After months of warning you about the GOP’s chronic overconfidence problem, now I’m feeling overconfident! Inasmuch as I will be giving a speech at my alma mater, Cornell University, the day after the election, I’m about to do something very stupid: make an election prediction.
My reasoning is, here we are, three weeks from the election, and this week, two major polls, Harvard Harris and Times Sienna, suddenly show Republicans gaining ground. This triggered a primordial memory from the 1980 election, the first presidential race I paid attention to.
That’s when I discovered the iron rule of election polls: They will never, ever be wrong in favor of Republicans. Another is that polls will generally show the Democrat winning until the election gets close — and the media finally start telling the truth.
Thus, for example, after being hectored for most of 1980 that Ronald Reagan was headed for another Goldwater-style fiasco, here’s the sort of thing a teenager would have read in The New York Times weeks before he won a landslide victory against President Jimmy Carter, taking 489 electoral college votes to Carter’s 49.
- Sept. 15, 1980: “Reagan and Carter Even In Washington Post Poll”
- Sept. 21, 1980 “Allowing for the margin of error, the polls indicate a virtual dead heat between Mr.Carter and Mr. Reagan”
- Oct. 23, 1980: “Poll Shows President Has Pulled To Even Position With Reagan”