Yeah, not so much.

Will Rick Santorum emerge as the Anti-Monitor?

Based on my fail rate in the 2012 primaries to date, my future as a political pundit–who makes predictions based, as commenter KKai put it, based on no firsthand knowledge or fact–is surely limited. Unless I want to work for Fox News.

A quick review of my predictions for the NH primary and their utter incorrectness:

1.  Turnout will be strong, but not earthshaking. Bzzzzzzt. Totally wrong. Turnout was actually down from 2008, dropping from about 240,000 then to 225,000 this year. In NH, you don’t have to be a registered Republican to participate in the GOP primary; voters registered as independents may also participate, though doing so means that they can’t also vote in the Democratic party’s primary. Got that? So some pundits have argued that Ron Paul’s voters [all 56,000 of them] shouldn’t really be considered GOP voters–they are, the argument goes, mostly independents who won’t go for the GOP in the general election–and thus should be excluded from discussions of turnout for this primary. As Jon Stewart so beautifully illustrates, though, playing these kind of what if? mindgames with numbers is at best stupid and at worst delusional. What I will say is that if I were the state GOP chairperson, I would be working like mad on my GOTV [get out the vote] plans for November.

2. The media will declare Paul and the ghost of Jon Huntsman the winners, even though they’ll come in 2nd and 3rd. Again, not so much. While some in the media celebrated Paul’s strong showing [I’m looking at you, Andrew Sullivan], many others–assisted by the spin machine of the GOP establishment–were quick to dismiss him as a fringe candidate with no chance of winning the nomination and thus not worth discussing. And Hunstman? Poor, poor Huntsman. He sucked it up big time. His third place finish was so far out in the boonies that he became just a sad little dot in the rearview mirror as the press corps races off to South Carolina. Interesting guy, some actual credentials that might translate to 1600 Pennsylvania, but a godawful candidate with a painfully poor campaign machine.

3. Perry will come in dead last and give a truly epically embarrassing “concession” speech. Nope. He beat out Buddy Roemer and, given that he was campaigning in South Carolina on the day of the NH primary, Perry wasn’t around to strike a blow for freedom in the war against the Orcs. Oh well.

4. The results will come in much faster than in Iowa. It wasn’t even close. NBC News called it for Romney at 8:00 pm, just as the last polling places in the state were closing. I suppose was technically correct here, but I thought it would take more than 60 seconds after the polls closed to declare a winner. So fail for me too.

5. Buddy Roemer will get on TV on a program other than The Rachel Maddow Show. Sigh. Sadly, he did not.

6. Santorum who? Yes! I got this one right! Senator Sweater Vest was a non-entity on Tuesday night, placing a distant fourth. Now, you’d never know that based on this glowing [and, ok, really well written] profile from the Washington Post of Santorum’s primary organizer whose been working in South Carolina–the story makes it sound as though Ol’ Rick is ready to rise from the grave again and seduce the good people of South Carolina into making him the true anti-Romney. We’ll see what comes out of the Christian conservative pow-wow that’s happening this weekend–maybe the anti-Romney forces will find their voice in Santorum. We shall see.

[ETA: Well, the gig is up. The “Evangelical Super-Group,” as Dave Weigel dubs them, voted today to endorse Santorum. But, as Weigel points out, this is sort of akin to making wishes into a rainstorm: the group is not planning any focused movement or specific action to back up their endorsement. So, you know, FWIW, these folks declares themselves Team Santorum. Until he drops out, or Gingrich wins South Carolina, or until Romney crushes them all under the boot of Bain Capital. But, until then, Tony Perkins and company? They’re all in.]

Hunting New Hampshire

Hang in there, man. It's almost over. At least until South Carolina.

After striking out epically in Iowa, let me take another swing. Some predictions for tomorrow’s New Hampshire primaries:

1. Turnout will be strong, but not earthshaking. The Iowa caucuses brought out about 122,000 participants, up a tiny bit from the 118,000 who participated on the GOP side in 2008. In my experience, NH peeps take their first primary status seriously; they treat voting in the primary as a responsibility, and I think the numbers will reflect that. However, I don’t think we’ll see an enormous turnout like the Dems had in 2008. Just my gut feeling.

2. The media will declare Paul and the ghost of Jon Huntsman the winners, even though they’ll come in 2nd and 3rd. The media’s desire for a narrative that’s less boring that “the dude who’s been leading for a year wins the damn primary” is pushing them to set new watermarks for Romney’s success tomorrow night. For example, my dear Andrew Sullivan [who might object to being referred to as “the media”; sorry, darling] puts the bar at 30%–any percentage below this, even in victory, and Romney will have “lost.”
That said, my money is on both Paul and Huntman to come up nudging 20%. For Huntsman, such a result would be the equivalent of a 1-up mushroom just as it looked like MittKoopa was about to squash him, and the media loves the “back from the dead” narrative. Although there’s no way in hell Hunstman can even show in South Carolina.

3. Perry will come in dead last and give a truly epically embarrassing “concession” speech.
Hell, at this point, he might declare war on Canada. Or maybe Mordor.

4. The results will come in much faster than in Iowa. The networks will call it for Romney before 11:30 pm tomorrow night, This will give Newt Gingrich a chance to “concede” during prime time, to remind America that he is way smarter than them, that Mittens is a closet liberal, and that he is on a mission from God. Only without the sunglasses.

5. Buddy Roemer will get on TV on a program other than The Rachel Maddow Show. Roemer, a former governor who’s running on a platform of campaign finance reform, has been totally ignored by well, just about everybody, though he’s been on TRMS quite a few times; he sat in for this interview last week. Beating Perry will land Roemer some interview time on the major networks, even though I suspect he’ll be treated as a novelty, rather than as a serious candidate. And at this point, I think my cat Mingus could get more votes than Perry. And she’s a libertarian.

Legalize catnip.

6. Santorum who? Despite my attempts to raise his profile through my S/D slash fic, he’ll be practically invisible tomorrow night. But–he’ll be back with a vengeance in South Carolina, where his campaign has poured most of the $2 million they made this week into TV ads. So should be fun.

Hope Not Fear (four years on)

So four years ago today, on January 8, 2008, Barack Obama lost the New Hampshire primary and I took to my bed in tears, decrying the unfairness of it all. I was still stinging from Howard Dean’s defeat in 2004—I worked for his campaign in NH—and it felt like, oh no: here we go again.

And then, that night, Obama gave this speech. The one where he introduced the idea that would become the lynchpin of his campaign: Yes We Can.

This is the speech that affected me the most, that convinced me that, without a doubt, Obama should be—and would be—the next President. It’s a speech that comes from defeat, from setback, and yet it’s the most forward-looking—and realistic—take on what this nation is capable of. Obama’s rhetoric, his campaign, his candidacy, convinced me that *I* had something to contribute to this country, damn it, and I better as hell figure out what that was. Is. Will be.

I’m a pretty cynical person. But on a good day, I think of myself as a cynical idealist. I suppose you could say that I’ve shaped my hard cynical shell to hide the hope and optimism that’s there, dug really deep within me.

Despite all of the weird shit going on in the world—that’s omnipresent in the world, I’d argue—President Obama still gives me hope. No, that’s not it—he doesn’t give me anything. At his best, he simply reminds me of what’s already there, of the hope I carry around like a concealed weapon, a force of possibility and change.

And his actions, his rhetoric poke at me and say: hey. Do something with it. It’s there. And nobody can use it but you.

So, chop chop. Get to it.

Four years ago, I was on the verge of finishing a Master’s degree. Four years later, I’ve finished that one, completed another, and completed my first semester in a PhD program. I’ve changed more in the past four years—for the better, I think—than I have in a long time. I quit pretending that I wanted to make it in the business world and started teaching. Found out that I love it, and that knowledge has booted me onto the path I’m on now, one that makes me happy—which still feels weird to say, to read, to feel, but there it is. Maybe most importantly: I’m a writer, now, and I can say that and believe it without flinching.

No, Obama did not make me the person I am but his example—the one that began with his speech on January 8, 2008—kicked me in the shins and told me that hope alone wasn’t enough, that I couldn’t wait around for someone else to change things, be it in my life or on some larger scale–that it was up to me. Which was liberating and terrifying. Awesome and really fucking weird. Still is, in fact.

So, four years on, I think: yes we can. Yes we did. And yes we will, be it personally or in our communities or on the federal level. Because we must. And, despite everything, despite every soul-sucking and dispiriting GOP debate I’ve sat through in the past nine months, I still believe that, when the chips are down, most Americans, hell most people, will do what they must to care for their sisters and brothers, for their fellow humans.

In the closing days of Dean’s campaign in NH, his slogan was Hope Not Fear. And I think that’s where I am, at the core. Leaning towards hope. Moving away from fear.

Idealistic cynic, over and out.