Like every other blog enthralled with the presidential campaign, we were checking in on FiveThirtyEight several times a day, and linking to the site just as often. The site is run by Nate Silver, a baseball stathead who crunches numbers and spits out eerily accurate prognostications, even though they were often unlikely. People laughed at him and his buddies at Baseball Prospectus when they looked at the player stats and said before the season that the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the worst teams in baseball, would win 90 games. They won 97, and went to the World Series.
Nate began turning his attention to politics. While everyone else said Hillary Clinton had pulled within eight points of Barack Obama in the Democrat primary in North Carolina, he’d said Hillary Clinton would get rocked, and would lose the state by fifteen. (She got her ass handed to her, and lost by seventeen.) The polls said Clinton was winning Indiana by five points, but Nate said it would be much closer, saying that HRC would just narrowly edge out Obama by 2 points. (She would only win the Hoosier State by a point.)
As good as he’d been on calling the races, there were reasons to worry. Nate was an open Obama supporter, and so there were concerns that he was putting his finger on the scale to show results he wanted. He denied this and tried to be as transparent as possible (as shani-o pointed out, Nate and the folks at RealClearPolitics got into a little scrum over bias in the way they reported their numbers). And what if Silver’s predictions were just off?
Nate just kept his head down, doling out fresh stats everyday from the latest polls. This is how he called the race, shortly after noon on Nov. 4:
Our model projects that Obama will win all states won by John Kerry in 2004, in addition to Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, Florida and North Carolina, while narrowly losing Missouri and Indiana. These states total 353 electoral votes. Our official projection, which looks at these outcomes probabilistically — for instance, assigns North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes to Obama 59 percent of the time — comes up with an incrementally more conservative projection of 348.6 electoral votes.
We also project Obama to win the popular vote by 6.1 points; his lead is slightly larger than that in the polls now, but our model accounts for the fact that candidates with large leads in the polls typically underperform their numbers by a small margin on Election Day.
John Cole looked at the final tally last night and his jaw hit the floor.
Currently, Obama has 349 electoral college votes, and leads the popular vote 52.4-46.3, or, as Nate called it, by a margin of 6.1 points.
This uncanny accuracy is the equivalent of dropping a penny from the top of a 50 story building and landing it in a shot glass. And not one of those double-shot sized ones, either.
This is sick accurate.