Pundits conceded they were wrong on bin Laden tape predictions


Several pundits have conceded that polling has not borne out their initial speculation that the release of a videotaped message from Osama bin Laden on October 29 would benefit President George W. Bush politically.

As Media Matters for America noted on October 30, October 31, and November 1, polls conducted since the tape's release have shown a stable race or a trend towards Senator John Kerry.

Some pundits acknowledged that their initial predictions appeared to have been wrong:

• Karen Tumulty, TIME magazine national political correspondent, on October 29:

Quite frankly, I find it hard to find any way that this helps John Kerry. What we've seen over and over and over again is that when terrorism is the topic, and when people are reminded of 9-11, Bush's numbers go up. [CNN, Lou Dobbs Tonight]

Tumulty on November 1:

Roger [Simon, U.S. News & World Report chief political correspondent and fellow panelist] and I both thought that the Osama bin Laden tape was probably going to be enough to move at least a few voters. Well, you look at the weekend polling, and that does not seem to have happened. [CNN, Lou Dobbs Tonight]

• Mike Barnicle, Boston Herald columnist, on October 29:

Instinctively, I would say it would play strongly for President Bush, especially among those that might be undecided at this late stage in the election ... this would be, I think, play right to George Bush's strength. [MSNBC, 4 Days & Counting: An Election Special]

Barnicle on October 31:

RON REAGAN (MSNBC political analyst): What tipped me was that the eagerness of some people on the Bush/Cheney team and on the right seized on the bin Laden tape as the October surprise that's gonna throw it to Bush. It's like suddenly bin Laden's their friend, and I thought, well, this is ironic If you're counting on Osama bin Laden to, like, endorse you in an odd backwards way --

BARNICLE: I fell for that hype on Saturday. [MSNBC, After Hours]

• Pat Buchanan, MSNBC analyst and former Republican presidential candidate, on October 29:

Clearly, bin Laden is showing us he's alive and well and taunting us and saying Bush did not get me despite what he said. But clearly at the same time, he is insulting and challenging the president of the United States, and if he turns this in Osama bin Laden versus Bush, the president is going to benefit for the next three days. [MSNBC, 4 Days & Counting: An Election Special]

Buchanan on November 1:

I thought it would be beneficial to Bush. ... But there's no doubt that we thought it would have much more impact than it appears to have had on the mindset [of the electorate]. [MSNBC, After Hours]

As NBC news analyst Howard Fineman -- who had on October 29 spelled out how partisans could spin the tape as beneficial to either candidate -- noted on the November 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

I think that Osama bin Laden's appearance on TV the other night not only didn't help George [W.] Bush, I think in the end we may find that, if it did anything, it hurt him a little bit because it reminded people that the focus was not where, perhaps in their view, it should have been. ... [S]ince Friday night, the numbers have clearly, if slowly, drifted in Kerry's favor.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
2004 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.