An overnight sensation, after more than 5 years, the quantitative political analyst Nate Silver is receiving huge attention these days. Mr. Silver and his mathematical models consistently forecasted to a high degree of certainty the re-election of Barack Obama. This followed his success, much less noticed, in the 2010 and 2008 elections.
Conservatives were furious with Mr. Silver because they thought (1) he was cooking the books and (2) he was doing so in order to promote the re-election of Mr. Obama. Both of these points were not only wrong, but very stupid. Exactly why a person whose whole persona and career were based on objective mathematical models would fudge the numbers is unanswerable. And why anyone would think that an obscure (to the vast majority of the electorate) math genius would have any affect on the election outcome is also beyond a reasonable answer.
Joe Scarborough was one of the conservatives who questioned Mr. Silver, and now he has had the basic human decency to admit he was wrong. And he does so in a nice gentle, even slightly humorous way that reflects positively on not only Mr. Silver but on Mr. Scarborough as well.
I won’t apologize to Mr. Silver for predicting an outcome that I had also been predicting for a year. But I do need to tell Nate I’m sorry for leaning in too hard and lumping him with pollsters whose methodology is as rigorous as the Simpsons’ strip mall physician, Dr. Nick. For those sins (and a multitude of others that I’m sure I don’t even know about), I am sorry.
Politics is a messy sport. And just as ball players who drink beer and eat fried chicken in dugouts across
can screw up the smartest sabermatrician’s forecast, Nate Silver’s formula is
sure to let his fervent admirers down from time to time. But judging from what
I saw of him this morning, Nate is a grounded guy who admits as much in his
book. I was too tough on him and there’s a 84.398264% chance I will be less
dismissive of his good work in the future. America
There, that’s nice, a word that is almost never used with ideologues of any persuasion. Yep, nice going Joe. And everyone should continue to watch Joe and Mika, not because of what they say or because of the positions they take, but because they actually allow all sorts of views on their program, and provide a forum for people with whom they disagree. A totally Un-Conservative position.