By Jackie Gingrich Cushman

June 16, 2011

If you've ever tried to predict the future of a political race, you'll understand what business guru Peter Drucker once said: "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window."

In the current presidential race, members of the news media are constantly looking out the back window and trying to describe what they see, while the race is barreling down the country road at night.

Let's just look at a few of the events and the way they were covered by the news media this past week.

"Gingrich campaign hit by mass exodus: Senior aides question his commitment" was the headline of the June 9 article in The Washington Times, after Newt Gingrich's campaign lost quite a few people last Thursday. (Disclosure: Newt's my father). Gingrich (the candidate, not I) noted that "strategic" differences had led to the staff exits.

In campaigns, there is often disagreement about strategy. On Friday, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly said of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty: "He's got to get a little Trump in him... Look, Haagen-Dazs can put his picture on vanilla. Do we get that? Are we all hearing that? The guy is invisible. He's — he — you can't even see him."

Three days later, Pawlenty added some spice to his campaign rhetoric when, during "Fox News Sunday," he used the term "Obamney" while talking to host Chris Wallace. "President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare. What I don't understand is that they both continue to defend it."

The next day, during the CNN New Hampshire Debate, Pawlenty seemingly backed down during the debate when moderator John King pressed him during the debate. "Why is it not Obamneycare standing here with the governor right now?" King asked

"President Obama is the person I quoted," replied Pawlenty. "Using the term 'Obamneycare' was a reflection of the president's comments."

While his campaign manager, Nick Ayers, tried to defend his comments afterward in the spin room, Maggie Haberman of politico.com wrote that night, "It's the rare occasion when what's said in a 'spin room' either makes news or compounds a debate error, yet both happened tonight."

The candidate who most exceeded expectations during the Monday New Hampshire debate was Michele Bachmann, who used the occasion to announce her candidacy for president.

She looked solid and strong on stage, and came across intelligent and determined.

Mitt Romney, the current GOP favorite, seemed much looser during Monday night's debate than he has in prior outings, noting after one commercial break that the Boston Bruins were up by four over the Vancouver Canucks.

During a Tuesday post-debate analysis interview on "The Laura Ingraham Show," Mike Huckabee, who ran unsuccessfully in 2008, said of Pawlenty's debate performance: "He needs to get rid of some of his consultants. I saw this with Romney four years ago, and I'm seeing it with Pawlenty now: overcoached, overconsulted. Get rid of 'em!"

Well, Huckabee's got one thing right: Romney has certainly loosened up since the 2008 campaign. On Tuesday morning, after the debate, Romney went to Mary Ann's Diner in Derry, N.H., where he posed with waitresses in front of a jukebox.

"While posing, Mitt suddenly jumped and said, 'Oh, my goodness!' — pretending that a waitress had grabbed his butt," reported Haberman on politico.com. "Apparently it's a joke from four years ago, when he claims someone grabbed him at a fundraiser."

Well, I don't know about you, but pretending someone has just goosed you might be a little looser than necessary, but maybe it's all part of Romney's connecting-with-the-people strategy.

Maybe that's politics for you: If you lose consultants, you get told you needed them, and if you have them, you get told that you have too many.

As the American people start paying attention to what promises to be a long race, let's hope they ignore the scenery out the back window and keep their eyes focused on the rough road that lies ahead, to make sure that — come November — the voters don't wind up being the ones getting goosed.

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