I’ve nothing personal against Morris, but I believe the public has a right to expect pundits to be accountable for their forecasting
I’m not a big one for schadenfreude but I confess to feeling a little frisson on hearing the news that Dick Morris was not getting his contract renewed by Fox News. It’s not that I wish Morris ill tidings; it’s that I want pundits to be held accountable for their incorrect forecasts.
Dick Morris has one of the worst electoral prediction records known to man.
I wrote last August on 10 Morris predictions that turned out to be not just wrong, but horribly off the mark. There were many more I didn’t even cover.
In the 2012 election, Morris topped himself. He kept insisting that Mitt Romney would win the presidential election. He had the “real polls” (whatever those were). His final prediction was Romney taking 325 electoral votes and the national vote by at least 5pt. Of course, it was Obama emerging victorious with 332 electoral votes and a 4pt national vote edge.
Morris’ performance earned him the title of “Worst Pundit of 2012” by Pundit Tracker. That’s an impressive achievement considering all the competition. In mathematical terms, Morris was wrong 80% in his prognostications: if you had placed a dollar bet on each Morris prediction in a prediction market, you would have lost 70% of your money.
I would be more forgiving of Morris if he had just said he was wrong, provided a real reason for his forecasts, and promised to be better in the future. After all, none of us is perfect or even close to it (see my mea culpa for slips in 2012). Instead, Morris blamed the usual “Hurricane Sandy allowed Obama to win” hypothesis, and then said he knew he had been wrong, yet he’d wanted to raise the spirit of Republicans. This sort of action from a person who is supposed to inform the public simply isn’t acceptable.
Analysts and pundits must be held accountable for their misses. They should not just be able to appear on television or in print the next day and say “oops!”, without consequences. Which is why I was glad that Fox News actually acted on Morris’ embarrassingly poor performance. It suggests that Fox executives do actually care, at least at some level, about the accuracy of the electoral analysis being broadcast.
The only part of the Dick Morris departure that saddens me is that he has been booked to appear on Piers Morgan’s CNN show Wednesday evening. This can only be a misguided ploy to boost ratings, because if Morris’ appearance has anything to do with expertise, then I can only assume Morgan and his producers know very little about American politics.
In the past, Morgan has actually had a couple of great analysts on the show. Republican pollster Kristen Soltis was on more than a couple of times during the campaign. Soltis, part of the great Winston Group, really knows stuff.
Responding to the Morris news Tuesday night, I tweeted Morgan that he’d better off having Soltis back again. Soltis responded that she’d be “more than than happy to debate Dick Morris about the future of election forecasting!” I hope Morgan takes Soltis up on her offer: that would be worth watching.
But at least, Dick Morris being off the air at Fox is a win for anyone who cares about the quality of information being fed to the viewer.