Be wary of election predictions based on widespread conventional wisdom

Be wary of election predictions based on widespread conventional wisdom

Photo by Edmond Dantès for Pexels.

By David Reel

A dictionary definition of conventional wisdom is “a generally accepted theory or belief.”

This definition needs a disclaimer: Widespread conventional wisdom in politics is challenged regularly by actual election results that are opposite of predicted election results.

We live in an increasingly VUCA world, a world characterized by high levels of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. As a result, election outcomes are decided by voters whose behavior on election day and during early voting is unpredictable and subject to change at any time until they cast their vote.

This is not a recent development, but it is a recurring one.

Almost eight years ago, widespread conventional political wisdom was Republican Larry Hogan would never defeat Democrat Anthony Brown in the general election for governor.

Hogan won with 50 % of the statewide vote and Brown lost with 47.3% of the statewide vote.

Widespread conventional wisdom was wrong.

Almost two years ago, widespread conventional wisdom was Donald Trump would carry traditionally red Talbot County on the Eastern Shore in his bid for re-election just as he had done in his election almost six years ago.

Joe Biden narrowly edged Trump by 116 votes, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate carried Talbot County since Lyndon Johnson did so in 1964.

Widespread conventional wisdom was wrong … again.

In the 2022 primary election cycle for Republicans, widespread conventional wisdom was Kelly Schulz would beat Dan Cox to be the Republican nominee for governor in November

Cox won with 52% of the statewide vote and Schulz lost with 43.4% of the statewide vote.

Wrong again

Conventional wisdom was wrong … again

In the 2022 primary election cycle for Democrats, widespread conventional wisdom was in a crowded 10 candidate field, Peter Franchot would win.

Franchot came in third with 21% of the votes cast statewide behind second place finisher Tom Perez who received 30% of the votes cast statewide and Wes Moore, who secured the nomination with 32% of the statewide vote.

Widespread conventional wisdom was wrong … again

Lessons learned in all these races is that in every political campaign, messages matter. Money, name id, candidate experience, targeting and GOTV efforts or lack thereof all matter. That said, what really matters is developing and delivering campaign messages that resonate with voters lead to unexpected wins. Developing and delivering campaign messages that do not resonate with voters lead to unexpected losses.

Between now and November, there will be countless amounts of widespread conventional wisdom leading to strongly held assumptions and predictions on the outcome of the 2022 gubernatorial election. As this is being written, widespread conventional wisdom is that Wes Moore will handily defeat Dan Cox. Some observers even predict the statewide vote tally for Cox will not reach the roughly 32% of votes received in Maryland by Donald Trump in two Presidential elections.

That has led to further widespread conventional wisdom that with Cox at the top of the statewide ballot it will hurt GOP chances to succeed in winnable (for the GOP) down ballot elections. Maybe all this widespread conventional wisdom will be the case. Maybe only some of it will be. Maybe none of it will be. Given the results above those (like myself) who write, read, and offer predictions on future election results based widespread conventional wisdom need to acknowledge history.

What anyone thinks or says about what might happen is an opinion. Nothing more. Nothing less. All we know with any certainty is that all the current and conventional wisdom between now and November will be affirmed or challenged by actual election results in this VUCA world.

David Reel, a public affairs/communications consultant, has observed and participated in the political arena in red states, blue states, and purple states. The views expressed above represent his personal views and do necessarily reflect the views of his past, current or future consulting clients or future consulting clients.  

About The Author

David Reel

David Reel serves as Maryland Director for Quantum Communications, a public affairs and strategic communications consulting firm.