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War on Nate Silver: Final After-Action Report: The Flag of Reality Flies Uncontested Over Silvergrad Weblogging

Two criticisms of Nate Silver that may be valid:

  1. Silver introduces noise into his estimates by placing weight on a not very well-founded model of fundamentals-- witness his failure to get the North Dakota Senate race right.

  2. Silver's model on election eve did not say that Obama had a 90% chance, it said Obama has a 99% chance. But Silver introduced a fudge factor: a completely arbitrary 20% chance based on the scanty history of state-level polling that the state-level polls were all substantially wrong in the same direction, and hence a 10% chance of a Romney victory. He would have been better advised to say: "My model says Obama has it nailed, but my model might be wrong--pulling a number out of the air, if you think there's a 20% chance that I have my head completely up my #%$, you can assign Romney a 10% chance. That would have aided communication.

And, below the fold, a bunch of criticisms of Silver and hunch-based forecasts that are not valid:

  1. David Brooks says that you cannot assign probabilities to the future: "If you tell me you think you can quantify an event that is about to happen that you don't expect, like the 47% comment or a debate performance, I think you think you are a wizard. That is not possible. The pollsters tell us what is happening now. When they start projecting, they are getting into silly land.... I should treat polls as a fuzzy snapshot of a moment in time. I should not read them and think I understand the future. If there is one thing we know, is that even experts with fancy computer models are terrible at predicting human behavior."

  2. Joe Scarborough says that every campaign think it is 50-50: "Nate Silver thinks there is a 73.6% chance the president is going to win? Nobody in that cam paign thinks they have a 73% chance--they think they have 50.1% chance of winning. And you talk to the Romney people, it is the same thing. Both sides understand that it is close, and it could go either way. And anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a toss up right now is such an ideologue, They should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they are jokes."

  3. Tim Stanley says Nate Silver is a mendacious partisan hack: "Nate Silver is partisan and wrong. The voters will decide Romney v Obama, not The New York Times. In the history of presidential elections, has there ever been such an effort by one side to poll their way to victory? While the Republicans have spoken this season about jobs and debt... Democrats have talked constantly about how well their guy is polling in one or two states. The goal is to create a sense of inevitability... who wouldn’t want to vote for the winner? We’ve witnessed the evolution of polling from an objective gauge of the public mood to a propaganda tool.... Nate Silver of the New York Times... has been an open supporter of the President.... Nate says... Obama has a 74.6 per cent chance of winning. You might find that figure a little odd given that... Obama is ahead by less than 3 per cent nationally and his advantage lies in one state, Ohio. It’s even odder when you consider how it conflicts with other polls that emerged this weekend giving a virtual tie in Wisconsin and Minnesota. It’s damn near-surreal when you discover that Gallup puts Romney ahead by four points.... Meanwhile, Obama’s job approval rating is heading downwards. Does Nate know something that the rest of the world doesn’t?... Nate’s system is... generic, interpretive and partisan... while the rest of us are talking about Romney’s post-debate momentum, Silver still gives the race to the President by a huge margin.... Nate... has shown particular affection for Democrat-leaning pollsters like PPP.... Silver embraces polling organisations that other writers avoid like the plague.... Nate ignores polls that contradict him.... Silver’s stardom tells us two things about the Democratic Party. The first is that its obsession with numbers is part of a cold, mechanical way of looking at politics that divides the electorate up into blocks of voters who can be cobbled together into a winning coalition.... Second, Nate’s success shows that Democrats are panicking. Losing the war of ideas, they’re resorting to bad maths."

  4. Matt Lewis says Nate Silver's information is out-of-date: "Nate Silver vs. the world…. [O]ne wonders if his reputation might be about to take a hit… right now, it’s probably a 50-50 proposition…. So why hasn’t Silver adjusted accordingly? It could be that he is just frankly smarter.... Or maybe it’s wishful thinking? — Silver was up front about being an Obama supporter in 2008, and it’s hard to blame conservatives for wondering if he might be working the refs…. As one reader emailed me: 'If you had a book and you only started taking election bets on October 1st, your line would be Romney favored by 8 to 1. All those early bets were sucker bets. It would be the same as betting a football game on Tuesday only to find out your star quarterback was hurt 10 minutes after you laid down your bet. Nate Silver’s numbers are shit because since he doesn’t take bets, he just leaves his numbers the same. He still has Obama at over 2.5 to 1. That is a huge difference. Nate Silver gives odds, but does not take wagers, that is not possible. It’s like playing poker with play money.' Unlike Mitt Romney, I don’t casually make $10,000 bets. Still, I do wonder if Silver is confident enough in his models that he would be willing to put some real skin in the game."

  5. Daniel Engber says that somehow--he doesn't make any sense--the distribution of outcomes is different from what it would have been if Silver's model were correct: "Silver Medal. Obama’s big win does not mean Nate Silver is a towering electoral genius.... My Twitter feed is blowing up with announcements of his coronation... these stats triumphalists have it wrong.... Yes, Silver had Obama in the lead, but so did RealClearPolitics and Talking Points Memo; where he had Romney, so did they.... Silver's model promised more than that: He offered assessments of his confidence in each state's results.... What do the day's returns tell us about the accuracy of Silver's model? Nothing much.... Did Obama really have a 79 percent chance of winning? To get a sense of that, we'd need to run yesterday's election like a lab experiment, doing it 10,000 times to see how often Obama wins. Since that can't happen, we're left to scratch our heads. You could even make a case that Silver's estimates were off... North Dakota... Nevada... Montana.... Silver lovers... have made the same mistake that Silver's critics made last week: They've confused his projected odds with hard-and-fast predictions."

  6. Dean Chambers says Nate Silver practices voodoo statistics and is an empty pizza box: "Most on the left idolize... Nate Silver.... Before this year I had never heard of Nate Silver... nor do I waste my time reading the rantings of insane moonbats and other assorted America-hating leftists at sites like Democrat Underground or The Daily Kos. Anyone doubting that modern liberals are lunatics and America haters need only listen to this speech by Evan Sayet or read his new book about how modern liberals think. Those same modern liberals are also the ones who appear to worship Nate Silver. Nate Silver seems to have some weird allegedly statistics-based process where he analyzes the data from polls and predicts which candidate will win a state or an election and he assigns a percent chance they will win it. I don't see any validity to it... voodoo statistics to me and it might as well be entirely made up.... For Colorado... he projects... Obama by 49.8 percent to 49.2 percent.... Real Clear Politics has Colorado tied at 47.8 percent.... The most recent Rasmussen survey of Iowa shows the race tied and a recent poll by Democrat-leaning PPP shows Romney leading 49 percent to 48 percent. Clearly Romney has at least as much a chance of winning Iowa as does Obama. What does Nate Silver says? He gives Obama a 71 percent chance of winning Iowa. Ridiculous. Recent surveys by ARG and Rasmussen show Romney winning in Republican-leaning New Hampshire.... But Nate Silver gives Obama a 70 percent chance of winning New Hampshire. Which alternative reality universe is he living in? Recent polls show Romney leading in Ohio, yet Silver gives Obama a 73 percent change of winning the state.... Nate Silver goes far off the deep end and gives 72.9 percent chance of winning the election. He's going to be proven so far off and wrong, if he stands with these numbers, when Mitt Romney is elected president next week. Will the far left stick with Nate Silver after he's discredited by the election results, or will they toss him aside like an empty Domino's Pizza box after having eaten the pizza?"

  7. Dylan Byers says many believe Nate Silver is "highly overrated": "Sure, Nate Silver correctly predicted the outcome of the 2008 election... but this year's polls suggest a nailbiter.... [S]hould Romney win on November 6, is difficult to see how people can continue to put faith in the predictions of someone was never given that candidate anything higher than a 41% chance.... [T]his may shock the coffee drinking NPR types of Seattle, San Francisco, and Madison, [but] more than a few pundits and reporters, including some of his colleagues, believe Silver is highly overrated."

  8. Jonathan Martin says that Nate Silver is not a wizard: jmartpolitico@jmartpolitico: "Avert your gaze, liberals: Nate Silver admits he's simply averaging public polls and there is no secret sauce"

  9. Josh Gernstein fails to understand the foundations of probability: "Isn't the basic problem with the Nate Silver prediction in question, and the critique, that it puts a percentage on a one-off event?"

  10. Josh Jordan says Gallup is the gold standard of pollsters: "Nate Silver's flawed model: the New York Times number cruncher lets his partisanship show. 'Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 40% of all people know that--Homer Simpson'.... Democrats... attaching their hopes [to]... 'The bulwark against all out Democratic Panic'--Nate Silver.... 2008 was a wave election... easy to forecast... Silver access to Obama internal polling gave him information that most other analysts never saw.... Nate Silver is openly rooting for Obama, and it shows in the way he forecasts the election.... When you weight a poll based on what you think of the pollster... it can make for forecasts that mirror what you hope will happen.... Silver's dismissal of Romney's lead in Gallup... you cannot dismiss it but at the same time give a 12 day old Marist/NBC Ohio poll a higher rating than eight newer polls when Marist has leaned Obama this entire cycle.... [This] is shaping up to be a far different selection than the one in which Silver made his name.... Obama's aura of inevitability is quickly losing steam, and once that runs out, even Homer Simpson will have a hard time proving otherwise."

  11. Rich Lowry: "Congratulations Josh Jordan. Paul Krugman has made an over-the-top utterly content-less attack on you. In the absence of Keith Olbermann, this is perhaps the best badge of honor that can be bestowed on a conservative writer."

  12. McKay Coppins relates Romney spin that Silver is (a) biased and (b) lagging behind reality: "[O]ne wonky, liberal, self-made New York Times election forecaster has emerged as a particularly tricky obstacle [to Romney].... Silver has consistently identified Mitt Romney as a serious underdog, and his projection did not swing as dramatically as did the conventional wisdom after the first presidential debate in Denver.... The model's stubborn insistence on a likely Obama victory has earned Silver the wrath of conservatives, who accuse him of shoddy methodology at best, and sinister Obama-boosting at worst. But out on the campaign trail, Romney's team is at pains to show it's taking the FiveThirtyEight projections in stride. Senior strategist Stuart Stevens is reading Silver's recently published book, The Signal and the Noise and says he's "enjoyed" it. Aides laugh and roll their eyes when reporters tease them with mentions of the model. And one senior adviser... 'In the primary we'd go from having close to zero chance, to winning a state, to 80 percent [likelihood] within some short period of time,' said the adviser, predicting that FiveThirtyEight could well give them a better chance of victory as the swing state polls tighten.... The adviser added that Silver's blog is not widely discussed within the campaign. The relationship between Silver and Romney world hasn't always been so congenial: Earlier this year, an adviser griped to BuzzFeed that the openly liberal blogger was biased, complaining that he had studied the Obama campaign's internal polls in 2008 without disclosing it."

  13. Daniel Foster is simply incoherent: "Nate Silver skepticism [is] a respectable position.... [T]he occasion of his elevation to sainthood by liberals over the last 48 hours, combined with their usual, empty, ritualistic signification of 'math!' and 'science!'... leaves me with one more thing to say.... Silver’s famed model was... a different way of presenting a variety of polling averages.... [A] lot of liberals with humanities degrees instinctively thought every additional decimal place meant MOAR SCIENCE. (Aside: This is a longstanding bugaboo of mine. The 'I Swear to Science!' and 'Science Bless You! Haha Lolz' crowd are often in the same epistemic position vis-à-vis statements they take on bald authority as are cult members. The fact that journalists writing dire warnings about global warming, or activists campaigning against intelligent design could learn about long-term climate modeling or the mechanisms of natural selection if they wanted to doesn’t change the fact most of them don’t.)... 78.4%. That’s what Nate Silver’s model says are the odds.... Not 78.5 percent. Not 78.39 percent. Not 80 percent or 60 percent. 78.4 percent.... [T]he 78.4 percent number is basically meaningless. Or rather, that it is impossible to formulate the epistemological difference between 'There is a 78.4 percent chance that Obama will win' and 'There is a pretty good chance Obama will win.' A lot of Silver’s credibility counts on somehow elucidating the distance between those two propositions.... [O]ne methodology--which Chomsky finds great fault with--calls for generating massive amounts of data from observation… and applying statistical techniques to this data…. The masses-of-data approach... is driven by a desire to approximate what is going on “outside the window” (that is, in the world), whereas the classical approach is driven by a desire to understand what is going on “outside the window.”…. Chomsky is unwittingly describing the difference between the Nate Silver and Jay Cost.... Cost explicitly rejects this approach in his prediction of a Romney victory…. Cost’s approach is closer to what Chomsky calls the Galilean approach… the data generated by polls are... best utilized as part of a holistic attempt to understand the underlying dynamics of the race…. Silver’s predictions don’t tell us much about the Why and How."

  14. Ramesh Ponnuru asks "who are you going to trust: the voters as interviewed by the pollsters or the Romney campaign operatives who talk to me?": "The Plural of Anecdotes.... [T]he liberal conceit of the moment is that Obama is not only almost guaranteed to win reelection but that anyone who doubts this fact is a flat-earther.... If the liberals are right, then most of the Republican insiders I’ve talked to over the last two weeks are in the flat-earth camp. They don’t seem to be just pretending to have confidence in Romney’s ability to win the election, spinning the rubes to improve the party’s percentage in defeat; they seem to really have confidence: more confidence, in fact, than I remember roughly the same group of people having at this point in 2004.... Their projections range from a toss-up to a strong Romney win."

  15. Jonah Goldberg says Nate Silver is "garbage in, garbage out": "The Critique of Nate Silver’s Pure Reason.... Silver, a statistician, has been predicting a decisive Obama victory for a very long time, based on his very complicated statistical model, which very, very few of his fans or detractors understand. On any given day, Silver might have announced that — given the new polling data — “the model” was now finding that the president had an 86.3 percent chance of winning. Not 86.4 percent, you fools. Not 86.1 percent, you Philistines. But 86.3 percent, you lovers of reason.... For nervous Obama supporters, he’s been a constant reassurance. On her Twitter feed, Katha Pollitt, a columnist for the left-wing magazine The Nation, prodded Silver: “Why are you on a plane when you should be at yr desk updating 538 EVERY FIVE MINUTES?”.... Now, I have no idea whether Silver’s model is the psephological Rosetta Stone some hope — or fear — it to be. And no one else does either. The truth is that any statistician can build a model... garbage in, garbage out.... Silver is... a serious numbers guy. But so are the folks at the University of Colorado’s political-science department, whose own model is based on economic indicators. Its October 4 findings predicted Romney would win, as did many other models. What interests me is the way people talk about math as if it were divinely prophetic. They seem to subscribe to a religion that simply apes the terminology of science.... [I]sn’t it possible that the passionate defense Silver arouses from some people on the left has just a bit more to do with the comfort he dispenses than with the sophistication of his analysis?"

  16. Jay Cost says cherry-picking internal numbers from polls is more scientific than looking at all the data: "Morning Jay: Why Romney Is Likely to Win | The Weekly Standard: When I started making election predictions eight years ago…. I focused on drawing confidence intervals from poll averages. Since then, I have learned substantially more history, soured somewhat on political science as an academic discipline, and have become much more skeptical of public opinion polls. Both political science and the political polls too often imply a scientific precision that I no longer think actually exists in American politics. I have slowly learned that politics is a lot more art than science than I once believed. Accordingly, what follows is a prediction based on my interpretation of the lay of the land…. I think Mitt Romney is likely to win next Tuesday…. (1) Romney leads among voters on trust to get the economy going again. (2) Romney leads among independents…. Obama’s job approval rating on the economy [is] underwater, 47-52…. 75 percent of respondents willing to pick a top issue picked the economy or fiscal issues…. when I look at 2012, I see Mitt Romney with a lead among independents in almost every poll…. This is a president who lost the support of independent voters nearly three years ago when he and his allies in Congress passed a health care bill the independents did not want."

  17. Mickey Kaus says that Nate Silver should not put facts in the way of Republican spin: "Protecting Nate Silver. Alerted by Brad (“The Scoutmaster”) DeLong–protector of vulnerable young journalists!–the NYT‘s Paul Krugman defends Nate Silver’s election projections against a fairly calm critique in National Review. I leave it to you, the reader, to decide if arguing that Silver includes too many old polls... [should be out of bounds].... I thought the whole reason for the 'momentum' wars–is Mitt surging or not?–is that the perception of momentum can easily become self-fulfilling, because undecided voters tend to break toward the candidate they think is the likely 'winner.' It’s not just 'posturing and bragging'–though there’s plenty of that. It might affect 'actual votes.'"

  18. Russ Roberts says that a healthy discourse is one in which people playing it straight are routinely slimed as biased partisAns: "Nate Silver and objectivity…. [A] 75% of Obama being re-elected. That seems a little high but it could be right, whatever “right” means where Obama either wins or loses.... We’ll know more on Tuesday. Josh Jordan at the National Review questioned Silver’s methodology finding it surprising that he was weighting some older polls more heavily than more recent ones…. What is more interesting to me is Paul Krugman’s reaction…. 'Like others doing similar exercises... Nate’s model continued to show an Obama edge even after Denver… the methodology has been very clear…. Yet the right — and we’re not talking about the fringe here, we’re talking about mainstream commentators and publications — has been screaming “bias”!… This is, of course, reminiscent of the attack on the Bureau of Labor Statistics — not to mention the attacks on climate science and much more. On the right, apparently, there is no such thing as an objective calculation. Everything must have a political motive.'… Then the unpolitical economist (whose blog is called Conscience of a Liberal) goes off the deep end: 'This is really scary. It means that if these people triumph, science — or any kind of scholarship — will become impossible. Everything must pass a political test; if it isn’t what the right wants to hear, the messenger is subjected to a smear campaign.' A little over the top, even for Krugman. Science or scholarship will become impossible? This is the flip side of partisanship. It’s bad enough that partisans think their guy is a saint who will heal the planet or create !2 million jobs or change the tone in Washington or eliminate the deficit. They also often believe that the other guy is a socialist or a Neanderthal–something that is supposed to terrify the home team."

  19. Natalia Cecire hurls insults from the grove of academe in New Haven, claiming that Nate Silver is too male: "The 'Nate Silver phenomenon' is a perfect example of Second Gilded Age puerility, a form of political commentary that is concerned not with meaning or ethics but rather with phenomenality… boyishness, as boyishness has been constructed in U.S. history…. Nate Silver's models can tell us how likely it is that Obama will "win" (the game). They can't, and absolutely do not aim to, explain, say, the role of race in the election. And they cannot give definitive predictions either, only probabilities: that's the point. Statistics always pulls back from the claims it makes…. Statistics is an inherently puerile discipline… its principles concord so strongly with the way we have constructed boyhood--an unrelenting commitment to the play of abstract forms above all else: above wishes, above belief, above ethics…. Silver's most ardent defenders are wholly immersed in the logic of puerility: new-media, moderate-left, youthful, exclusively male--most notably Silver's fellow statistical Wunderkind, Ezra Klein. Their chosen tactics, moreover, have at times taken forms that we might associate with the other sense of 'puerile.'"

  20. Dylan Byers and Mackenzie Weinger claim on October 31 that the election is neck-and-neck and nobody can say otherwise: "Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign says it still has momentum. President Barack Obama’s campaign says that’s all spin. Meanwhile, there isn’t a single well-informed pundit between them who can tell you who’s right.... 'The problem is there are so many variables. And now, with the storm, turnout may become an issue in closer Obama-leaning states like Pennsylvania,' Time magazine’s Joe Klein told POLITICO. 'Polling is inexact, especially with the cell phone factor — not enough data over time for pollsters to be absolutely sure they’re getting it right.'... Klein wrote... 'Anyone who claims to know who is going to win is blowing smoke.'... [T]he final days of 2012 have been especially confusing when compared to previous elections.... “It really is too close to call this time, as it was in ’00 and (a bit less so) in ’04,” Bill Kristol, the founding editor of the Weekly Standard told POLITICO. “People are saying it’s too close to call because it is.” “The key is that no one on anyone’s own side is calling it,” said John Podhoretz, the New York Post columnist, adding that '2008 featured a lot of Republicans talking about "headwinds" and McCain saying it was a 6-point race. That was the tip-off. Now, nobody knows anything.'... The campaigns’ respective strategies don’t provide much clarity, either. The Obama camp has been forced to compete against pro-Romney ads that have recently gone up in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Michigan. Team Romney says the “expanding map” is evidence that the Obama campaign is on its heels. The Obama campaign says the Romney campaign is bluffing and that its own ad buys in these states are just insurance. But neither side’s spin seems to be rubbing off on the political press corps."

  21. Dan McLaughlin: Barack Obama is toast.... Mitt Romney has a consistent, significant lead among independent voters... to overcome losing independents by more than a few points, Obama needs to have a decisive advantage in Democratic turnout.... Yet nearly every indicator we have of turnout suggests that, relative to Republicans, the Democrats are behind where they were in 2008.... Rasmussen and Gallup actually suggest that Republicans will have a turnout advantage, which has happened only once (in the 2002 midterms) in the history of exit polling.... Those two facts alone caused me to conclude at the end of last week that Obama will lose.... That conclusion is only underscored by the fact that, historically, there is little reason to believe that the remaining undecided voters will break for an incumbent in tough economic times.... It’s hard to make sense of why so many pollsters are showing this as a tight race.... Nate Silver’s much-celebrated model is, like other poll averages, based simply on analyzing the toplines of public polls. This, more than any other factor, is where he and I part company. If you read only the toplines... you would get the impression... that this is a very tight race nationally, in which Obama has a steady lead in key swing states.... Poll toplines are simply the sum of their internals.... My thesis, and that of a good many conservative skeptics of the 538 model, is that these internals are telling an entirely different story than some of the toplines.... Obama can only win if the electorate features a historically decisive turnout advantage for Democrats – an advantage that none of the historically predictive turnout metrics are seeing, with the sole exception of the poll samples.... I don’t think Nate is a conscious partisan hack.... I do, however, think that – for whatever reasons – Nate has painted himself into a corner.... Nate’s commentaries have included lengthy broadsides against Rasmussen and Gallup, his model tends to give a lot of weight to partisan pollster PPP.... I stand by my view that Obama is losing independent voters decisively, because the national and state polls both support that thesis. I stand by my view that Republican turnout will be up significantly from recent-historic lows in 2008 in the key swing states (Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado) and nationally, because the post-2008 elections, the party registration data, the early-voting and absentee-ballot numbers, and the Rasmussen and Gallup national party-ID surveys (both of which have solid track records) all point to this conclusion.... [Y]ou have not really made it as a neutral arbiter of presidential polling – let alone a scientific one – until you have given both sides news they desperately do not want to hear. We will know Nate Silver has really made it as a presidential pollster when people on his own ideological side are screaming in terror at his conclusions, and not before."

  22. Darren Hauck: I don't know Nate Silver from Adam, but I have been in the business of public predictions for 15 years.... Predicting legal events, by rights, should be easier than predicting something as unwieldy as a national election. There are far fewer variables in play.... But just think, for example, about how many of us -- on all sides of the ideological spectrum -- were dead wrong this June about the justices and the Affordable Care Act? It's still more art than science.... America loves her predictions. Loves to disagree with them in advance and then dissect them afterward. Loves to praise those who got it right and ridicule those who got it wrong. That's why there are so many gainfully employed political and legal analysts and why so many people watch pregame football shows. But the truth is that the recent history of this country proves that what can go wrong in our elections does go wrong, and that there are a million -- there are 10 million -- variables which can, and which will, determine who wins on Tuesday. I don't know who is going to win. And neither does anyone else. And I'm okay with that.

  23. John O’Sullivan: Scientism in 2012: [W]hen critics such as Josh Jordan and Dan Krumm produced skeptical analyses of Nate Silver’s statistical predictions of an Obama victory, Professor Krugman accused them of waging a war on science…. But their analyses were not different in form from Mr. Silver’s own work…. What is unscientific is proclaiming a new scientific finding two days before the actual experiment…. Professor Krugman and Mr. Hodges want an Obama victory and so they look for polling results that tend to confirm their bias…. Professor Krugman['s]… conviction of an Obama victory rests, as far as I can see, on an exaggerated respect for statistical forecasts above all other indicators of relative political support. How reasonable or even “scientific” is this?… Most observers report larger and more enthusiastic crowds for Romney…. To ignore such factors because they resist such neat formulation is to compound the falsity. It is a mark not of science but of scientism, as Hayek points out. And in general it is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong…. Victor Davis Hanson senses that the long slow surge to Romney that was halted and reversed by Hurricane Sandy may now have resumed…. Saturday’s off-the-cuff retort from the president to the effect that “voting is the best revenge” — picked up and thrown back at him by the Romney campaign in a brilliant quickie ad — may prove to be what Ben Wattenberg calls “a moment of political nakedness” (i.e., an unscripted event that tells the voters what someone is “really like”)…. My final guesstimate, which is rooted in several judgments, including the latest polls, is that Romney will emerge as the winner by a smaller margin than 5–6 percent, probably more like 3–4 percent. But I don’t know this for certain, since the future is unknowable.

  24. Margaret Sullivan, New York Times Public Editor: "Some readers point out that [Nate Silver's] perspective would be useful in stories based on public opinion polls.... or many weeks now, he has been giving President Obama approximately a 75 percent chance of winning the election, at a time when various public opinion polls have been calling the race “neck and neck.”... Jill Abramson... said she views Mr. Silver’s work as a separate entity, somewhat analogous to that of a columnist. The Times would not, under normal circumstances, use quotations from, for example, David Brooks’s column in its coverage. 'It’s already in the paper', she said."

  25. Michael Gerson: "On the eve of the election, Nate Silver... placed President Obama’s chances of returning to office at 86.3 percent. Not 86.1 percent. Not 87.8 percent. At 86.3 percent. Silver’s prediction is... trend taken to its absurd extreme. He is doing little more than weighting and aggregating state polls and combining them with various historical assumptions to project a future outcome with exaggerated, attention-grabbing exactitude.... The statistical analysts of politics have all their bases covered. If the state polls are correct, the aggregator gets credit for his insight in trusting them. If the assumptions contained in those polls — on the partisan composition of the electorate or the behavior of independents — are wrong, it is the failure of pollsters.... Note to recent college graduates: Strongly consider a profession in which one is right, by definition, 100 percent of the time. It beats poker. The main problem with this approach to politics is not that it is pseudo-scientific but that it is trivial... the convictions of the public ultimately depend on persuasion, which resists quantification.... The current mania for measurement is a pale reflection of modern political science.... This trend in social science, according to Yuval Levin of National Affairs, is “driven by a deep yearning — fed by a kind of envy of modern natural science and its power — for the precision of mathematics in a field of study whose subject can yield no such certainty.” The modern belief that only science yields truth results in the application of scientific methods beyond their proper bounds, and the dismissal of other types of knowledge, including ethical knowledge.... Over the past decade, there has been a revolt among political scientists against a mathematical methodology that excludes substantive political debates about justice and equality. A similar revolution is increasingly needed in political commentary. The problem with the current fashion for polls and statistics... has driven the entire political class — pundits, reporters, campaigns, the public — toward an obsessive emphasis on data and technique. Quantification has also resulted in miniaturization. In politics, unlike physics, you can only measure what matters least."

  26. Chris Cilizza: Who had the worst week in Washington? Political polling…. In the past week alone, at least nine polls have been released on where the presidential race stands in Ohio, and at least seven have come out in Virginia. A CBS News-Quinnipiac-New York Times poll in Virginia said that President Obama led by two points; in a Roanoke College survey, it was Mitt Romney by five…. What all that polling means is that partisans, who already live in a choose-your-own-political-reality world, can select the numbers that comply with their view of the race and pooh-pooh the data that suggest anything different. And for those rare, exotic birds known as true independent voters, the panoply of polling leaves them at a loss…. Here’s the truth: Polling is, and always has been, equal parts art and science. Deciding what questions to ask, in what order to ask them and whether to weight the results to a preconceived idea of the poll sample’s partisan makeup are all judgment calls. And just like the charge/block call in college basketball, different pollsters define best practices differently.

  27. Peggy Noonan: We begin with the three words everyone writing about the election must say: Nobody knows anything. Everyone’s guessing. I spent Sunday morning in Washington with journalists and political hands, one of whom said she feels it’s Obama, the rest of whom said they don’t know. I think it’s Romney. I think he’s stealing in “like a thief with good tools,” in Walker Percy’s old words. While everyone is looking at the polls and the storm, Romney’s slipping into the presidency. He’s quietly rising, and he’s been rising for a while…. Parts of Jersey and New York are a cold Katrina…. One word: infrastructure…. The people in charge of that system are the politicians…. Who knows what to make of the weighting of the polls and the assumptions as to who will vote? Who knows the depth and breadth of each party’s turnout efforts? Among the wisest words spoken this cycle were by John Dickerson of CBS News and Slate, who said, in a conversation the night before the last presidential debate, that he thought maybe the American people were quietly cooking something up, something we don’t know about. I think they are and I think it’s this: a Romney win.... Is it possible this whole thing is playing out before our eyes and we’re not really noticing because we’re too busy looking at data on paper instead of what’s in front of us? Maybe that’s the real distortion of the polls this year: They left us discounting the world around us."

  28. Michael Barone: "Bottom line: Romney 315, Obama 223. That sounds high for Romney. But he could drop Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and still win the election. Fundamentals.... My prediction [that Romney would win 315 electoral votes w]as reasonable, just as other predictions that either Obama or Romney would win, or would win with more than 300 electoral votes, were reasonable. You could look at the polling data, try to assess the balance of enthusiasm and consider which factors would be more important to voters and come up with pretty different conclusions. Remember that predictions of 290 (Larry Sabato’s prediction for Obama) or 315 aren’t necessarily predictions of popular vote landslides…. I was wrong because the outcome of the election was not determined, as I thought it would be, by fundamentals… fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

  29. Larry Sabato: "Opposing candidates live in parallel universes where each is certain to win…. 7.9% rate. Uptick but not dramatic move R needed for last-minute boost. O dodged bullet…. One of the reasons we have held off on full Elec College projection is tomorrow's jobs report. Could be very significant…. Crystal Ball plans to call Electoral College on Monday; current map is 261 Obama, 235 Romney, 42 toss."

  30. Ross Douthat: Nate Silver's… argument is straightforward: The President leads Mitt Romney by a small but solid margin in the state-level polling; that lead has been robust for weeks…. To pull the election out, Romney needs to win several states where the polls show him basically tied with the president (or even slightly behind, in some of the latest Virginia polling) and then win a state or two from a list (Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, longer shots like Pennsylvania) where the polling has never really shown him doing anything but trailing…. This is a compelling way of looking at the election, but… counter-arguments from commentators more bullish on Romney to be compelling as well. The reality is that at both the state level and nationally, there isn’t a single category called “the polls.” Instead, there are polls that assume the kind of demographic mix that the Obama campaign is confidently expecting, and polls that assume the whiter, older electorate that the Romney campaign insists we should expect…. [I]f the Gallup and Rasmussen assumptions about the likely shape of the electorate are right — and they’ve been close to right in the recent past — then Romney has a very good chance of winning this election, no matter what the RealClearPolitics polling average in Ohio says. And if the projections many pollsters are using for how closely Obama will match his 2008 turnout among young people, blacks, and Hispanics are off-base, then the president risks what Ben Domenech has termed an “undertow” election, in which the wave the White House is counting on drops out from under them instead…. I do have my own… theories about how American politics work, and they incline me to believe in that scenario’s basic plausibility."

  31. Kenneth Bickers and Michael Berry: We continue to show that the economic conditions favor Romney even though many polls show the president in the lead. Other published models point to the same result, but they looked at the national popular vote, while we stress state-level economic data..... [T]he president seems to be reaching a ceiling at or below 50 percent in many of these [key] states. Polls typically tighten up in October as people start paying attention and there are fewer undecided voters."

  32. James Pethoukoukis: There’s been a lot of controversy about the FiveThirtyEight election forecasting blog run by Nate Silver.... According to Silver’s analytics, day by day President Obama has been incrementally closing the deal.... That, despite national polls showing Romney with a lead and Team Obama scrambling to shore up its Midwest firewall. Yet prediction market Intrade is showing no such thing.... [T]he economic numbers continue to point to a narrow Romney win. Models have their role, but it always best to do a reality check. What are the fact on the ground? Sometimes you shouldn’t listen to the GPS. The Machine doesn’t always know best.... Mitt Romney will be elected the 45th President of the United States, winning the two-party popular vote 51% to 49% and the electoral vote by 301 to 237 for President Obama. There is some upside potential here for Romney, especially in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.... Many pollsters are not catching the stratospheric GOP enthusiasm, particularly among voters of faith, in voting for Romney and Paul Ryan — not just against Obama and Joe Biden. In this way, the Bush-Kerry parallel from 2004 does not hold up. (Oh, and think twice before betting against Michael Barone when elections are on the line.)"

  33. Ben Domenech: "Romney’s support has remained remarkably consistent since his selection of Paul Ryan healed any remaining rift with the conservative base.... [T]urnout will break the string of decreasingly white electorates, again a bad sign for the president. As Josh Kraushaar points out, Team Obama may have the better ground game – but they also may have made a significant error in deciding which states could function as a firewall against Romney’s appeals: “The Obama turnout machine isn’t quite as valuable in the more homogeneous battleground states—Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire—that make up the president’s firewall.... Obama holds a small lead in Ohio thanks to the auto bailout, but the issues driving the electorate in neighboring states are more favorable to Republicans.”... I also expect Mitt Romney to maximize the white religious vote.... Team Obama is consistently underperforming its marks.... I have never believed in running the prevent defense, and Obama has been running it for months. Running out the clock is rarely a winning strategy in sports or politics, and it is one I expect to fail this year. Thus, my prediction for Tuesday is this: Obama 260, Romney 278."

  34. Josh Kraushaar: "It’s somewhat comical to watch the debate over polls that regularly takes place on Twitter. Partisans on both sides are... obsessing over the minute details of often-questionable polling, they’re missing the fundamental story.... Pew, one of the most respected in the business, showed Obama winning only 37 percent of likely white voters. The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Obama stuck at 36 percent. Gallup’s weekly tracking found his approval rating among whites at 38 percent.... In the election campaign’s final stretch, Obama has been able to remain very competitive in states with [mixed] demographic characteristics--Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina--and holds a small advantage in Nevada.... Obama is struggling with both white voters and seniors, whose support is below his already-weak national averages.... [T]he Obama turnout machine isn’t quite as valuable in the more homogeneous battleground states--Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire--that make up the president’s firewall. These states have older, whiter electorates.... [I]t’s not just Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin that are looking winnable for Romney--it’s the entire swath of competitive Midwestern and Rust Belt states that share demographic similarities.... Romney has a golden opportunity to pull off a Rust Belt surprise on election night."

  35. Karl Rove: It comes down to numbers. And in the final days of this presidential race, from polling data to early voting, they favor Mitt Romney. He maintains a small but persistent polling edge.... The number that may matter the most is Mr. Obama's 47.2% share. As the incumbent, he's likely to find that number going into Election Day is a percentage point or so below what he gets.... [T]he early voting news isn't encouraging for the president.... Desperate Democrats are now hanging their hopes on a new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll showing the president with a five-point Ohio lead. But that survey gives Democrats a +8 advantage in turnout, the same advantage Democrats had in 2008. That assumption is, to put it gently, absurd.... [T]he anecdotal and intangible evidence—from crowd sizes to each side's closing arguments—give the sense that the odds favor Mr. Romney. They do. My prediction: Sometime after the cock crows on the morning of Nov. 7, Mitt Romney will be declared America's 45th president. Let's call it 51%-48%, with Mr. Romney carrying at least 279 Electoral College votes, probably more."

  36. Dick Morris: Morris says Romney will capture 325 electoral votes while Obama will get 213, a significant difference. 'It will be the biggest surprise in recent American political history', Morris said. 'It will rekindle the whole question on why the media played this race as a nailbiter where in fact Romney’s going to win by quite a bit.'... [P]ollsters are oversampling Democrats and says a poll that claims Obama is up 3, really means Romney is winning by 4. Morris says Ohio is overrated and Romney can lose the state and still win the election. However, Morris predicts Romney will indeed win the state."

  37. Christian Schneider: "Let’s face it: If Romney wins tomorrow, the polls have to be wrong. But I think they will be.... It just feels as if there’s an intensity and GOP ground game out there that are not being measured. And if Romney picks off a surprise state, such as Michigan or Minnesota, Obama’s road gets pretty tough. I’ve got Romney picking up Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Final total: Romney 291, Obama 247."

  38. S.E. Cupp: "Obama winning in a squeaker: 270 to 268... Ohio, Nevada, and Colorado; but Romney gets Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Florida. And here’s where I go most out on a limb: I give Romney Wisconsin. This is based less on polls and more on my experiences on the ground in those states over the past year. But the X factor here will be the Mormon ground game. It’s been hard to measure, but they could be influential in Colorado and Nevada, in which case Romney can lose another state or two and still win the election. To be honest, though, I have to imagine that some small part of Obama is actually hoping to lose. With the fiscal-cliff headache, an ongoing investigation into Libya that will not go away, and a progressive Left that will want Obama to make at least some advances on the broken promises of 2008, the next four years seem like a nightmare. For us and him."

  39. George Will: "I forgot my exact number. I guess you have a graphic here. I guess the wild card in what I've projected is I'm projecting Minnesota to go for Romney. Now, that's the only state in the union, because Mondale held it -- native son Mondale held it when Romney was -- when Reagan was getting 49 states -- the only state that's voted Democratic in nine consecutive elections. But this year, there's a marriage amendment on the ballot that will bring out the evangelicals and I think could make the difference."

  40. Steve Forbes: "Mitt Romney will win big... 3 – 5%... 321 to 217, and with luck, even more. He will win all of the states McCain carried in 2008... the three states that normally go Republican that in 2008 went for Obama – Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia.... Florida, which will bring him to 248 votes. Although the Obama campaign will deny it, it effectively wrote off Virginia and Florida several days ago. Despite intense efforts, Obama will lose both Ohio and Pennsylvania. In Ohio the voter turnout for Republicans will be more like 2004 instead of 2008. Southeastern Ohio has a number of evangelical voters and the area also has a coal industry. Romney should win the state by up to 200,000 votes. He will also win Pennsylvania where he has not been damaged by a long-lasting barrage of negative ads."

  41. Erick Erickson: I believe Mitt Romney will win on election day.... I never really thought he could win until about the moment Clint Eastwood trotted out on stage at the Republican National Convention with that empty chair.... I think Romney wins Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Wisconsin, and even Ohio. I put the Electoral College at 285 to 253.... I get the passion. I get the excitement. But, and maybe I’m just too worn out, I don’t get the anger, worry, and dread on either side. I have friends upset with me for not getting it and for not sharing it. “Don’t you know what is at stake?” they demand. Don’t you know what is not at stake?... My world view is pretty simple. I think this world is destined to go to hell in a hand basket by design.... The world is going down hill.... God is sovereign and He is in charge and He will return. That is my hope and my ever present expectation."

  42. William Jacobson: Nate Silver... was a journolist and in 2008 got some secret help with his predictions from the Obama campaign, but since joining The NY Times I think he has raised his game.... I find the whole focus on Silver and his presidential election “model” to be particularly annoying, in part because there seems to be a lack of transparency. Is the methodology and how it is used to come up with specific percentages fully disclosed?... [T]here’s something that doesn’t require you be a numbers guy or gal which bothers me about Silver-mania. Silver cannot be wrong because his model, whatever it is, merely puts a likelihood of success.... If Silver cannot be wrong, how can he be right? Heads he wins, tails you lose. Calling all philosophy majors!... [W]hen someone has a model which cannot be proven right or wrong, I’m not buying whatever it is he’s selling."

  43. Kevin Dujan, LA Times's pick as future Sarah Palin 16 campaign manager: "It’s not going to be close — and Romney will win BIG across the board, picking up a number of normally “Democrat states” too — but if you only get your news from Minitru then you might be afraid today that Obama really could pull off a miracle here. The man who promised to lower the seas and patch the hole in the ozone can’t actually work miracles (as the people of New York and New Jersey are acutely aware today), and can’t do much else right either.... The hacks and Obama cultists who comprise Minitru so desperately want Barack Obama to be reelected that they’re publishing fan faction in once-reputable papers and outright lying to viewers on the tee-vee. This election will be the end of Minitru’s last remaining credibility…with anger actually coming from all sides, since lefties will be furious that things turned out nothing like Nate Silver, in particular, repeatedly assured them.... Already we’ve seen the complete and total disappearance of Oprah Winfrey from the face of the Earth, still smarting from the blowback she received from her former viewers who hold her partly accountable for Obama’s election in the first place. Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow will see their own fans turn on them soon, with a great many Hollywood stars such as Eva Longoria and Beyonce paying a high price in years ahead for being so closely associated with the Obamas."

  44. Robert Stacey McCain: "This will be seen in retrospect as the day liberals began to realize that Obama was going to lose the election, the day The Great Wall of Denial (erected by Nate Silver and the Democrat Graveyard Whistling Choir) proved itself too weak to withstand an encounter with reality.... Pennsylvania... is close enough that Team Obama couldn’t afford to let Romney air ads unopposed in Pennsylvania. And this news, coming just four days after it was reported that Team Obama is buying ads in Minnesota, is the best indication that Democrat insiders know that the president’s re-election is seriously endangered.... Dude. If Romney’s leading by SEVEN FREAKING POINTS in the early vote — and also leading by six points among voters who tell Gallup they plan to vote on Election Day, Nov. 6 — there is no way that Nate Silver can continue gazing at his Magic Forecasting Model™ and seeing a 72.9% chance of Obama being re-elected. He may continue telling that to his readers, but Nate cannot actually believe that."

  45. Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen: "Since the Aug. 11 announcement that Rep. Paul Ryan would be joining the GOP ticket, Mitt Romney's position vis-à-vis President Obama has risen steadily in the polls.... Swing voters in key battleground states have also moved in the direction of the Romney-Ryan ticket.... Mr. Romney now holds a 12-point lead over Mr. Obama in Missouri (53%-41%)... a four-point lead (47%-43%) in North Carolina.... President Obama now leads by just one point in... Florida.... Iowa has Mr. Romney trailing Mr. Obama by just two percentage points.... Meanwhile, 55% of independents—who voted for Mr. Obama over John McCain 52%-44% in 2008—disapprove of the president's job performance.... [T]he Romney-Ryan ticket leads on key economic issues.... What voters are looking for—and particularly what swing voters, independents, and disillusioned Obama voters are looking for—is a new direction for America based on fiscal discipline, a balanced budget, and economic growth and leadership. More than anyone else in this race, Paul Ryan has spoken of the need for fiscal discipline and economic growth... which explains a large part of the Ryan-inspired Romney bump. For his part, President Obama needs to change direction—immediately and decisively."

  46. Mark Halperin: "One of the numbers I’ve been watching... was how many more people think the President is going to win. I don’t think there’s been a poll... where more people think Governor Romney is going to win. But the gap has narrowed.... Governor Romney, I think, is where he needs to be in terms of the psychology. You want to go into the last weekend and into Election Day where people think you can win.... I do know that if the electorate is a lot like the 2008 electorate, the President is going to win overwhelmingly. But that’s not going to happen and if you look at Ohio — elected John Kasich and Rob Portman two years ago, Pennsylvania — elected Pat Toomey and a Republican governor two years ago, Wisconsin — elected and then kept in office Scott Walker in the last two years.... I saw the President in Ohio and Governor Romney in Ohio over the weekend and there’s no question that Governor Romney’s crowds are big... they have more enthusiasm.... [T]he President did an event in a high school gym. Couple thousand people. Gym was packed. Great event. But it wasn’t what I would’ve expected the last weekend in Cleveland."

  47. John Podhoretz: Last week, Jonathan Chait of New York magazine had a good deal of sport at my expense…. [What] I wrote for Commentary Magazine a week after Election Day sounded an entirely different note... than columns I’d written before Nov. 6…. But does Obama’s victory suggest... that I and others were simply... unprincipled right-wing hacks?… I genuinely believed... the economic news would make the president’s re-election nearly impossible…. Chait also quotes me changing my tune on Romney’s vague general-election strategy — praising it during the campaign and saying it proved to be a failure afterward. The problem here is that there could have been no other strategy…. [P]olls feature wildly varying results that serve to support wildly opposing points of view. So all we’re left with are subjective observations…. This year I argued Barack Obama wouldn’t win... based on experience… knowledge — years of study of electoral and presidential politics… common sense… [and] conviction…. I was wrong this year not only about the technical superiority of the Obama campaign but also about the nature of the American electorate…. That was not hackery. It was, alas, misplaced idealism.