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 CarterDavis: On eve of tonight's debate — we've seen this moment in history before Obama urges voters to back Graham challenger in South Carolina Poll: Graham leads Harrison by 6 points in SC Senate race MORE in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage Trump expected to bring Hunter Biden's former business partner to debate Davis: On eve of tonight's debate — we've seen this moment in history before MORE in 1992 and even Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Trump hits Biden as 'disrespectful' to Obama 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 ClintonObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Ballot initiatives in Colorado, Louisiana could restrict abortion access Trump mocks Joe Biden's drive-in rallies at North Carolina event 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 PerryIs Social Security safe from the courts? Trump, Biden set for high-stakes showdown President Trump faces Herculean task in first debate MORE (Texas), businessman Herman CainHerman CainFrom HBCUs to Capitol Hill: How Congress can play an important role 'Saturday Night Live' spoofs fly on Pence's head at debate Trump's illness doesn't absolve him of responsibility MORE, former Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (Ga.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.). In the end, former Gov. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyWill anyone from the left realize why Trump won — again? Ratings drop to 55M for final Trump-Biden debate Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning 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 PaulTwo Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Ky.) is a little hasty. To decree Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Trump's new interest in water resources — why now? 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.