THE RECORD of the American pundit class with regard to the 2008 presidential election can be summarized in one word: wrong. For the last twelve months, political journalists in unison have created and then imposed countless predictive narratives onto their "news" coverage of the campaign, narratives which have repeatedly turned out to be completely inaccurate. Yet they never learn their lesson, are never held accountable and virtually never acknowledge their errors. Political punditry is the ultimate accountability-free profession.
It is not merely opinionists who have spun these predictive tales, but so-called straight reporters as well. Indeed, dominating the media's news coverage of presidential campaigns are claims about what is likely to happen in the future. Rather than focusing on the candidates' records, the validity of their positions or the truth of their factual assertions, political election coverage instead is obsessed primarily with the question of who is likely to win and lose. Like most fortune-tellers, reporters' fixation on predictive narratives has left a virtually unbroken string of humiliating errors.
Throughout all of 2007, without a single vote having been cast, two themes dominated the media's coverage of the race. First, Hillary Clinton's nomination was essentially inevitable; her lead in the polls was insurmountable, and her organizational strength rendered her invulnerable to any challenges. Second, John McCain's candidacy was over, killed by campaign mismanagement, conservative anger over his immigration stance, independent resentment over his support for the "surge," a lack of funds and Rudy Giuliani's bulging popular lead.