The Sunday before any national election is always a landmark day for Washington Post editors and writers—it means they already know, months in advance, what the main feature in the paper’s Outlook section will be. For 15 election cycles, Outlook has been home to the Crystal Ball Contest for predicting results.
This year’s edition ran last Sunday, as usual, in a fancy spread in the paper and online. The winner, the Post assured those of us who took the trouble to read the thing, would be announced this Sunday, Nov. 7. Which means Washington City Paper is in a position to do some real service journalism: We scored the contest and, below, report the winner, so you don’t even have to open Outlook at all!
The roster of nine contestants this year represented a perfect slice of D.C. punditry. The good old MSM was represented by Politico editors John Harris and Jim VandeHei, competing jointly; Amy Walter, political director of ABC News; David Chalian, political editor at PBS NewsHour; Candy Crowley, chief political correspondent at CNN; Chris “The Fix” Cillizza, managing editor of the Post‘s own political site; and Ken Rudin, NPR’s political director. To get a frisson of partisanship, Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson and Huffington Post czarina Arianna Huffington entered. And finally, to allow the Post to show it still cares deeply about local news, the AP Government class at Oakton High School put in its predictions, too.
A total of 18 points were up for grabs. Each contestant had to predict the final tally of Senate and House seats, as well as the winner (and winning margin, and percentages) in the Nevada Senate race, the Colorado Senate race, the California governor’s race, and the Maryland governor’s race. Presumably, that last one—which no one expected to be close at all—was included for the same reason the Oakton kids were. The rules were a little convoluted, and to be honest, our scoring may not wind up the same as the Post‘s; we weren’t clear on whether Price is Right rules applied, but we assumed they were. Pundits got a point for each correct prediction, and whoever came closest to predicting the actual point spread between the winners of the various races got one additional point. A second bonus point would be awarded to anyone who got not just the margin, but the percentages right, but no one did. The tiebreaker, naturally, required predicting the final percentage of votes won by Christine O’Donnell, who had no chance of winning the Delaware Senate race, but who’s good for Web traffic.
It will not surprise you to learn that the predictions all hewed pretty closely to each other. The final scores were:
- Carlson: 6
- Chalian: 6
- Cillizza: 5
- Crowley: 4
- VandeHarris: 6
- Huffington: 4
- Oakton High: 3
- Rudin: 6
- Walter: 5
That left a four-way tie for first. The winner, who came the closest to projecting O’Donnell’s 40 percent showing, was Chalian, whose guess was 41. (The other three he tied with guessed higher, betraying their obvious disdain for the intelligence of Delaware voters.)
We’re assuming you don’t actually care who answered which question how, because, frankly, we don’t either. If you do, you can e-mail me or—if you dare—read Outlook this weekend.
UPDATE: Outlook editor Carlos Lozada e-mails along this update: The winner isn’t yet known!
“Unfortunately, with a handful of House seats still undecided, it’s not officially David Chalian’s victory. If enough of the final House seats go for the Democrats, Tucker Carlson and/or Amy Walter could get the 2 bonus points for getting within 5 seats of the final House breakdown. This would catapult them over the group currently tied for first. Not likely, but possible. Once those House results are official, we’ll call it one way or the other…”