Our 2012 Election Predictions Based Solely on Political Movies


If you haven’t been paying attention to the political pundit class lately (and really, seriously, who on earth couldn’t blame you if you haven’t), you might not have heard about the weird jihad against Nate Silver, the math whiz behind the FiveThirtyEight blog, who has been predicting a better than 60% probability of an Obama win since early summer. (He currently has Obama’s chances of reelection at 85%.) Over the past couple of weeks, many pundits — most of them, unsurprisingly, Republican — have insisted that Mr. Silver is biased, that his model is skewed, that his projection of a big Obama win runs contrary to their impression that the race is a “toss-up.” (Some actually point to the 50-50 national polls as proof, as though the popular vote and the electoral college aren’t different beasts entirely, but I digress.)

The whole thing is mighty silly; as David Roher so eloquently puts it over at Deadspin, “[W]e’ve reached the point in our screwed-up political media culture where the polling companies and forecasters — not the pundits, not the spokespeople, and certainly not the candidates — are the only people being evaluated rigorously on the substance of their arguments.” But here’s what we’ll do for you anti-Silverites: let’s throw out all that complicated averaging and math and science and stuff. That’s for four-eyed eggheads like Nate Silver, amIright? We’re gonna predict the outcome of the election based on something a lot easier to wrap your big meat heads around: movies! Political elections have been a popular film topic for years, so we decided to take a look at what these fictional elections could tell us about how things are going to go tomorrow. The answers may surprise you! (Warning: spoilers after the jump.)

Head of State THE ELECTION: Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock), a likable African-American alderman from Washington DC, takes on Vice-President Brian Lewis (Nick Searcy) for the presidency. THE OUTCOME: Gilliam takes on the nomination after the Democratic nominees for President and VP are killed in a plane crash, and is intended only to be a symbolic candidate, sure to lose. But once he starts speaking his mind and connecting with the American people on economic issues, he takes down noxious, entitled Lewis and wins the White House. WHAT IT MEANS: Obama’s incumbent status aside, this may be the film that most closely mirrors this year’s race — the Lewis campaign’s “God bless America, and no place else” slogan could’ve made it into a Romney spot without much stretching. Chalk this one up for Obama.

The Candidate THE ELECTION: Bill McKay (Robert Redford), son of popular former California governor John J. McKay (Melvyn Douglas), challenges the seemingly untouchable Republican Senator Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter). THE OUTCOME: Like Mays Gilliam’s, McKay’s is primarily a symbolic candidacy — nobody expects the novice to even mount much of a challenge against the incumbent, so he takes the campaign as an opportunity to spread his populist views. Much to his (and everyone’s) surprise, they end up winning him the seat. WHAT IT MEANS: The Candidate was a bit more relevant to the 2008 race — particularly its famous closing sequence, in which the originally long-shot candidate looks at his campaign manager in the midst of their victory celebration and asks, simply, “What do we do now?” The Obama administration’s occasional trouble answering that question could make a McKay-style win less likely this time around.

Election THE ELECTION: Front-runner Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is challenged for the student body presidency of a Nebraska high school by popular jock Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) and rabble-rousing third-party candidate Tammy Metzler (Jessica Campbell). THE OUTCOME: After a contentious campaign, the race is originally called for Paul, but the investigation of vote-counting shenanigans reveals Tracy to be the winner after all. WHAT IT MEANS: A win for Obama — but, like Tracy, it would be wise of him to keep a close eye on the ballot boxes.

The American President THE ELECTION: Sitting Democratic president Andrew Shepard (Michael Douglas) versus Republican presidential hopeful Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss) THE OUTCOME: The film ends before the actual election — or even the Republican nomination contest — but the closing scenes make it pretty clear, from Shepard’s rediscovered passion and fierce eloquence, that it’s gonna be a cakewalk for the incumbent. WHAT IT MEANS: Tough call. The Democrat (presumably) wins—oh, liberal Hollywood — but only after he gets the fire back in his belly. Opinions vary as to whether Obama actually did that (particularly after that walloping in Denver, factually-impaired though it may have been); he certainly never announced anything as bold (and politically suicidal, sadly enough) as “we’re going after the guns.”

Napoleon Dynamite THE ELECTION: Exchange student Pedro Sanchez (Efren Ramirez) against popular favorite Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff) for class president. THE OUTCOME: Pedro pulls a surprise upset — but only after his buddy Napoleon (Jon Heder) busts out his sweetest dances moves at the last minute. WHAT IT MEANS: Silver’s numbers be damned, there’s hope yet for Romney — so long as Paul Ryan can boogie.

The Campaign THE ELECTION: Republican Tourism director Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) challenges longtime Democratic incumbent Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) for his House seat in North Carolina’s 14th District. THE OUTCOME: Thanks to Citizens United, the entire campaign is orchestrated by the rich industrialist Motch Brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) — right up to the voting itself, which is manipulated by the electronic voting machines that they own. But the puppet candidates have a last-minute attack of conscience, and do what’s right for their district. WHAT IT MEANS: With the Motches a none-too-subtle stand-in for the Koch Brothers, The Campaign’s resolution sounds mighty credible — up until that part where the politicians stand up to the zillionaire brothers and regain their integrity. That, friends, is pure Hollywood fantasy.

Welcome to Mooseport THE ELECTION: Former President Monroe Cole (Gene Hackman) runs for mayor in his retirement home of Mooseport, Maine against local plumber “Handy” Harrison (Ray Romano). THE OUTCOME: Cole brings in his big guns from national campaigns to help him take on the local handyman, whose honesty and genuineness (as opposed to Cole’s carefully-cultivated appearance of said qualities) makes him a tougher competitor than the former Prez had thought. WHAT IT MEANS: The squeaker of a race is ultimately so close that it hinges on whether the candidates honor their pledge to vote for each other. So, Barack and Mitt — play it safe and just vote for yourselves. We know you’re going to anyway.

Black Sheep THE ELECTION: Al Donnelly (Tim Matheson) is taking on incumbent Evelyn Tracy (Christine Ebersole) for the office of Washington governor. THE OUTCOME: In order to win it for Donnelly, his staff stashes his accident-prone, embarrassing brother Mike (Chris Farley) far, far away from the candidate. But Mike ends up uncovering the vote fraud that wins his brother the election. WHAT IT MEANS: Yeah, the Obama campaign isn’t taking any chances, or hoping for any such last-minute save — have you heard from Reverend Wright much this cycle?

So, based on the movies we’ve surveyed, a President Obama win looks more likely than one for Governor Romney. But that’s just our take — what do you think?