By BRAD WARTHEN
Editorial Page Editor
THE TIME for reckoning has arrived. No, not the election; we just did that. I speak of my traditional post-mortem, in which I look back on the candidates this newspaper endorsed, and how they did.
First, the obligatory disclaimers:
- Endorsements are about who should win, in the judgment of The State‘s editorial board, not who will win. Predictions are another thing altogether. You want predictions, go to my blog. On this page, we do endorsements.
- Political party is an unimportant consideration to us. We do our best to eliminate it from our considerations entirely. In fact, nonpartisanship is a quality we actively look for in candidates, and those who possess it are more likely to win our nod than those who don’t, other things being equal.
There was a time when I contented myself with the disclaimers, and airily brushed aside any thoughts that ran against them. But even those of us who have grown accustomed to referring to ourselves by the editorial "we" are human – when you prick us, do we not whine? And a human can take only so many years of people saying "Your candidates always lose," and "The State‘s endorsement is the kiss of death," or that we are part of the "liberal media" cabal or "that right-wing Republican rag"– especially when said human can offer objective data to the contrary, on all points.
So, several elections back, I spent some time in our musty archives calculating just how many candidates we had endorsed had won and how many lost, and what the partisan breakdown had been — going back to 1994, the year I joined the editorial board. (No one else who was on the board then is on it now, so elections before that year did not concern me.) I just wanted to know.
I was gratified by what I found, which was the same as what I had suspected: First, most of "our" candidates had won – which bodes well for policies we advocate, and also helpfully indicates that we are not "out of touch" with our community (to cite yet another tiresome accusation). Secondly, we had pretty much split down the middle between Democrats and Republicans – although we had endorsed slightly more Democrats, which will no doubt shock those Democrats who only remember our presidential endorsements, which have uniformly been Republican.
The trend continues.
Each year since I put those numbers together, I have added the latest election’s numbers to them. I’m always careful to do this after we’ve made all our endorsement decisions, to avoid being influenced by the wish to keep our numbers good. While sometimes we form a rough impression – one of my colleagues observed several weeks back that it felt like we were headed for a "losing season," and at one point I remember thinking we were flying in the face of the Obama Effect with each Republican we chose – we’re careful not to keep a count. Not doing so is a tricky mental exercise, rather like a pitcher telling himself, "Don’t think about the fact that you’ve got a no-hitter going," but election seasons are so busy for us that it’s easier than you might think to avoid stopping to calculate.
Anyway, I went through our endorsements (all of which you can read at thestate.com/endorsements) to do the partisan count the week before the election, and indeed we were defying the Obama Effect: We had endorsed eight Republicans and five Democrats. (And Elise Partin, running in the nonpartisan race for Cayce mayor.) That brought our eight-election running total (every two years, starting in 1994) to 60 Democrats and 54 Republicans, or 53 percent to 47 percent. Back in 2006 we had backed 12 Democrats and only five Republicans. (Since we don’t consider party when choosing a candidate, it’s sort of random — one election year we might be lopsided for Democrats; the next year for Republicans. So it’s nice to see this running total, if you value nonpartisanship the way I do.)
And as always, once I added them up after Tuesday’s results, we had a "winning season"– although, to be brutally honest, "our" candidates didn’t dominate quite as much as usual.
This time, nine of our candidates won their elections, and five lost. That’s a winning percentage of 69. That brings our running record since 1994 to 85-31, or a .733 batting average — which is down from .753 as of four years ago, but still satisfactory in my book.
That’s the strictest way to look at it, and the way I’m going to keep it on my running spreadsheet. If I wanted to be generous to us, I’d say that John McCain did win in South Carolina, and surely you can’t hold us responsible for what the rest of the country did? But I won’t let myself do that. And if we included ballot questions, on which the voters agreed with us four-to-two… but that would be inconsistent with the way I counted past years.
Looked at another way, the voters agreed with us on four of the Democrats we endorsed, and four of the Republicans, and disagreed with us on one Democrat and four Republicans. That’s counting McCain as a loss, of course. And they agreed with us in the one nonpartisan race (if only there were more!) for Cayce mayor.
So I’ve told you what I know about our stats — except for one thing. You might still wonder, what if he had been making predictions? Well, I did, on my blog, on Tuesday before the polls closed. You can go look. I got 13 predictions right, and one wrong, and on that one I had been tentative, hoping more than believing Mike Montgomery would keep his seat on Richland County Council.
So that’s how we did. How’d you do?
Come tell me about it at thestate.com/bradsblog/.