Larry Sabato is a quote-mongering political scientist at the University of Virginia who's always talking to reporters because he likes talking. And if you're a congressman pal who directs millions in earmarks to Sabato's organization, he'll say whatever you like.
One of the many gimmicks that Sabato uses to make it appear as though he knows what he's talking about is his "Crystal Ball," in which he calls election outcomes. He's boasted of a 98% accuracy rate when it comes to predicting congressional races, which means almost nothing when you consider that in 2008, 94% of incumbents were re-elected. One incumbent who wasn't re-elected in 2008, however, was Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.), who happens to be Sabato's own congressman. And an old buddy from
law school his college days. And, Politico reports, the congressman who has directed about $1.4 million in annual earmarks to Sabato's Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. But last year Sabato, the expert prognosicator who actually works in Goode's district, called that particular race wrongly—he said Goode was going to win, but challenger Thomas Perriello defeated him. Not that the $1.4 million-a-year bonus that Goode was sending Sabato's way would influence his punditry.
"I call them as I see them," Sabato said in an interview. "No doubt my university has gotten heartburn on many occasions. ... I say what I think, and if it costs us money, it costs us money. I'm just too old to change."
Indeed, Perriello killed the earmark, and Sabato is scrambling to make up the funds. But don't worry, because Sabato's own spokesman, Cordel Faulk, is considering running for his seat next year. The most noteworthy thing about that fact is that Larry Sabato has a spokesman, which is kind of like a butler having another, useless butler, who does nothing because the first butler won't stop butlering.
Goode and Sabato go way back, and Goode—who's given to insane pronouncements like saying Muslim immigrants are slowly killing our country from the inside—has given many a political reporter an excuse to pick up the phone and call Sabato for some independent analysis. Here's a round-up of the nice things Sabato has said about his benefactor, which were all totally called exactly like Sabato saw them.
On Goode's chances in 2008:
"The political odds favor Goode, and all the ratings services, including mine, the crystal ball, are agreed on that," [Sabato] said. "The 5th is not a district where Goode will ever get much above 60 percent in good years for Republicans, but it is also a district where a Democrat will have an exceedingly difficult time getting 50.1 percent against Goode."
On the firestorm over Goode's advocacy in 2006 of immigration restrictions against Muslims:
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said that although the story will resonate around Charlottesville and the northern portion of Goode's district, it probably will be overshadowed in national news by President Bush's Wednesday news conference on the war in Iraq.
"Remember, Virgil Goode is not a household name outside Virginia or the 5th District," Sabato said. "It's possible this will be played, but I doubt it rises to the top of the national news," he said.
On Goode's receipt of illegal campaign funds from the same guy who bribed Duke Cunningham:
Goode was criticized by Democrats, but Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, "called Goode's misfortune only a minor setback. 'This may cut a few points, but he is strong in the southern part of the district,' Sabato said. 'People know him well, whether they agree or disagree with him. They know he is not corrupt.'"
On Goode's switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party:
"He's still a populist. He's actually been much more consistent than he's given credit for," said political analyst Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "He does not trust big institutions. He is a rural guy. He is Jeffersonian."
Sabato didn't return our calls, which has to be a first for him.