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Friday, February 22 , 2019, 11:21 pm | Fair 50º


Mark Shields: Did I Say That? My Apologies for 2016 Election Coverage

For your semi-faithful correspondent, 2016 has been a 12-month exercise in humility. I apologize to you, gentle reader, for the errors — all unforced — to which I subjected you.

My introduction to the 2016 campaign was to endorse the timeless wisdom of former Sen. Bill Cohen, R-Maine, who never lost an election: “I don’t care how great your ideas are or how well you can articulate them. People must like you before they will vote for you. Donald Trump is not a likable man.”

Correction. Election Day exit polls asked 24,558 actual voters whether their personal opinions of Hillary Clinton and Trump were favorable or unfavorable.

Clinton was rated personally favorable by 43 percent of voters and unfavorable by 55 percent, which was not exactly a ringing endorsement but better than Trump’s numbers.

Sixty percent of voters found Trump personally unfavorable, and just 38 percent said they liked the now-president-elect.

So I was wrong when I insisted that voters have to “like you before they will vote for you.”

In April, I wrote of the surprise support for Democratic long shot Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and his economic populism:

“Consistent with the values of a world leader he so openly admires, good Pope Francis, Sanders insists on looking at the economy from the bottom up and from the outside in. Sanders’ remarkable success all but ensures that the next treasury secretary will not be an alumnus of Citigroup or Goldman Sachs.”

Wrong: Trump’s nominee to be treasury secretary is Steven Mnuchin, who was a partner at Goldman Sachs.

Another mea-culpa comes from something I said in August. After taking notice of Trump (who avoided the military draft during wartime with an alleged bone spur) describing his successfully eluding sexually transmitted diseases during his New York “swinger” years as his “personal Vietnam,” I wrote:

“As John McCain struggles to win re-election in Arizona to his sixth Senate term, fate has cruelly chained him to a national ticket headed by the man who so publicly and callously disparaged McCain’s valor and sacrifice.”

“Chained"? I don’t think so. On Election Day, McCain won a thumping re-election victory by 250,000 votes — a margin nearly three times as large as Trump’s over Clinton in the Grand Canyon State.

Two months later, I somewhat pompously announced after President Barack Obama’s wife’s well-received public appearances as a campaign surrogate, “We now know that the October surprise of the 2016 presidential campaign has turned out to be first lady Michelle Obama.”

This, of course, was setting aside the universal distribution earlier in the month of the videotape of then-59-year-old Trump revealing how he had tried but failed to seduce and sleep with Access Hollywood co-host Nancy O’Dell and volunteering his technique for assaulting attractive women:

“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything — grab them by the p----.”

It was a major October surprise that this documented prurience did not hurt Trump among the 26 percent of the electorate most identified with good morals, white evangelical Christians, who had supported McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 over Obama by essentially a 3-to-1 margin.

Brushing aside the argument that “character counts,” white evangelical Christians voted by a 5-to-1 ratio for the thrice-married Trump over the once-and-still-wed Clinton.

Let it be admitted that I suggested that just as Barry Goldwater’s disastrous 1964 “states’ rights” campaign had united African-American voters in the Democratic camp, Trump — “by his language, his policies and his attitude” — could “permanently reduce the GOP share of the Latino vote to 10 percent.”

Wrong again. On Election Day, Trump won 1 in 3 male Latino voters.

I thank you for reading what I have written and for, up to now, having been so forgiving for what I have gotten wrong. I promise to try to do better in 2017.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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