The SDMB as political prognosticators

I was poking around and happened to come across this old thread from shortly after the 2016 election:

Interesting to read the predictions. Tammy Duckworth kept getting mentioned, and also Cory Booker and Sherrod Brown. Bernie, of course, as a “shake things up” candidate. Warren was popular, although both she and Bernie were considered by some as too old. Harris got a lot of mentions. Hillary was mentioned, but as a “no way!”

Senator Kaine (who? :sweat_smile:) kept coming up as the front-runner for the nomination, although being dismissed as too pablum, especially if, as some thought, he would be running against the experienced and smooth candidate, VP Pence, after Trump dropped out for health reasons.

Several celebrity candidates got mentioned, like Tom Hanks and especially Jon Stewart; maybe even Stephen Colbert.

A few hoped that a hitherto unknown charismatic candidate would arise, sorta like Bill in '92 and Obama in 2008. Or maybe Kerry.

Oh, and in a thread that stretched for 198 posts, there were three mentions of some old guy named Biden, sort of as courtesy mentions:

Yep, if you want to make book on political races, the SDMB is clearly your starting point.


Since the question was “who will run in 2020” the answers weren’t all that out-of-the-box. Well, mostly.

I went to a huge Democratic fundraiser in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in June of 2019. There were 24 Democrats officially running, and 19 of them spoke at this event. While Biden didn’t appear, at the time he was actually leading in the Iowa polls (although he didn’t end up doing so well in the caucuses …)

Complete swings and misses on Kaine and Duckworth. The SDMB got some of these right, though:

  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Kamala Harris
  • Cory Booker
  • Kirsten Gillibrand

Then there was Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke, who wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar much in 2016. The guys who popped on the scene late in the cycle, like Andrew Yang and Pete Buttigieg.

Then there’s the “oh, yeah, they were running for President once”:

  • Eric Swalwell
  • John Delaney
  • Jay Inslee
  • Michael Bennet
  • Steve Bullock
  • John Hickenlooper
  • Tim Ryan

And the “hoo, boy, did that really happen?” list:

  • Bill DeBlasio
  • Tulsi Gabbard
  • Marianne Williamson

And this was before Michael Bloomberg jumped in with his piles of money and flamed out spectacularly.

Predicting campaigns four years out is pretty darn tough. I actually saw Biden speak at an event for the Iowa governor’s race in 2018 and he was great, but we all had to think Democrats would be looking for youth and freshness in 2020. I really do think the pandemic played a huge role in moving Biden to the forefront - experience and proven political skills meant a lot in the face of COVID-19 - and of course nobody could have seen that coming in 2016.

I read the thread title and the thread itself as being who would be the candidate in the general: “Who do the Democrats run”, not “who will run for the Democratic nomination”

It’s kind of interesting, because it used to be that anyone who was a huge name like Biden (or Hillary Clinton actually) a year or more out from Iowa was likely to have run out of steam by the time Iowa actually rolled around.

It feels to me like now (maybe due to the media / social media environment?) big names are more sticky.

Yep. I don’t think that thread is an indication that the SDMB are particularly poor political prognosticators, the fact is that Democrats across the country were deeply divided on how to move forward after the loss to Trump. If the candidates being mooted were pretty wide-ranging, that’s because Democrats needed to have a wide-ranging debate over what was important in their next Presidential candidate. And of course four years is an eternity in politics, and the particular four years of the Trump Administration unfolded in ways that were unimaginable in 2016.

There’s also the inevitable effect that some people were posting who they wanted to run or to win, not necessarily who was actually likely to do so. Heck, that was probably a factor for most people, including those who were trying to avoid it: It’s too easy to think “I’m a Democrat. Therefore other Democrats are similar to me. The Democratic candidate will be someone Democrats like. I like X, therefore other Democrats likely do, too. Therefore, I think X will be the nominee.”

There’s also, I think, kind of an incentive not to go for the easy, obvious choices in threads like that, and “Biden runs, wins the primary with Bernie a distant second, picks a much-younger woman of color as his running mate, and flips MI / WI / PA plus a couple of other states to make Trump a one-term president” was a super-obvious possibility probably as far back as November 2016.

D’oh! Of course, you are correct - the thread posits “who will be the Democratic candidate” in 2020, not who will try.

To echo what’s been said upthread, political prognostication about events multiple years in the future is really hard. Is there anyone who has a good track record at it?

Certainly not me. But I’ll keep on trying because it’s fun.

It was all guessing. Some of us might have been right, but that was luck, not skill.

In fairness, it’s often a dark horse who wins the candidacy. In 2003, who would have thought Obama would be the 2008 nominee?

In 2007, nobody would say “Mitt Romney” as a 2012 nominee, and in 2011 nobody thought “Trump in 2016.”

So it’s reasonable that a frontrunner like Biden wouldn’t be a popular pick - it’s often a dark horse who wins.