Ignore all those pundits telling you that the 2013 elections tell you something about 2014 or beyond.
One of the first pieces of advice I ever got about the media when I started my political career was something along the lines of, “John, reporters are overworked and underpaid. This makes them pretty lazy.” The woman who said that to me was making a point about how to get reporters to do what you want them to do. Simply put the more work you can do for them, the more you can get them to cover a story how you want. This is not to say that reporters don’t work hard, the vast majority of journalists do work really hard in what is unfortunately a contracting industry, but they still sometimes fall into unfortunate groves. A big one of these is writing a column or blog post about how recent events are good predictors of the next election.
This can of course sometimes be correct. But it only works regularly when the events being described are happening right before an election.
Unfortunately a lot of pundits, reporters and bloggers are arguing up a storm right now about what Tuesday’s results “mean” for 2014 and beyond. From none of than The New York Times we can learn that Chris Christie’s reelection triumph over a poorly funded Democrat is, “a victory that vaulted him to the front ranks of Republican presidential contenders…” Meanwhile Ryan Cooper has argued at Greg Sargent’s excellent Plumline blog that Bill de Blasio’s victory over Joe Lhota in New York City might be the harbinger of a new economically populist Democratic Party.
To be sure these elections are important and not just for people who’ll they’ll represent. De Blasio’s victory has elevated a very liberal figure to the national stage. Terry McAuliffe’s ascension to the governor’s mansion in Virginia could result in significant changes in policy in what is now a key battleground state. And Chris Christie can now focus full time on his White House run. But these realities don’t tell us what will happen on Election Day 2014, let alone how the Iowa caucuses are going to go in two plus years.
If you want to know what will happen in the political future look for broad trends. For example, if the economy continues to improve that will bode well for Democrats in 2014 and 2016, if it continues at a sluggish pace or falls back in recession then Hillary (or whoever) will be in trouble. If the Obamacare website gets fixed sometimes between now and the spring all those “Obamacare woes” stories will disappear from newspapers pretty quickly, as they already seem to be doing. If you want to predict how well Chris Christie will do in 2015 and 2016 look at how much money is he raising, his national approval ratings and if he is getting endorsements from prominent Republicans.
By caucus night in 2015, or election night in 2014 for that matter, all the stories about 2013 are going to be forgotten, just like they will probably be by next month.
Photo by Mel Evans/AP