Fred Barnes Is Always Wrong

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Fred Barnes sees an Obama presidency in trouble. That's probably good news for President Obama.

The Weekly Standard executive editor and Fox News contributor took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to lay out his case for why "the Obama administration is in an unexpected and sharp state of decline." Barnes' bill of particulars is by this point cliché: scandalmania, inability to "lead," failure to magically bend the congressional Republicans to his will -- nothing we haven't seen many times before from countless Beltway pundits. What sets Barnes' analysis apart from the rest is his knack for studying the political present, gaming out what he thinks is the likely future, and getting it completely, fantastically wrong.

In 2004, shortly after George W. Bush won reelection, Barnes wrote a piece  titled "Realignment, Now More Than Ever," in which he predicted that the Republican Party -- powered by Hispanic voters who "are attracted to the entrepreneurial bent and traditional values of Republicans" -- would enjoy "the next best thing to a permanent majority." Per Barnes: "Republican hegemony in America is now expected to last for years, maybe decades."  Republicans were in the minority two years later and the support Bush enjoyed from Hispanic voters crumbled.

In 2006, as Bush's popularity plunged the summer before the midterm elections, Barnes wrote a piece on "The Bush Bounce." According to Barnes, Bush's "approval rating dropped to an artificially low 31 percent in the Gallup Poll, far below its natural zone between 40 percent and 50 percent." He added: "At worst, Bush has bottomed out. At best, he's on his way to renewed popularity." Bush's approval rating hit 44 percent in mid-September 2006. It dropped to 37 the next month and stayed under 40 for the remainder of his presidency, frequently dipping into the 20s.

In 2008, almost the entire punditry class looked at the political environment heading into the presidential election and predicted an easy victory for Barack Obama. Three days before the election, Fred Barnes predicted John McCain would win with 279 electoral votes. "We're a center-right country. He's [Obama] a northern liberal. They usually lose. Remember Walter Mondale, remember John Kerry, Mike Dukakis," said Barnes, wrongly.

In 2010, after Scott Brown won the special Senate election in Massachusetts, Barnes wrote on the Weekly Standard's blog that "the health care bill, ObamaCare, is dead with not the slightest prospect of resurrection. Brown ran to be the 41st vote for filibuster and now he is just that." The bill was signed into law two months later.

In 2012, just before the presidential election, Barnes wrote a blog post explaining why "Mitt Romney will win." According to Barnes, trends in key voter demographic groups favored Romney. "Obama has large leads among groups such as Hispanics with a lower propensity to vote. [...] Independents, the demographic group most sensitive to these issues, went for Obama by eight percentage points in 2008. Now they're tilting to Romney by roughly the same percentage." Obama, of course, defeated Romney handily. Hispanics turned out in record numbers, and Romney lost despite winning the independent vote.

If that isn't enough for you, here's a short clip of Barnes appearing on The McLaughlin Group in the early 90s predicting that George H.W. Bush's successful prosecution of the Gulf War would win him reelection and that Pat Buchanan would not challenge Bush in the 1992 Republican primaries. 

Posted In
The Presidency & White House
Wall Street Journal
Fred Barnes
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