Pollsters and Pundits: Who Got the Presidential Election Right and Who Didn't: A Reckoning

Who among the big-name prognosticators was on the money? And who was way off?

Dick Morris, Larry Kudlow, and Glenn Beck made wildly inaccurate guesses.
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Yesterday, we collected the presidential race predictions of 27 of the best-known pollsters and pundits. That list included big names from both sides of the political divide, including academics, statisticians, consultants, reporters, and talking heads. Today is their reckoning.

We collected each forecaster's electoral college prediction and predicted winner. Some foresaw nail-biters, some landslides, and though a majority of those included went with President Obama, there were plenty who chose Mitt Romney as well.

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In all, 17 of those selected correctly predicted President Obama would retain the presidency. For the reckoning purposes, we'll give Obama the state of Florida, though it has not been called for either candidate yet. (According to Real Clear Politics, the president has earned 49.9 percent of the state's vote, to Romney's 49.3 percent).

Thus, the final tally:

Obama: 332 electoral votes

Romney: 206 electoral votes

Three of the people included in our chart predicted that exact result. Surprisingly, all three are pollsters who use statistical modeling and poll averages to determine likely electoral outcomes.

The Best:

-Nate Silver - FiveThirtyEight Blog

-Pollster (aka Simon Jackman) - Huffington Post

-Sam Wang - Princeton Election Consortium

Several others were close, and if Romney ends up winning Florida the winners' circle will grow considerably. Almost all of those who predicted Obama would win believed he'd do so by a smaller margin.

Of course, 10 of the names we included were wrong. Some of these -- former Bush advisers Ari Fleischer and Karl Rove, and political reporter David Weigel -- predicted modest Romney victories and therefore retain some dignity. But the majority of those who thought Romney would win believed in a resounding victory, with a cushion of 30 or more electoral votes. Here are the three prognosticators that got it the most wrong.

The Worst:

-Dick Morris

-Larry Kudlow

-Glenn Beck

Kudlow, an economist and CNBC host, had the worst prediction by far. He estimated Romney would win 330 electoral votes to Obama's 208, almost the exact opposite of the actual result and off the mark by some 122 electoral votes. Conservative talk show host Beck and political consultant Morris were slightly less wrong, though both were off by 100 electoral votes or more.

Honorable mention for our worst political forecaster goes to Jim Cramer, another CNBC talking head. Cramer correctly predicted Obama would win, but said the final electoral vote count would be Obama, 440, Romney, 98. That's 128 electoral votes off of the final result, the largest electoral vote miss of our survey.

Here's the full table again:

Name Organization Electoral College Prediction Predicted Winner
Ari Fleischer CNN Romney: 271 - Obama: 267 Romney
Charlie Cook Cook Political Report* Obama: 271 - Romney: 267 Obama
Chris Cillizza Washington Post Obama: 277 - Romney: 261 Obama
David Weigel Slate Romney: 276 - Obama: 262 Romney
Dick Morris Fox News Romney: 325 - Obama 213 Romney
Ed Morrisey Hot Air Romney: 311 - Obama: 227 Romney
Ezra Klein Washington Post Obama: 290 - Romney: 248 Obama
George Will Washington Post Romney: 321 - Obama: 217 Romney
Glenn Beck The Blaze Romney: 321 - Obama: 217 Romney
James Pethokoukis American Enterprise Institute Romney: 301 - Obama: 227 Romney
Jim Cramer CNBC Obama: 440 - Romney: 98 Obama
Josh Barro Forbes Obama: 305 - Romney: 233 Obama
Juan Williams Fox News Obama: 298 - Romney 240 Obama
Karl Rove American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS Romney: 285 - Obama: 253 Romney
Lanny Davis Lanny Davis and Associates LLC Obama: 281 - Romney: 257 Obama
Larry Kudlow CNBC Romney: 330 - Obama: 208 Romney
Larry Sabato UVA Center for Politics Obama: 290 - Romney: 248 Obama
Matt Yglesias Slate Obama: 303 - Romney: 235 Obama
Michael Barone Washington Examiner Romney: 315 - Obama: 223 Romney
Nate Cohn The New Republic/Electionate Blog Obama: 303 - Romney: 235 Obama
Nate Silver FiveThirtyEight Blog Obama: 332 - Romney: 235 Obama
Pollster Huffington Post* Obama: 332 - Romney: 303 Obama
Polltracker Talking Points Memo* Obama: 303 - Romney: 235 Obama
Real Clear Politics RealClearPolitics.com* Obama: 303 - Romney: 235 Obama
Robert Reich UC-Berkeley/Huffington Post Obama: 285 - Romney: 253 Obama
Ross Douthat New York Times Obama: 271 - Romney: 267 Obama
Sam Wang Princeton Election Consortium Obama: 332 - Romney: 206 Obama

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Seth Cline is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at scline@usnews.com.