Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why are the Republicans so worried?

I think we've pretty well established today that Republicans are in freak-out mode over Mitt Romney's campaign. One of the questions some have been asking is whether or not its all warranted.

If you give Nate Silver any respect for his election forecast models, then there is plenty of cause for concern (OK, concern for them and optimism for us!) That's because Silver says that if the election were held today, President Obama would have an 80.4% chance of winning. Yes, I typed that right: 80 as in eight zero.

I suspect that some of these conservative pundits are looking at the same information Silver includes in his model.

But shhhh, don't tell the rest of the media. This race is close, dammit!!!!



  1. Where are you seeing this? I just looked at Nate Silver's site and it says 68.3%.

    1. You're looking at his forecast for Nov. 6th.

      He has 2 projections. One if the election were held today (80.4%) and another for election day (68.3%). There are two tabs up at the top right hand column. Click on the "Now-cast" and you'll see the one I'm referring to.

    2. Thanks. I never noticed he had two forecasts. I don't really understand the difference, however, as the November forecast is also based on current polls, meaning that it is also a projection of how people are likely to vote if the election were held today. But I'm sure there is a method to Nate's madness, and since he is almost always correct in his predictions, I'll assume there is some science and math behind the two different projections.

    3. The Nov. 6th prediction has a lot more uncertainty because there are a lot of things that could change over the next 4 months.

  2. From my own observation over the last few years, I haven't found Silver to be all that impressive in his analysis, except for 24 hours before an actual voting day. This isnt surprising since his "predictions" are based on a collection of all the polling data right up to the last day, which of course will be more accurate right up to the end. I keep seeing people the night after elections say something like, "Nate was right on once again!" and they show the prediction he made right on election night. You know, most media people are pretty accurate at that point.

    Obviously, for a particular campaign, this is much too late to have any impact on how people vote, so Silver and his "model" have been quite unimportant, in my opinion. On the other hand, someone like Al Giordano, who can look at data and combine that with years of in the trenches campaign experience, and predict with great accuracy what's going to happen months out from election days, has a much more valuable insight. I've long felt Silver gets way too much attention and respect for what he does, even though I like the guy well enough as a person. I wish Al would activate for the US Presidential campaign once again!

  3. On the Republican sites I read, they actually do seem pretty confident -- though these tend to be, let's say, not the most erudite representatives of the right wing. They've built up a set of rationalizations for why the polls don't mean anything, and convinced themselves that Romney will inevitably win in the end because, well, it's just obvious that Obama is an evil commie monster out to deliberately destroy the country, and sooner or later the voters must see that.

    I draw comfort from the observation that, in an election, the side that is constantly trying to convince itself that the polls don't matter and are wrong is usually the side that's going to lose, and right now that's the Republicans.

    It's not only about Obama, though. If we really want to be able to claim victory, we need to get Congress back too.

  4. Anonymous is not impressed, but pretty much all the other people in the business of prediction is impressed. Nate managed to identify house biases in Policy2000 and Rasmussen based on thier consistent deviation from other polls.

    Nate was the most accurate predictor in 2008 and 2010 and in the special elections. where everyone was predicting a "super close" race. These guys were just flat wrong. On the day of the election 3 political operatives gave their opinions at 9am(Eastern): 1 was "total tossup", 1 was either way but "McCain probably", 1 was McCain "definitely but close".

    Every pundit/electoral operative this season has put out the most egregious bs spin about everything the Prez has done: Contraception, DADT, DOMA, ACA, KeystoneXL, ... and everyone of them was deadon wrong. These elections (featuring a black presidential candidate) are not your father's elections. The old rules are no longer supremely in force: The bishops don't rule the Catholic vote, the ick factor (Gay marriage) is losing control, and old white men are just not as powerful as they used to be.

    As to the observation that Nate is best at predicting the day before ... WTF???? Every prediction he's made has been at the earliest opportunity given the available data. Yes, he's better at predicting the day before, but then so is everyone else.

    It's become the rightwing meme of the day that polls are to be wrong because it matters more how you ask the question than how people actually feel (which is not necessarily wrong) AND that the pollsters are in the tank for Obama.

    Lovers gonna love, haters gonna hate, Conspiracists are gonna be paranoid. And people who be against Nate on election day are gonna lose a lot more than they win.

  5. Uhh....bias at Rasmussen? Wow, Silver "identified" that? Amazing.

    I'm much more interested in being able to predict months and years ahead of elections, when major strategies can be developed and launched that will then change the polling data over time, which then people like Silver will "predict" those changes while they're happening. Data is just one piece of the puzzle, and not the most important piece when it comes to actually running political campaigns, except for election day of course.

    Silver's super-duper, world changing, model of the century, didn't, and couldn't predict the Santorum Surge for instance. Early on in August he had Bachmann as the favorite when using just numbers:

    At the same time, someone like Giordano, who looks at numbers, but more importantly looks at societal trends and the inner machinations of particular campaigns was specifically highlighting Santorum as the underdog to watch, along with Gingrich because of their strategy of evangelical appeals and the order of the primaries. Giordano also was calling Obama when he was far behind Clinton in polling, because he noticed Obama's grassroots activation.

    Look, I like Silver and think he's a numbers genius and often read his articles. I do think though it's gotten a little silly how much he's been promoted as some sort of political Nostradamus, especially when people hold up his predictions 24 hours before election days as their proof.

    1. Nobody here is holding Silver up as "some sort of political Nostradamus." Frankly, that kind of critique smells of projection.

      What I would say is that Silver is the best AT WHAT HE DOES - which is very different than what Giordano does (who is also "the best" in my book). They are two very different things though.