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 Memo: Trump grows weak as clock ticks down Jimmy Carter says Israeli annexation would be 'illegal' land grab Trump's mark on federal courts could last decades MORE in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonPoll finds Biden with narrow lead over Trump in Missouri Trump's mark on federal courts could last decades Obama, Clinton join virtual celebration for Negro Leagues MORE in 1992 and even Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaSunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases History will judge America by how well we truly make Black lives matter What July 4 means for November 3 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 ClintonDemocrats try to turn now into November The Memo: Unhappy voters could deliver political shocks beyond Trump On The Trail: Trump, coronavirus fuel unprecedented voter enthusiasm 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 PerryTexas cities say state is making pandemic worse Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Ernest Moniz Trump issues executive order to protect power grid from attack MORE (Texas), businessman Herman CainHerman CainKimberly Guilfoyle tests positive for coronavirus Former presidential candidate Herman Cain diagnosed with coronavirus On The Money: Trump adviser presses House to make Bezos testify | Kudlow says tax-cut proposal coming this fall | NY Fed says Boeing woes could hurt GDP | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline MORE, former Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (Ga.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.). In the end, former Gov. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyQAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police 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 PaulRand Paul's exchange with Fauci was exactly what America needed GOP Arizona lawmaker says Fauci and Birx 'undermine' Trump's coronavirus response Fauci: 'We are not going in the right direction' MORE (R-Ky.) is a little hasty. To decree Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Trump administration eyes new strategy on COVID-19 tests ACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants 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.