Long before the actual voting starts in every presidential election, pundits and politicos are always quick to assert, with rock-solid certainty, that Candidate A "can't win" or Candidate B "can't lose." But the list of presidential candidates who were prematurely pronounced losers throughout history is long. To name a few: Richard Nixon in 1968, Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterThe Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems, GOP dig in for public impeachment hearings Jimmy Carter recovering from brain surgery with 'no complications' MORE in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris lead Trump in Georgia: Poll Keep your eye on essential facts in the unfolding impeachment circus MORE in 1992 and even Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary George Conway: 'If Barack Obama had done this' Republicans would be 'out for blood' George Conway to take part in MSNBC impeachment hearing coverage MORE in 2008. On the flip side, one-time cinches that ultimately lost include such notables as Sen. Ed Muskie (D-Maine) in 1972, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 1980, former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) in 2004 and then-Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Manafort sought to hurt Clinton 2016 campaign efforts in key states: NYT MORE (D-N.Y.) in 2008.


Pundits and politicos think about elections all the time. They're ready to crown winners and losers in June, and they think voters are, too. But voters aren't ready. In a way, voters view presidential elections through kaleidoscopes. At certain moments they focus, give it a turn — and then everything changes.

If I had been paid five dollars every time an all-knowing expert make an erroneous prediction during the 2012 Republican nomination contest, I'd have enough money to start my own super-PAC. Early on, more than a few wise heads expected then-Rep. Michelle Bachmann (Minn.) to sweep the race. Then, a series of 15-minute frontrunners were proclaimed — then-Gov. Rick PerryRick PerryOvernight Energy: Trump officials suspend oil, gas production on Utah plots after lawsuit | California bucks Trump on lightbulb rollback | Scientists join Dems in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule GOP counsel acknowledges 'irregular channel' between U.S. and Ukraine Live coverage: House holds first public impeachment hearing MORE (Texas), businessman Herman CainHerman CainConservatives slam Beto O'Rourke over threat to tax-exempt status for religious organizations President Trump is right: Mainstream media 'do a very good job' Trump says media is part of vetting his nominees: 'We save a lot of money that way' MORE, former Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (Ga.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.). In the end, former Gov. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyJon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah Trump Jr's 'Triggered' debuts at No. 1 on NY Times bestseller list Club for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment MORE (Mass.), the guy who had been discounted multiple times by smart observers, nabbed the nomination.

Educated predictions are always welcome. But when half-baked prophecies are pronounced with resolute sureness before voters even have had a chance to give an election their first good look, they are to be taken lightly.

To now say with certitude that Hillary Clinton can't lose (or win) is silly. To write off former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) or Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges McConnell discounts quick dismissal of Trump impeachment articles: 'We'll have to have a trial' GOP motions to subpoena whistleblower MORE (R-Ky.) is a little hasty. To decree Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues MORE (R-Fla.) or Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) the sure winner, before they're tested in national combat, is rash.

Republican nomination polls show candidates scattered about, without a discernible top tier. It's a race that has yet to be waged. Expect voters to give it a serious look within the next month or so, after all the candidates have entered. Then, in early 2016, voters will give it another hard look as we move toward Iowa and New Hampshire. Each time the kaleidoscope shifts, candidate prospects can scramble.

So the next time somebody says that a candidate "can't win" or "can't lose," just remember: After they've been proven wrong, they'll deny ever having said it.

Faucheux is president of Clarus Research Group, a nonpartisan polling firm. He is a former publisher of Campaigns & Elections magazine.