How did ‘our’ candidates do
last week? Very well, as always
By BRAD WARTHEN
Editorial Page Editor
IT IS WIDELY believed that, like Michael Corleone in “The Godfather II,” I have the power to administer the “kiss of death.” This is not true. In order to administer this kiss, I must first consult with my consiglieri — I mean, my fellow members of the editorial board of The State.
Actually, it is even less true than that. There is no “kiss of death.”
It is popular — among people we have not endorsed, and particularly those whom we will never endorse, for political office — to say they are glad not to get our nod, because our endorsement is the “kiss of death.” Our candidates always lose. There is truth in this, yes?
No. Of course, if there were a correlation between candidates we anoint and those who suffer humiliation at the polls, it would not matter, because we are not trying to make predictions. We are saying whom we believe should win, not who will win.
OK, so maybe it would matter a little. That might be taken as our being seriously out of sync with the people of South Carolina.
But it doesn’t matter at all because it isn’t true. I knew “our” candidates usually did pretty well, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I went back and studied 10 years worth
of endorsements versus actual election results. The people we endorsed won about three-fourths of the time in general elections. From 1994 through 2004, we endorsed 85 candidates, and 64 won, for a 75.29 percentage.
I found out something else.
Certainly you know that we always endorse Republicans. That is, you know that if you’re a Democrat. If you’re a Republican, you are just as certain that we always endorse Democrats. Obviously, one of you is wrong. Less obviously, both of you are.
Here’s the skinny:
It turns out that over that same decade ending in 2004, our candidates split almost perfectly down the middle — 43 Democrats, 41 Republicans and one independent. This was a surprise, and completely unintentional. Party being unimportant to us, we are just as likely to endorse mostly Democrats or mostly Republicans in a given election year.
It was encouraging to realize how it worked out over time.
So enough with the history. How did our candidates do this year?
I was sort of hoping for a big Republican year to make the overall figures perfectly even. No such luck. The Democrats fielded some good candidates, there were a number of Republican incumbents who seriously needed tossing out, and most of our favorite Republicans had no opposition — hence no endorsement.
The result? As I realized the day before the election, we had endorsed 12 Democrats and five Republicans. Yikes.
That was setting us up for a really bad year on the won-loss score (not that it matters, but I’d like to see them win).
Or so I thought. At this point, if you count Jim Rex as a win (and admittedly that’s still a significant if), then 12 of our candidates won, and five lost.
How is that? Every one of the five Republicans we backed (Thomas Ravenel, Hugh Weathers, Mark Hammond, Joe Wilson and Bill Cotty) won, and only five of “our” Democrats (Tommy Moore, Drew Theodore, Robert Barber, Boyd Summers and Sadie Wannamaker) lost.
So every time we picked a Republican, the voters agreed with us. They also agreed on seven out of the 12 Democrats.
If we had been trying to pick winners (which we weren’t), we would have done pretty well. Although it’s not really anything to brag about. Since 12 is less than three-fourths of 17, our running “win” average has now dropped
to 74.5 percent (sigh).
Separately from the whole endorsement business, I (and I alone) did try to pick winners a few days before the election.
Tempted by an e-mail invitation, I tried my hand at predicting. To keep myself honest, I posted my prognostications on my blog.
I was only asked specifically about the eight statewide races on the ballot. I picked six Republicans and two Democrats to win. How did I come out? I was right on five, wrong on three. Both of the Democrats I had picked to win (Grady Patterson, whom we had not endorsed, and Mr. Theodore, whom we had) lost, and so did one of my Republicans (Karen Floyd, whom we had not endorsed).
That’s a batting average of .625, which would be good in baseball, but is not nearly as good as the success rate of the candidates that our editorial board picks as the best without regard to whether they will win or lose.
Sure, I did it just off the top of my head, whereas we had spent months choosing our preferred candidates — as had the voters. And they came up with pretty much the same results we did. Smart voters. Smart us, too.
But I don’t think I’d better give up my day job for predicting the weather. Or anything else, for that matter.