March 2, 2024

What’s compiled here is a collection of people and statements that were very, very wrong about politics this year. Sometimes, it was the result of hubris. Sometimes, wishcasting. In a few instances, it was an honest-to-God misread of the situation.

What they have in common, though, is that they were wrong. Which means that they were something for which there is a single word: human.

Here, POLITICO Magazine’s annual roundup of some of the worst predictions of 2023 (and a couple from the tail end of 2022).

Civil war will break out in the U.S., and Elon Musk will be elected president

Predicted by: Dmitry Medvedev, Dec. 26, 2022

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ended 2022 by unfurling a Twitter thread predicting, among other outlandish forecasts on world affairs, that in 2023, the UK would rejoin the EU and “war will break out between France and the Fourth Reich.” 

It was shitposting masquerading as statecraft. Then he turned his piercing insights to American shores, reminding us all that the wisest course of action is usually to never tweet. 

“Civil war will break out in the U.S.,” Medvedev wrote. California and Texas will become “independent states as a result. Texas and Mexico will form an allied state. Elon Musk’ll win the presidential election in a number of states which, after the new Civil War’s end, will have been given to the GOP.”

Barring something truly cataclysmic in the next few days, none of this happened in 2023. There was no American civil war; California and Texas have not seceded; Texas and Mexico, far from being an allied state, are still at odds; Elon Musk has not only not been elected president (seeing as there isn’t a presidential election until 2024), but is ineligible for the office, seeing as he is not a natural-born citizen.

It was a Matryoshka doll of a bad prediction: One bad prediction nested inside of another inside of another inside of yet another.

Donald Trump will not be indicted in Manhattan

Predicted by: Larry Kudlow, March 30, 2023

On March 30, as speculation abounded over the potential legal jeopardy surrounding former President Donald Trump, Larry Kudlow believed he knew what was coming — or wasn’t, as the case may be.

“It looks like Trump will not be indicted,” he told viewers of the Fox Business channel. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “cannot indict a ham sandwich,” Kudlow said — implying that a case against Trump was extraordinarily thin, given the supposed workaday ease with which prosecutors can issue indictments.

Within an hour of Kudlow’s proclamation,
reports broke
that a grand jury had indeed voted to indict the former president. On April 4, Bragg’s office announced that
the indictment consisted
of 34 counts stemming from Trump allegedly “falsifying New York business records in order to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election.”

There will be a recession in 2023

Predicted by: A whole lot of people …

And so on …

This one sits in a special category: predictions that totally made sense with the information available at the time, but which, in retrospect, were incorrect. 

There was no recession in 2023. Far from it, the economy is booming by many measures (third quarter GDP growth was
above 5
percent); the Federal Reserve has seemingly engineered a soft landing (the inflation rate has dropped by
roughly 6 percentage points
since June 2022); and job growth continues to be robust (the unemployment rate was,
at its most
recent measure, 3.7 percent).

Joe Biden will face a serious primary challenger

Predicted by: Karl Rove, Jan. 4, 2023

Among pundits who are reflexively critical of President Joe Biden, one consistent meme abounds: that he’s the new Jimmy Carter.

That
he’s feckless
in the
face of rampant
inflation. That
he’s overmatched

on the international
stage. That his presidency
will end
after one term;
it’s malaise
forever.

In this line of thought, Biden, hampered by lagging poll numbers and a base that is ambivalent at best about his renomination, would inevitably face a serious primary — which is exactly what Karl Rove predicted as 2023 began.

“Mr. Biden declares that he’s running for reelection,” Rove imagined. “A significant Democrat realizes the danger this represents and, à la Ted Kennedy 1980, runs.” 

It wasn’t a bad prediction, per se. Just a wrong one. 

It’s the end of 2023, and even as Biden’s poll numbers are anemic, and Democrats fret about his chances in 2024, no significant Democrat has emerged to challenge him. (Apologies, Dean Phillips.) He isn’t going to face anything like Carter did in 1980, when the youngest Kennedy brother captured nearly 40 percent of the primary vote. (Whether or not that’s a good thing is for others to decide.)

Chris Licht “ain’t even close to done yet”

Predicted by: Michael LaRosa, June 5, 2023

Two days later, the
embattled CNN chairman
and CEO — and subject of an internet-conquering
Tim Alberta
profile in The Atlantic — was fired.

Kevin McCarthy won’t be elected speaker; he’ll drop out

Predicted by: Donna Edwards, Jan. 4, 2023

It took a while (15 rounds of voting), but the Bakersfield Republican persisted and was elected speaker of the House in January.

McCarthy’s speakership will last a full two-year term

Predicted by: Kevin McCarthy, Jan. 7, 2023

After being elected, McCarthy
was asked
how confident he was that he’d have the job for a full two-year term. He exuded optimism. “A thousand percent,” he said.

On Oct. 3, he was ousted as speaker after less than 10 months on the job. He’s
resigning from Congress
at the end of the year — less than one year after he promised he’d be speaker for two years.

Firing Tucker Carlson will be the end of Fox News

Predicted by: Glenn Beck, April 24, 2023

Reports of Fox News’ death were widely exaggerated. The network continues to thrive even after Tucker Carlson’s firing this spring and the $787 million payout to Dominion. Are primetime ratings down? Yes, somewhat. But
they’ve bounced
back, and among cable channels, it
trails only ESPN
in primetime viewership. Carlson’s successor, Jesse Watters, hosts the top two top-rated shows in cable news (“The Five” and “Jesse Watters Primetime”); while he may lack Carlson’s rhetorical firepower, and his show isn’t appointment TV for some Beltway media types the way Tucker’s was, he shares his quasi-hypnotic grip on his Fox viewers. 

DeSantis’ campaign launch on Twitter Spaces is ‘genius’

Predicted by: Mick Mulvaney, May 23, 2023

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at long last announced his presidential bid in May, the goal was to make a splash. To drop several political journalism cliches in a row: You only get one chance to make a first impression, the press attention surrounding a campaign announcement is usually a high-water mark for what a campaign can expect to get in terms of positive coverage, and so on.

It stands to reason, then, that Team DeSantis thought they’d engineered a home run of a debut on the national stage: Rather than a staid, boring announcement speech in front of adoring supporters, how about underlining the ostensible future-vs-past argument of his campaign by launching it on Twitter, in a “Space” hosted by the site’s owner (and emerging conservative hero) Elon Musk?

But of course, the danger of moving the launch out of a controlled environment is that the unpredictable is more likely to happen. Though I suppose what did happen was, in another sense, wholly predictable. The launch was beset by technical glitches, which delayed the main event for nearly a half hour as the would-be viewership sank. When it did begin, the audio routinely cut out, and Musk peppered DeSantis’ remarks with asides about, for instance, Dogecoin.

Far from an act of genius, as Mick Mulvaney suggested we might witness, it undercut one of the core rationales of DeSantis’ campaign from the very get go: The notion that he was a no-nonsense leader capable of flawlessly executing his plans.

Nikki Haley’s presidential candidacy will be less viable than Mike Pence’s

Predicted by: Ross Douthat, Feb. 15, 2023

At the start of the year, there was little reason to think that Nikki Haley would be able to outpace the rest of the non-Trump candidates in the Republican herd. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had culture war bona fides, a super PAC capable of raising and spending $200 million and a keen sense of how to excite the online right. Former Vice President Mike Pence had Trumpian policy credentials, sincere and deep-seated conservative Christian beliefs and a low-key Midwestern demeanor. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) had a “happy warrior” bearing and, as the Senate’s sole Black Republican, the promise of being able to appeal to voters who were not traditionally in the GOP coalition. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie married a decidedly Trumpy punchiness with a decidedly anti-Trump message, an “in” with the vanishingly small number of #NeverTrump Republicans. 

Then there was Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, whose constituency wasn’t particularly clear. Yes, she was Trump-adjacent, having served as his ambassador to the United Nations, but she was also Trump-critical, having
rebuked him
immediately after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. And then, of course, she walked back that post-J6 criticism a bit. She was, the thinking went, not Trumpy enough for the MAGA-curious, and too Trump-curious for the #NeverTrumpers.

And yet.

Pence has dropped out of the presidential race. So has Scott. Christie is in fourth place in New Hampshire, and an afterthought most elsewhere. DeSantis’ campaign has been defined by outsized expectations, bizarrely public infighting and a candidate whose personal appeal is often deemed to be lacking. Haley is a strong second place in New Hampshire. More than any non-Trump candidate, she has momentum on her side and the clearest shot of emerging in a one-on-one race against the former president. 

Housing and rental prices are going to come down

Predicted by: Joe Biden, March 1, 2023

In a closed-press meeting in March, Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.) asked President Joe Biden about the nation’s ongoing problems with inflation. Biden’s response included a prediction of good news on the horizon: rent and housing costs could go down soon.

Though inflation has come down substantially from its peak and talk of a feather bed-soft landing for the economy abounds, housing costs show no signs of going down. Indeed, its persistence is driving the overall inflation rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics wrote
in a Dec. 12 release
that housing costs were the “largest factor in the monthly increase in the [consumer price] index,” excepting food and energy prices.

Wishcasting by Biden? Almost certainly.

Trump will not run for president

Predicted by: Susan del Percio, Dec. 24, 2022

“This time next year, Donald Trump will not be a candidate for President,” the strategist and political analyst predicted during an MSNBC hit on Christmas Eve 2022. “[E]specially with his legal troubles, I think that there’s a potential that he could make a deal, that maybe he pleads down to some other charges … and it keeps him from running for office. It could also be that he knows he’s going to lose.”

He’s running. Not only that, Trump is on a glide path to the Republican presidential nomination, leading handily in every poll publicly available, national or statewide. And not only that, but he’s consistently leading Joe Biden in general election polls, legal troubles or not.

Trump will run … but drop out

Predicted by: Anthony Scaramucci, June 12, 2023

“I know President Trump’s personality reasonably well,” Scaramucci, the financier and (extremely briefly) Trump White House communications director, told NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo three days after Trump was indicted on federal charges stemming from his alleged mishandling of classified documents. “He does not like this. He is stressed about it. And I am going to say something contrarian on your show: I think he ends up eventually dropping out of the race.”

While we cannot suggest any insight into Trump’s state of mind or stress level, this much is clear: Trump is still a candidate for president and shows no signs of dropping out.

Trump will run … but drop out for a plea deal

Predicted by: Scott Galloway, July 15, 2023

“I think President Trump is not going to run for president under the auspices of a plea deal,” Galloway told co-host Kara Swisher on their popular “Pivot” podcast in July. 

I’ll concede that it’s still possible that this will come true. But he hasn’t yet dropped out, and it seems unlikely that he will, considering that (1) there’s been a minimal political cost to the indictments thus far, (2) running for president is a way he could potentially avoid trial and cancel the federal charges against him, and (3) a plea deal would undercut both his image as a fighter (which is central to his political appeal) and his (false) contention that he’s facing a political prosecution orchestrated by the Biden administration.

Barbie will flop because it’s too woke

Predicted by: Ben Shapiro, July 23, 2023

In a YouTube video titled “Ben Shapiro DESTROYS Barbie for 43 minutes,” the boy king of the conservative podcasting world vented his spleen about the adapted-from-a-toy Warner Bros. film. “It was one of the
most woke movies
I have ever seen,” he tweeted, ostensibly referencing the film’s repeated and uneuphemized critiques of patriarchy.

That viewpoint, which the film wore on its sleeve, would doom it, he predicted.

Business for “Barbie” is “just absolutely going to fall off a cliff” after its first week in theaters, Shapiro predicted. “The repeat business on this movie is going to be nonexistent.”

Instead,
it became the highest-grossing film
of 2023, with $636 million in the domestic box office, and $1.4 billion worldwide. 

“Barbie” was a global phenomenon. Shapiro? He’s just Ben.

TikTok will be banned in the U.S. by June 2023

Predicted by: Scott Adams, Dec. 9, 2022

Though TikTok has remained a punching bag for politicians eager to take simultaneous aim at China and social media, and though it is banned in the state of Montana, it has not been banned in the U.S.

Jim Jordan will be elected speaker of the House

Predicted by: Adam Kinzinger, Oct. 4, 2023

After House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted in a far-right GOP mutiny, there was no clear path for a would-be successor. The acting speaker, Patrick McHenry, didn’t want the job. The ultimate winner, fourth-term Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson, was hardly a glimmer in anyone’s eye. And so speculation abounded about which party mandarin would end up with the gig.

Initially, eyes fell on two men: Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

Adam Kinzinger, the former Republican lawmaker from Illinois, was confident how that fight would play out.

“I think if it was [elected by] secret ballot, Steve Scalise would win overwhelmingly, or anybody but Jim Jordan,” Kinzinger told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “But what you’re going to start seeing, Anderson, is — on the emails, on the fundraising, on other cable news networks — Jim is gonna be now the new litmus test of: Are you a true conservative or not? Steve Scalise won’t be. It’ll be Jim Jordan. And so, there will be a slow acquiescence of everybody to Jim Jordan. That’s my prediction.”

Jim Jordan lost to Steve Scalise the first time around. Then, after Scalise abandoned his bid and Jordan was the Republican nominee for speaker, he lost again.

Steve Scalise will be elected speaker of the House

Predicted by: Neil W. McCabe, Oct. 11, 2023 (“The next Speaker of the House will be Steve Scalise.”); Carmine Sabia, Oct. 3, 2023 and Alyssa Farah Griffin, Oct. 5, 2023

See above. 

When Scalise emerged from the wreckage of the motion to vacate Kevin McCarthy, it initially appeared that he might be able to muster enough votes to win the gavel. 

“The next Speaker of the House will be Steve Scalise,” said One America News correspondent Neil W. McCabe. “If Rep. Steve Scalise wants to be Speaker he will be,” said conservative online personality Carmine Sabia. Alyssa Farah Griffin, the former Trump White House aide and resident conservative commentator on “The View,” gamed it out: “This goes to conference next week, they realize nobody has the votes, and eventually Scalise and Jordan cut some kind of a deal where Scalise is Speaker, Jordan is majority leader.” Fortunately for Mike Johnson, that didn’t happen.

Prompted by DeSantis’ surge, Dems will dump Biden for Newsom

Predicted by: Tomi Lahren, April 24, 2023

The idea here was that Ron DeSantis had the momentum of
a runaway freight train
before he even officially joined the presidential race. “[O]nce DeSantis announces, the Dems will throw Biden out and pick Gavin Newsom,” predicted Tomi Lahren of Fox News and Outkick fame.

It’s two predictions in one, and neither came to be. DeSantis’ campaign was revealed to be something of a paper tiger, and never really caught on with voters. And Democrats coalesced (even if reluctantly) around Biden rather than passing the torch to one of the many comparatively young governors waiting in the wings.

A Biden impeachment inquiry will launch by the end of September … with Dem support

Predicted by: Darrell Issa, July 25, 2023

Another 0-2 prediction. The Republican-controlled House ultimately did authorize a Biden impeachment inquiry, but it came in December. And it did so without a single House Democrat supporting it. 

Dems will somehow regain control of the House ahead of 2024

Predicted by: Michael Moore, Jan. 5, 2023

“We will not have to wait till 2024 for the Democrats to regain control of the United States House of Representatives,” lefty filmmaker and pundit Michael Moore predicted on MSNBC two days into the House’s new Republican majority.

Even the most charitable possible interpretation would have to concede that the chaos of Kevin McCarthy’s defenestration didn’t amount to Dems retaking control of the House so much as it meant McCarthy had lost control of the House. It was an odd call. And a wrong one: The Republican majority, however narrow, is stable enough to last into 2024.

“Elon Musk will buy Disney”

Predicted by: Tyrus Murdoch, Jan. 2, 2023

Luckily for Disney, it isn’t going the way of X (née Twitter), which has seen its value plummet since Musk purchased the company.

300 million Americans will rise up in protest if Trump is indicted

Predicted by: Kari Lake, June 12, 2023

Initially, Lake
said that if prosecutors wanted to get to Donald Trump
, they were “going to have to go through me, and 75 million Americans just like me. And most of us are card-carrying members of the NRA.”

It was an audacious enough claim, but one that could be read as simple hyperbolic rhetoric: that, in effect, roughly the number of people who voted for Trump in the 2020 election would object to criminal charges against the former president.

Then, Lake revised her statement during an appearance on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” show.

“I made a mistake. I said 75 million others just like me. I think it’s more like 300 million others just like me,” Lake said.

For this to happen, you’d first have to assume that literally 90 percent of Americans — that’s 9 in 10 people, not just Republicans, not just adults, but also children — would be furious about the fact Trump was indicted. Then, you’d have to imagine them being so outraged that they are driven to rise up and block the justice system from holding the former president to account.

This year, Trump has been indicted in four separate criminal cases amounting to 91 felony counts — four in Washington, 13 in Georgia, 34 in New York and 40 in Florida. Aside from small and largely benign shows of support by cadres of the MAGA faithful, there has been nothing in the way of rising up en masse to break the wheels of justice.

“Putin will leave office, dead or alive, volitionally or otherwise, before the end of the year”

Predicted by: Michael McKenna, Dec. 31, 2022

There were a few days this year when something like this seemed plausible — that small window of time when Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the mercenary Wagner Group, was on the march and headed for Moscow. Then he stopped — and shortly thereafter was killed in a plane crash.

Though there are technically still a few days left before the end of 2023 for McKenna’s prediction to come true, Russian President/dictator Vladimir Putin remains firmly in control of power in Russia.

Biden will intervene to prevent a UAW strike

Predicted by: Don Beyer, Sept. 5, 2023

Biden’s close ties to General Motors (which include a friendship with CEO
Mary Barra
and
a niece
on GM’s staff) did not compel him to step in and stop the United Auto Workers from striking against the Detroit Three. Instead, they struck — and Biden eventually joined them on the picket lines in Michigan.

Karine Jean-Pierre will be out as press secretary ‘within the next couple of months’

Predicted by: Joe Concha, Jan. 20, 2023

Concha, a contributor to Fox News (and now media columnist for The Messenger), suggested in January that John Kirby was on the verge of replacing Karine Jean-Pierre as White House press secretary. 

Asked how much longer KJP had in the role, Concha replied: “I would think probably within the next couple of months, we’ll see a pivot to John Kirby as the White House press secretary, particularly if Joe Biden announces he’s running for president. If he does announce, then KJP, Karine Jean-Pierre, has an out.”

Eleven full months have passed since that prediction — during which time, Biden announced his reelection campaign — and Jean-Pierre continues to serve as White House press secretary.

There will be no federal prosecution of Sam Bankman-Fried because he’s a Democratic donor

Predicted by: Elon Musk, Nov. 13, 2022

Admittedly, this one happened in the waning months of 2022. But it’s about events that happened in 2023. 

FTX, the crypto-trading empire that Sam Bankman-Fried ruled over, collapsed on Nov. 11, 2022, evaporating many users’ investments/savings/fortunes overnight. Naturally, Tom Fitton, chair of Judicial Watch, a far-right political organization, knew just who to blame: the Biden administration.

“While the Biden gang has been harassing and threatening @ElonMusk and his companies, one of the worst scams in modern finance was being perpetuated under their nose by a regular [White House]/Hill visitor and the second biggest Democratic donor,” Fitton tweeted, referring to SBF.

“SBF was a major Dem donor, so no investigation,” Musk replied.

Except that there was an investigation. And not only that, a prosecution. 

SBF was indicted in December 2022 on seven charges of fraud and conspiracy. In October 2023, United States v. Bankman-Fried went to trial in the Southern District of New York. On Nov. 2, the jury took about five hours to find SBF guilty on all seven counts.

Trump made a huge mistake by skipping the first GOP debate

Predicted by: Pedro L. Gonzalez, Aug. 24, 2023

Ahead of the first Republican presidential debate in August, the “will he or won’t he” speculation surrounding Trump reached something of a fever pitch. Would he really skip out on the chance at the free attention, the publicity, the chance to be at center stage? Many doubted that he had that level of restraint.

When Aug. 23 came, Trump was not onstage. And then came a new round of speculation: Will this hurt his campaign? 

“Trump skipping the debate was a complete disaster for him,” wrote Pedro L. Gonzalez, a young conservative writer. “Americans got a glimpse of a future without him. They got to see that there can be an alternative to the circus.”

Turns out Republican voters seem to like the circus. Donald Trump has paid no price for skipping the debate — in fact, his poll numbers have gone up, and his lead cemented. Absent Trump, the remaining contenders have largely aimed their fire at one another — further fracturing the field and delaying any chance that the non-Trump GOP electorate will coalesce around a single opponent.

As for the spotlight? Well, even when he’s not onstage, Trump has a way of making himself the center of attention.