Monday, November 5, 2012

Nate Silver, Joe Scarborough and Coin Flip Analysis

     Last week Joe Scarborough went after Nate Silver, declaring that anyone who says this race is anything more than a toss-up is a joke.

     The pundits are clearly not happy with this. So there has been a lot of killing the messenger both from the pundits-and the GOP. Indeed, some Romney supporters went as far as using a homophobic slur against Nate recently.

     It's obvious why the GOP doesn't' like Nate: they believe in Rove's idea of momentum: if you can convince the pundit class in the media that your candidate is winning-like they did in 2000 vs. Gore for instance, it becomes self-fullfilling.

     For weeks after there was any truth in it we were hearing of Romney's "momentum" all thanks to the Denver debate that supposedly would decide the election by itself-all that matters in elections according to this narrative is that you win the first debate. Nothing else matters-not that you basically lost the first 5 months of the election or that you lose the last 3 debates-including the VP debate.

    In the past we would have been more at the mercy of this momentum narrative which may not have dissipated until Hurricane Sandy-which is now being disporportionately used as the explanation if Romney loses.

     However, thanks to the poll analysts like Silver-and also Sam Wang; everyone acts like Silver is an Obama partisan, yet Wang now has him with a 99.9% chance of winning the electoral college and 92% to win the popular vote-we now have alternative sources of analysis. To be sure, the media pundits can certainly be wrong: we shouldn't give them too much power: just because they were all saying Romney had momentum wouldn't make it true.

     Still, what the poll analysts did is shut the narrative sooner, and shut down the Very Serious People filter sooner.

      In the end, the joke may actually be pundits like Scarborough. While the pundits predictions were right no more than 50% of the time-ie, a coin flip-Nate correctly called 49 out of 50 states in 2009.

      Nate, Sam and company have shown the pundit class up for its coin flip analysis. Like the GOP operatives attacking Nate personally, they are killing the messenger.

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