I ever offer: The issue won’t be resolved in the next eight weeks.” 

I argued in that column that both parties would have to hold out “until the end of July before taking a deal” because an early deal would be criticized by those on the right and left as a premature sellout.

In fact, after weeks of threats, warnings and negotiations, a deal finally was struck on the last day of July.

Hands down, the column that I’m most proud of was my Feb. 17 piece on the possibility of a Senate run by Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) in 2012 (“Personal Take on Brain Injuries and Senate Bids”).

This was a difficult piece to write, on a number of levels. I was particularly concerned that my comments questioning the completeness of information released about Giffords’ condition would be seen as a criticism of the Congresswoman, her family or her staff and friends.

While the Congresswoman has made remarkable progress since the January tragedy, it’s clear seeing her now and hearing stories about her condition six weeks after the shooting that early reports did convey a misimpression about her condition and her political prospects.

As the year winds down and I have fewer opportunities to say something stupid, I will try to remember that the “rules” of politics are changing quickly, making projections more difficult and the impossible ordinary.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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