On the last day of 2019, President Donald Trump joined in on New Year’s Eve celebrations at Mar-a-Lago, ringing in 2020 with what was, in retrospect, a terrible prediction about the year ahead.
“We’re going to have a great year, I predict,” the president told assembled guests. “I think it’s going to be a fantastic year.”
Over the past 12 months, a global pandemic has killed at least 1.65 million people, including more than 333,000 Americans. The economy cratered as people stayed home and commerce slowed. Schools were shuttered and classes held on Zoom — a video-conferencing company relatively few had heard of before March. Fire-choked air turned the sky orange on the West Coast. Saving the U.S. Postal Service became a political rallying cry. Moments of collective pride, like the Olympics, were canceled. Trump himself became just the third president in American history to face an impeachment trial in the Senate, and, in November, became just the fourth president in the past 100 years to lose reelection.
With the benefit of hindsight, it was most certainly not a great year. In fairness, though: Who the hell could have accurately predicted what we experienced in 2020?
In an annual tradition, POLITICO Magazine decided to look back at some of the most audacious, confident and spectacularly incorrect prognostications about the year we just lived through. Here, 32 predictions about 2020 that weren’t exactly made with 20/20 vision, if you will.
Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will all get Covid — and it’ll kill one of them before Election Day
One of the more unexpected character arcs of the Trump era is the emergence of “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams as a pro-Trump political commentator. Adams, a “trained hypnotist” with a self-proclaimed expertise in the rhetorical dark arts, has made any number of dazzlingly confident predictions over the past four years. But few are quite as grim as his March 12 tweet predicting that before November 3, Sanders, Biden and Trump would all contract Covid-19 — and one of them would die from it.
It’s December, the election is over, and all three men are still alive. Though Trump did contract coronavirus before Election Day, after a hospitalization and VIP treatment, he quickly recovered.
Kanye West will destroy Biden’s chances by siphoning off black support
“If @kanyewest is serious about running for President he will cripple the black vote against @JoeBiden,” Gianno Caldwell, a Fox News political analyst and conservative podcast host, tweeted on July 5, a day after West announced his candidacy. “He will most certainly ensure that @realDonaldTrump will win because without the black vote Biden is toast.”
In the end, Yeezy received roughly 68,000 votes for president. Biden received more than 81 million, roughly 7 million more than Trump. Exit polls by Edison Research showed Biden winning the support of 87 percent of Black voters.
The coronavirus will simply “go away”
March 6: “It’ll go away.”
March 10: “Just stay calm. It will go away.”
March 12: “It’s going to go away.”
March 30: “It will go away. You know it — you know it is going away, and it will go away, and we’re going to have a great victory.”
March 31: “It’s going to go away, hopefully at the end of the month. And, if not, hopefully it will be soon after that.”
April 3: “It is going to go away… It’s going — I didn’t say a date. … I said ‘it’s going away,’ and it is going away.”
April 7: “It did go — it will go away.”
May 15: “It’ll go away — at some point, it’ll go away.”
June 15: “At some point, this stuff goes away. And it’s going away.”
July 19: “I will be right eventually. You know, I said, ‘It’s going to disappear.’ I’ll say it again.”
Aug. 5: “This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away.”
Aug. 31: “It’s going to go away.”
Sept. 15: “It is going away. And it’s probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines.”
Oct. 10: “It’s going to disappear; it is disappearing.”
Oct. 24: “It is going away; it’s rounding the turn.”
It’s the end of December, and though vaccines are starting to be distributed, there is no sign that the coronavirus is disappearing, despite the fervent wishes of the “herd immunity” crowd. Nationwide, the virus is in the middle of a third wave that dwarfs those earlier in the year. On July 17, the summertime coronavirus spike hit its apex in terms of daily new cases in the U.S.: 76,334. Today, that number would be the lowest daily total we’ve seen in more than two months. We’ve marked more than 100,000 new cases every single day since Nov. 4, the number of fatalities from Covid has reached record highs, the 10 deadliest days since the start of the pandemic all happened this December, and the caseload is likely to increase in the coming weeks due to travel during the holidays.
We’ll know who won the presidency by 10 on election night
In the run-up to Election Day, a strain of thinking emerged that the polls showing a tightening race between Trump and Biden were actually undercounting Biden’s support. Among those who embraced this thinking was James Carville, the famed Democratic strategist who helmed Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. “We’re gonna know the winner of this election by 10 o’clock tomorrow night,” Carville told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on November 2. “What people are doing is just unnecessarily scaring people and making them nervous.”
The count on election night proved inconclusive, with huge troves of uncounted mail-in ballots waiting to be tallied. It wasn’t until 11:25 a.m. on the Saturday four days later that the AP declared Joe Biden the winner and other major media outlets followed suit.
“If he loses, Trump will concede gracefully”
Less than two hours after the AP called the race, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by former Trump White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney arguing that Trump would “act and speak like a great president should — win or lose,” meaning that he would concede humbly if he lost.
Trump still hasn’t conceded, despite the fact the Electoral College has cast its votes, states have certified their results, and by every single measure, Joe Biden has won. Even so, Trump is pressing forward in a bizarre attempt to get members of Congress to challenge and overturn the Electoral College’s votes when they’re officially counted at the Capitol on January 6.
Trump is going to dump Pence and run with Nikki Haley
Like an earworm that gets stuck in your head, the idea that Trump would kick Mike Pence off the 2020 ticket and replace him with Nikki Haley was, for a certain Beltway type, impossible to shake off. Among the true believers that this would happen: Democratic strategist Paul Begala.
“This is not a prediction; it’s a certainty. … He’s going to dump Mike Pence and put Nikki Haley on the ticket to try to get those suburban moms,” Begala said on March 2. “I keep telling y’all this. … Trump is gonna dump Pence,” he tweeted on August 12. “Today’s the big day! … Trump dumps Pence and replaces him with Nikki Haley,” he tweeted on August 20. “It is gonna happen this week. 100%,” he tweeted on Aug. 24. “Trump is about to dump Pence for Nikki Haley,” he tweeted on Aug. 25. Then, with a note of self-deprecation, after Pence accepted the VP nomination on August 26: “The only reason Trump didn’t do the politically smart thing and replace Pence with Nikki Haley is because I smoked Trump out and backed him down.”
Covid-19 will kill roughly 500 — make that 5,000 — Americans, tops
Epstein, a noted constitutional scholar affiliated with the Hoover Institute, made a bold claim on March 16: Even as Covid cases were exploding in the United States, the virus would take the lives of just 500 Americans. His estimate, published at Hoover’s website, quickly won allies in Trump world, many of whom began circulating his numbers as a sign that coronavirus panic was overblown. But there was a problem with his numbers, as Epstein noted in updates a few days later: his estimate of 500 dead was 10 times too small; the more accurate projection was 5,000 dead Americans at most.
As of late-December, more than 333,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.
If the Senate acquits Trump in his impeachment trial, he’ll invite Putin to the White House in 2020
They did; he didn’t.
A clear successor to Nancy Pelosi will emerge in 2020 — and it’ll be Cheri Bustos
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “turns 80 in 2020, and she’ll start grooming a replacement to secure her legacy,” Fortune wrote in its annual “crystal ball” prediction feature. “Our money is on campaign committee chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.).”
As of this writing, there is no clear successor to Pelosi. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the No. 2 and 3 in Democratic House leadership, are both in their 80s. And Bustos’ tenure as head of the DCCC ended disastrously after House Democrats unexpectedly lost seats in the 2020 elections — effectively ending any hope she had of succeeding Pelosi.
2020 will be a “low-turnout election”
Less than three months out from Election Day, Jesse Watters, co-host of Fox News’ “The Five,” had a prediction. “[T]his is going to be a low-turnout election,” he said. “[Democrats] know it’s going to be a low-turnout deal, and they’re just freaking out and making sure everybody gets their ballots in early.”
In fact, 2020 had the highest voter turnout in 120 years, with two-thirds of eligible voters casting ballots.
The “most pessimistic” outcome for House Dems in 2020: Picking up at least 10 GOP seats
In August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined David Axelrod’s “Axe Files” podcast, where she was asked how many House seats Dems would pick up. “I always go by the most pessimistic view,” she said, elaborating that the worst-case scenario still meant flipping GOP seats in the “double digits.”
Not a single House Republican up in November lost reelection, and Democrats ended up with a net loss of at least 10 seats.
Biden’s South Carolina primary victory is “not the win [he] needed,” and Bernie will dominate Super Tuesday
“Former vice president Joe Biden handily won the South Carolina Democratic primary, but …. It’s not the win Biden needed,” Hewitt wrote in his Washington Post column on March 1. “Super Tuesday is likely to put Sanders clearly back on top with many wins, including a thumping big blowout in California.”
In reality, South Carolina proved a decisive turning point in Biden’s campaign — it was exactly the win he needed — and he won 10 states on Super Tuesday, catapulting him into a delegate lead that Sanders was never able to come back from.
Susan Collins is “toast”
It was a Senate race that most everyone had written off — after all, polls showed Susan Collins was the most unpopular senator in the country, with a 52 percent disapproval. Her Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon, led in every public poll in 2020.
“She’s toast,” wrote Palmer Report’s BD Holly in September, capturing the conventional wisdom. “I’m typically hesitant in my prognostications of elections. I like to temper my predictions with words like ‘probably,’ ‘likely,’ ‘ostensibly,’ and similar. But this election seems like it’s pretty much been over since Collins gave her vote for [Brett] Kavanaugh.”
Collins won by 9 points.
“There isn’t a coronavirus ‘second wave’”
It was perhaps the most politically damaging headline that editors have placed on a politician’s op-ed since the Times published Mitt Romney’s “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” But when the Wall Street Journal published Mike Pence’s “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave,’” the headline was a pretty accurate summation of what the VP said: mostly cheerleading about the Trump administration’s response, and criticizing the media for trying to “scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different.”
Since Pence’s op-ed published, there have been at least two major waves of coronavirus infections in the U.S., and the one we’re currently in is the deadliest yet.
By the end of April, there will be “close to zero” new coronavirus cases in the U.S.
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Musk, the billionaire mogul behind Tesla and SpaceX, distinguished himself as one of few leading voices in the tech world questioning the science behind lockdowns and coronavirus transmission — positions some critics attributed to the fact that lockdowns were causing costly disruptions at Tesla’s manufacturing plants. On March 19, buoyed by the news that China reported zero new coronavirus transmissions, Musk tweeted, “Based on current trends, probably close to zero new cases in [the] US too by [the] end of April.”
Perhaps it was wishful thinking. Perhaps it was a lack of understanding that China-style strict lockdowns would not happen in the United States. But by the end of April, coronavirus was raging through much of America. At the end of 2020, it still is: More than 170,000 new coronavirus cases have been reported in the U.S. every single day in December.
There will be a contested Democratic convention
“[N]o Democrat arrives at the convention with a majority,” Rove predicted in his Wall Street Journal column on Dec. 31, 2019. “The nomination requires delegates switching sides after the initial first vote or a second ballot where superdelegates are permitted to participate.”
In reality, Joe Biden had a clear outright majority of delegates, and, because of the pandemic, there was barely a convention at all, let alone one that was contested.
Lindsey Graham will lose reelection
A few weeks before Election Day, Parkhomenko, a Democratic strategist with a massive following on #Resistance Twitter, tweeted that “Lindsey Graham is going to lose to Jaime Harrison and it’s going to make my shitty year.”
Parkhomenko wasn’t alone in thinking this was likely — polls showed a tight race between Graham and Harrison, massive amounts of campaign donations sluiced into South Carolina and observers like the Cook Political Report and RealClearPolitics moved the race into the “toss-up” category. But in the end, it wasn’t close at all: Graham won reelection by 10 points.
Trump will keep the coronavirus from coming to the U.S.
“This president will always put Americans first. He will always protect American citizens,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox Business’ Trish Regan on February 25. “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here. We will not see terrorism come here. And isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?”
Coronavirus, of course, did come to the U.S. In fact, we now know that Covid-19 had already been here for at least a month prior to McEnany’s statement.
Trump’s impeachment will be so unpopular that the Dems will lose the House
“This impeachment will inure to the detriment of the Democrats and I envision — and, you know, I hope I’m right — a House that is Republican,” Jeanine Pirro said on Fox News shortly after the Senate acquitted Trump on Feb. 5.
Astonishingly enough, by November, the impeachment of the president barely registered as a campaign issue.
Unemployment numbers for June are “going to be absolutely terrible”
“They’re going to come out tomorrow. That will tell us unemployment figures for June,” Maddow told her loyal MSNBC viewers on July 1. “Brace yourself, it is going to be absolutely terrible, but we should have those as of tomorrow morning.”
What they actually revealed was a surprise: The largest single-month job growth in U.S. history — 4.8 million new jobs — and an unemployment rate that dropped from 13.3 percent to 11.1.
If Biden wins, Dems will immediately end coronavirus lockdowns
"If it ends up that Biden wins in November,” Sen. Cruz said during a July 22 interview in Washington, “I guarantee you the week after the election, suddenly all those Democratic governors, all those Democratic mayors, will say, ‘Everything’s magically better. Go back to work. Go back to school. Suddenly all the problems are solved.’ You won’t have to wait for Biden to be sworn in.”
Biden did win in November, coronavirus cases are rapidly increasing in number, and far from lifting lockdowns, many Democratic leaders are reimposing them.
Trump will win 98 percent of early votes
On the eve of the election, Greg Locke, a conservative evangelical pastor, graced Twitter with his political analysis. “Over 93 million early voters. Let that sink in. It kinda takes away the silly ‘it’s not safe to vote in person’ garbage from the Left,” Locke wrote. “I guarantee you, 98% of those are Trump votes. #Election2020”
While it is not easy to know the precise percentage of early votes Trump won, it is a mathematical impossibility that he won 98 percent of them: There were 101 million early votes cast, but Trump received just over 74 million votes total.
Between 5 and 10 Senate Republicans will vote to hear witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial
As the prospect of testimony by John Bolton dangled over the Senate, NPR asked Maine Sen. Angus King whether enough Republicans — Dems needed four to join them — would vote to compel testimony. “My bold prediction will be five or 10,” King said.
Ultimately, only two did (Susan Collins and Mitt Romney), and the Senate did not hear from any witnesses during the impeachment trial.
“We’re not going to see an effective [coronavirus] vaccine proven safe until well into 2021, if then”
Dr. Irwin Redlener, a public health analyst with NBC News, spoke for many in the medical community when he suggested this past spring that a safe and effective vaccine was at least a year away — after all, the previous record time for vaccine development was more than four years.
Even so, that record was smashed in December, when the FDA approved the first of several coronavirus vaccines in development after it passed its rigorous safety standards.
Biden’s vote in favor of the Iraq War will prevent him from defeating Trump
“We will not defeat Trump with a candidate like Joe Biden who supported and voted for the Iraq War alongside Republicans,” Sanders tweeted on March 6.
Eight months and one day later, Joe Biden was president-elect of the United States.
Trump will win reelection with 362 Electoral Votes
Helmut Norpoth is a political scientist at Stony Brook University and creator of the “Primary Model,” a method of predicting presidential election results that relies on looking at the percentage of the vote the nominees receive in their respective parties’ primaries. His method — which correctly suggested that Trump would win in 2016 — gave Trump a 91 percent chance of victory in 2020 and predicted he would end up with 362 electoral votes. But Biden defeated Trump convincingly, winning with 306 electoral votes and a lead of 7 million ballots in the popular vote.
Trump will no-show the debates with Biden
Trump debated Biden.
“The DNC will find an excuse to make sure Biden doesn’t have to debate Trump”
Biden debated Trump.
Coronavirus will go away “with the heat” of summer/sunlight can “kill it”
At a February news conference, Trump floated the idea that the pandemic would end in a matter of months. “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do — you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April,” he said.
In April, with cases on the rise, he doubled down on the idea, suggesting that the heat of the summer sun could destroy the virus. “The whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s pretty powerful,” he said before floating the idea of exposure to UV lights and injections of disinfectants as potential solutions.
It was not so. Countries in warm-weather climates had severe Covid outbreaks, and the U.S. experienced a surge of cases over the summer.
“Joe Biden will lose a general election to Donald Trump”
Jacobin was wrong about this.
Trump is going to have a massive overflow crowd for his Tulsa rally
In advance of Trump’s return to the campaign trail since the start of the pandemic, his campaign heightened expectations for his debut rally, bragging about hundreds of thousands of requests for tickets and constructing an outdoor stage to accommodate an overflow crowd outside the 19,199-seat BOK Center.
Ultimately, the Tulsa Fire Department estimated only 6,200 people showed up, and the use of the outdoor stage was scrapped due to the lack of demand.
Bernie will be the Dem nominee, the GOP will retake the House and 2020 “will be a great year”
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