My Favorite Mistake: James Carville

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James Carville. Heidi Gutman / ABC-Getty Images

All right, maybe my timing was a little off.

I know a bit about selling books, and you need a good title—a catchy concoction with a little Cajun spice, something that will make folks stop in the aisles, turn away from the Grisham novels and the latest crazy diet fad, and pick up your masterpiece.

So when Barack Obama seemed headed for the White House and my party was riding high, I conjured up this one: 40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation.

Yeah, I know.

Lots of people have had fun throwing it back at me since the book came out in the spring of 2009. My reliably Republican wife, Mary Matalin, has gotten off a couple of zingers. But I don’t believe in hedging my bets.

Forty is a play on the “four more years” chant of many incumbent campaigns. I haven’t given up the thesis; still got 38 years to go. But the early returns from the precincts aren’t very good.

It’s not a whole lot of fun hanging out there with that title. Kind of like James Glassman writing Dow 36,000 just before the dotcom crash.

Now don’t judge me by the cover alone. I made the argument that every growing demographic in this country—nonwhite voters, younger people—is trending Democratic. It’s a ticking time bomb for the GOP. That’s why I felt safe in saying that “Republicans have no hope of making serious inroads into Democratic advantages in 2010 or likely 2012 or 2014 and so on.” And just for kicks, I told the Republicans to get a better prescription-drug policy because “they’re gonna need a lot more Prozac.”

So why did the Dems wind up depressed after losing the House? The problem is a bad economy dampened turnout among key Democratic groups in a non-presidential year. But the enthusiasm will bounce back when Obama’s on the ballot again.

Punditry is like weather forecasting; the winds can shift without warning. I remember when nobody would bet a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder that Bill Clinton would win the White House. So it’s easy to blow a big one.

Now I’m not one to hide my bad calls. When I was wrong about the 2002 elections, I dumped a garbage can on my head. When my John Kerry prediction didn’t pan out in 2004, I smashed an egg on my face. So when my old colleague George Stephanopoulos asked me on ABC what I’d do if the Republicans won Congress, I quickly changed the subject to my New Orleans Saints. They got it done in the Super Bowl.

Will I be vindicated by 2049? Given my hard-living past, I probably won’t be around to worry about it. That title will outlive me.

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