How wide was the gulf between what actually happened in 2019 and the paths imagined by our pundits and politicians? Drawing from scores of op-eds, tweets, news stories and other first drafts of not-yet-history, POLITICO Magazine penned its sixth annual Worst Predictions list.
17. “By the end of 2019, the president of the United States will be Nancy Pelosi”
Predicted by: Stephen Kinzer, Boston Globe
Even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi flexed her power this year—deftly navigating impeachment with limited public blowback against Democrats (at least so far)—she remains third in line for the Oval Office (behind Trump and Vice President Mike Pence), no closer to becoming president than she was at the start of 2019.
16. “The Syria withdrawal probably won’t happen in anything more than a cosmetic sense”
Predicted by: Damir Marusic, The American Interest
The U.S. withdrawal from Syria in 2019—allowing Turkey to decimate the Kurdish population and Russia to make major advances in the country, including taking over American military installations—marked a more than cosmetic change in Middle East policy.
15. Trump will “resign from office before he can be impeached, citing health reasons”
Predicted by: Jon Cooper
Jon Cooper, a Democratic fundraiser and prominent #resistance Twitter personality, is prone to outlandish statements that rack up retweets from his fellow partisans. A particular subgenre of this type of tweet is calling for the resignation of Republican officeholders (retweet if you agree!) and then predicting they will resign. With Trump, Cooper has done both, repeatedly calling for his resignation and predicting that the resignation is coming soon.
14. “Beto O’Rourke will be the next president of the United States”
For a time in late 2018 and early 2019, it plausibly looked like Beto O’Rourke was the future of the Democratic Party. CNN’s S.E. Cupp, James Gagliano, Joey Jackson, Scott Jennings, Roxanne Jones, Peniel Joseph, Jen Psaki and Alice Stewart each predicted that he would be leading the polls of Democratic presidential candidates at the end of this year. Less than eight months later, O’Rourke dropped out of the presidential race altogether.
13. Joe Biden won’t run for president
Predicted by: Ari Fleischer
Joe Biden entered the Democratic primary in April, and he has consistently led national polls since.
12. House Democrats and Senate Republicans will “secure a number of legislative victories … [and] meet on middle ground”
Predicted by: Orrin Hatch
At the start of 2019, with a new Democratic majority in the House and the Republicans firmly in control of the Senate, retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) saw the possibility of bipartisan compromise on the horizon. The actual story of Congress this year was not one of meeting “on middle ground,” but of party-line triumphs—House Democrats impeaching Trump and Senate Republicans installing ever more conservatives into the federal judiciary. It’s become so routine for legislation that passed in the House to get held up in the Senate that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dubbed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s chamber “the graveyard.” Bipartisan successes? There were very few.
11. Mueller will “exonerate Trump,” “implicate the Deep State” and “forever legitimize his presidency”
Not only did special counsel Robert Mueller not exonerate Trump, he said, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
10. Kamala Harris will win the Democratic presidential nomination
Predicted by: Myra Adams, Real Clear Politics
This wasn’t implausible when it was predicted in January, during Harris’ highly regarded presidential campaign rollout, but the California senator didn’t even make it to the end of 2019 as a candidate, dropping out of the race on Dec. 3.
9. “Buttigieg will drop [in the polls] soon, and many of his supporters will migrate to Warren”
Predicted by: Noah Smith
Leading the fourth-largest city in Indiana hasn’t historically been a launching pad for the Oval Office, but in late December, Pete Buttigieg remains at or near the top of the Democratic pack in Iowa and New Hampshire.
8. Trump will nominate Jared Kushner for attorney general
Predicted by: Carl P. Leubsdorf, Dallas Morning News
When Trump went about finding a successor for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he could have chosen Jared Kushner, a graduate of New York University School of Law whose legal experience largely consists of two internships. Instead, Trump chose former Attorney General Willam Barr.
7. House Democrats will not impeach Trump
Predicted by (among others): Peter Daou, Kai Ryssdal and Stephen L. Carter
6. House Dems and the Senate GOP will work together to enact immigration reform
Predicted by: Fortune magazine
In its annual “Crystal Ball” forecast for the year ahead, Fortune imagined Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi working together to pass a “farm bill, immigration reform, and an infrastructure bill that President Trump has long wanted to see on his desk.” Immigration reform shows no signs of life, and major investments in infrastructure—despite the ostensible support of both Trump and House Democrats—remain unrealized.
5. Mueller will reveal that Trump’s 2016 campaign received millions of dollars from Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar
Predicted by: Former Rep. John Leboutillier
John Leboutillier, a former Republican congressman from New York, began 2019 with an op-ed in the Hill that audaciously predicted, “The Mueller investigation will unveil evidence of Trump putting himself out to the highest bidder in return for campaign help and financing: Russians, Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris—there will be evidence that millions of foreign dollars illegally flowed into the Trump campaign coffers in 2016.” There was no such evidence, Mueller unveiled no such thing, and there is no factual basis upon which to claim that “millions of foreign dollars illegally flowed into the Trump campaign.”
4. In 2019, there will be a “move toward forcing African-Americans to secure 19th century Black Codes-type passes that they must carry in public”
Predicted by: Dr. Ricky L. Jones, Louisville Courier Journal
It was an alarming, eye-popping prediction from Ricky Jones, a professor at the University of Louisville and a contributor to the Courier Journal: “We will see a move toward forcing African-Americans to secure 19th century Black Codes-type passes that they must carry in public. Any white person would be able to demand the blacks in question produce these IDs to prove they have the right to inhabit certain spaces or engage in pre-approved activities in 2019.” Nothing even hazily resembling the prediction has been entertained.
3. British Prime Minister Theresa May “will see out Brexit and then depart on her own terms and timing”
Predicted by: Nick Williams
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would resign as prime minister in May, after the Brexit plans she negotiated were defeated in Parliament for the third time in as many months. The House of Commons rejected her Brexit plan for a fourth time two days later. She stepped down as prime minister in July and was succeeded by Boris Johnson. In December, Johnson won a large parliamentary majority, and, as of this writing, it appears likely that Brexit will finally happen in January 2020, almost four years after British voters first approved the idea.
2. Republicans will break ranks with an increasingly erratic Trump
Predicted by: Patti Solis Doyle
At the end of 2018, Patti Solis Doyle, who managed Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, predicted: “Republicans, who have supported the mayhem and chaos up to now, will be looking down the barrel of a 2020 presidential cycle with abysmal numbers with women, suburban voters and independents. They’re going to break.”
Not a single House Republican supported either of the two articles of impeachment that passed the House in December, and Representative Justin Amash was drummed out of the Republican Party for suggesting that Trump should be impeached over Mueller’s findings. Now an independent, he voted for both articles of impeachment.
1. Alabama will be hit by Hurricane Dorian, never mind what the National Weather Service says
Predicted by: President Donald Trump
In the annals of post-Watergate presidential “scandals,” the Sharpie-gate brouhaha is among the most bizarre. In advance of the storm making landfall, Trump tweeted that “In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” There were never any reputable weather maps that had Alabama in the direct path of the storm, and the National Weather Service in Birmingham quickly issued a statement correcting the president.
Rather than admit a mistake, Trump produced a map of the hurricane’s path—and apparently used a marker to draw over the expert forecast and change the path of Dorian’s projected fallout area to include Alabama. The hurricane never did hit the state.