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My Three Big Mistakes of 2015

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Time to account for what I got wrong in 2015.

The big one was about Ted Cruz. I believed, incorrectly, that party actors would resist Cruz's presidential bid even within the faction of the Republican Party most compatible with his type of conservative politics. Not only do the people who work with him dislike him, I reasoned. They would also see his role in the 2013 government shutdown as evidence that he is a poor strategist. (The link is to a 2014 item making this case, which I stuck with until late in 2015.) Wrong!

I overlooked his early lead this fall in amassing endorsements from current and former state legislators. Cruz is still a factional candidate and may lose the battle for the nomination. Not a single U.S. senator supports him, and he still hasn’t won the endorsements of many of his House Freedom Caucus allies. But plenty of Republican party actors outside of Congress back him.

Most of my predictions about Donald Trump are about 2016, not 2015, so we’ll have to wait on those. But I strongly believed his run for president in this cycle was another bluff, and I said repeatedly on Twitter that he wouldn’t do it. Wrong!

A third mistake I made in 2015 was technical, but important. In the fall, an apparent gap turned up in Trump’s polling numbers. He did better in live interview polls than in Internet or automated phone surveys. The gap then disappeared after several weeks but not before I made a fuss about it (mostly on Twitter, but see here). Wrong! If we have enough ways to slice the data, and we do, it’s likely that some “gap” or another will show up just by pure chance. I should have known better than to take this one seriously.

I've probably forgotten some additional claims I made that were mistaken, and until the primaries and caucuses play out we won’t know if many of my other contentions are accurate or way off. But the three I mentioned? I’ll try to learn from these mistakes and do better in 2016.

  1. Looking back, I haven’t been perfectly consistent about Cruz. Sometimes I said he was the least likely to win of any of the plausible Republican nominees; other times I said he was not a viable nominee at all. Either way: I should have stuck with what I said back in 2013 when I thought he was viable. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net