Weekend open thread: Terrible predictions edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

In the real world as well as on social media, many Iowa Democratic activists have been talking about Rich Leopold this week. Since announcing his candidacy for governor on Wednesday, Leopold has reached out to county chairs and other local leaders in a bunch of towns. I hope his early, aggressive campaign will drive other Democrats thinking about this race to start pounding the pavement sooner rather than later. I’m all for a spirited, competitive 2018 primary.

Longtime Johnson County elections office worker John Deeth wrote a must-read “deep dig” about the real-world implications of “the proposed voter ID legislation, with the Orwellian name ‘Voter Integrity,’ launched by Secretary of State Paul Pate on Thursday.” Key point: county auditors of both parties are not fans of voter ID, “because they’ve been on the front lines of dealing with the public and they know that it doesn’t solve anything and that it will make it harder for the public.” Bleeding Heartland’s take on Pate’s solution in search of a problem is here.

Des Moines Register statehouse reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel published a heartbreaking account of her mother’s terminal illness during the presidential campaign, a “sudden and devastating” ordeal that still “hurts like hell every day.”

Along with most Iowa politics watchers, I’m gearing up for the 2017 Iowa legislative session, which begins on Monday. First, let’s take care of some unfinished business from 2016. Like many political writers and a fair number of Bleeding Heartland readers, I had a horrendous year for predictions.

Last January, I published sixteen Iowa politics predictions for 2016. I had high hopes of improving on the previous year’s result: nine for fifteen, with a couple of near-misses.

Alas, I got only these seven predictions right:

“Most of Iowa’s Republican National Convention delegates in 2016 will cast ballots for someone other than the winner of the Iowa caucuses.”

All of Iowa’s delegates to the RNC voted for Donald Trump, even though Ted Cruz won the caucuses. Here’s why the Iowa GOP’s rule change (supposedly intended to force RNC delegates to “vote with the intentions of the caucusgoers — the wishes of the grassroots”) didn’t play out that way.

“The Iowa Supreme Court will reject a method for evading the state’s open meetings law.”

Four justices ruled in March that Warren County supervisors broke the law when they communicated via proxy to work out important budget decisions behind closed doors.

“The Iowa Utilities Board will approve the Dakota Access (Bakken) pipeline.”

A no-brainer.

“The Iowa legislature will not approve Branstad’s plan to extend the penny sales tax for school infrastructure and divert a portion of the funding to water quality programs.”

Also an easy call. Branstad rolled out his poorly-conceived proposal without consulting key GOP lawmakers ahead of time.

“The final compromise on allowable growth/supplemental state aid during this year’s legislative session will increase funding for K-12 schools by less than 3 percent.”

Sadly, another easy call for anyone who has paid attention to statehouse battles over education funding these past few years. Even though I expected the outcome, I was furious to see Democrats settle for 2.25 percent allowable growth for K-12 schools right after lawmakers approved a bill taking roughly $120 million in revenue off the table for this fiscal year alone.

“No more than 36 women will be elected to the Iowa legislature in 2016.”

The high-water mark for women’s representation in the Iowa legislature was 2013-2014, when ten women served in the Iowa Senate and 25 in the Iowa House. During 2015 and 2016, only seven women served in the Senate and 27 in the House.

Just 33 women will be members of the Iowa legislature when the 2017 session begins on Monday. The number of women dropped to six in the upper chamber and held steady at 27 in the lower chamber.

A 28th woman may join the House before long. Monica Kurth is the Democratic nominee for the special election to replace Jim Lykam in House district 89 and will be favored to win that race.

“Three of the four winners of Iowa’s Congressional races will gain less than 55 percent of the vote.”

Certified results show that Representative Rod Blum (R, IA-01) and Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) each were re-elected with 53.7 percent of the vote. Representative David Young (R, IA-03) received 53.4 percent.

I was half-right on two predictions:

“Ted Cruz will overperform and Marco Rubio will underperform his percentage in the final Des Moines Register poll by Selzer & Co.”

I called Cruz’s victory in Bleeding Heartland’s Iowa caucus prediction contest because I didn’t believe in the Trump ground game.

Cruz defied the last ten polls of GOP caucus-goers to beat Trump on caucus night, prompting Ann Selzer to say she didn’t mind being demoted to “silver standard.” Rubio also exceeded his final poll numbers; Selzer didn’t pick up any late surge for the Florida senator.

“Senator Chuck Grassley’s criminal justice/sentencing reform bill will pass the U.S. Senate but not the House.”

That bill didn’t pass the House, but it didn’t pass the Senate either. Having cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a strong bipartisan vote in late 2015, the bill never reached the Senate floor last year.

These seven predictions were wrong–in some cases way off base.

“Turnout for the Iowa Democratic caucuses will be below 150,000.”

I knew participation would be way down from the record-setting 2008 caucus but was shocked to learn that more than 170,000 Democrats showed up on February 1. Bernie Sanders energized more first-time caucus-goers than I anticipated.

“Turnout for the Iowa Republican caucuses will be lower than for the Democratic caucuses.”

Kids, listen to your instincts. Immediately after typing that prediction, I commented, “This should not be true. With far more candidates and a more wide-open race for the GOP nomination, there should be way more staff and volunteers pounding the pavement, ready to capitalize on excited potential Republican caucus-goers.”

That’s one reason nearly 187,000 people showed up for the GOP precinct caucuses.

“Hillary Clinton will win the Iowa caucuses by a larger margin than her lead in the state polling average in late January.”

I was counting on Clinton’s much larger campaign organization to deliver the goods. In fact, she barely won the caucuses by less than a percentage point in terms of state delegate equivalents.

Even that narrow victory was a minor miracle, given how badly Clinton got wiped out in most other caucus states, and how well Sanders did among white liberals across the country.

“Hillary Clinton will win Iowa’s 6 electoral votes, but her popular vote margin will be smaller than Barack Obama’s was in 2008 or 2012.”

I hesitated to make that prediction and should have listened to my gut. But I never would have thought Clinton could lose this state by nearly 10 points and by a larger margin than she lost Texas. I expected a close election nationally and assumed Iowa would continue to vote roughly like the rest of the country.

“The Iowa Supreme Court will rule that not all felonies rise to the level of ‘infamous crimes’ that justify revoking a citizen’s voting rights.”

By four votes to three, the high court upheld Iowa’s current law, which imposes a lifetime voting ban on nearly all citizens with felony convictions. Of all the predictions I got wrong last year, this one hurt the most. In my defense, a lot of others who closely followed this case had the same wrong impression of where Chief Justice Mark Cady would land. I ended up putting a lot of work into a post about why Cady didn’t resolve the felon voting case the way I expected.

“Some member of the Iowa legislature will be arrested on an OWI.”

I wasn’t at all sorry to be wrong here. Nevertheless, I’m repeating this prediction for 2017, because an Iowa lawmaker gets caught drunk driving about every few years, and we’re overdue.

CORRECTION: I forgot to list the seventh incorrect prediction:

“No more than one Iowa Senate incumbent will be defeated in 2016.”

Six Democratic Iowa Senate incumbents lost on November 8: Mike Gronstal (Senate district 8), Mary Jo Wilhelm (Senate district 26), Brian Schoenjahn (Senate district 32), Steve Sodders (Senate district 36), Tom Courtney (Senate district 44), and Chris Brase (Senate district 46). That was equivalent to my doomsday scenario, except that even my worst-case scenario didn’t see Courtney at risk. I was worried about Rich Taylor next door in Senate district 42.

In the final analysis, seven right, two half-right, and seven wrong adds up to a poor showing for a blogger immersed in Iowa politics. At least I took a chance and put my predictions out there. Some people brag about “always” knowing something would happen, when they never had the guts to say so out loud before the event.

Before the end of this month, I will publish my seventeen Iowa politics predictions for 2017.

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