Nate SIlver. (Photo : Flickr / Randy Stewart)
Is this the end of electoral punditry?
The traditionalists were wrong last night, predicting a close election, or possibly even a Romney win. But early in the night, it became apparent that President Obama was on his way to a big win, a result predicted in perfect form by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.
Silver, who took intense heat from conservatives over his prediction on Monday that Obama had a 91 percent chance of reelection, has been vindicated. He correctly called both the popular vote and the results in each of the 50 states and D.C., including every swing state.
(Florida's returns are still being counted, but Obama currently leads there, a result predicted by Silver.)
Silver first predicted a comfortable Obama win all the way back in the spring, when his "model," an algorithm that compiles swing state polling data, economic indicators, voting histories and countless other electoral minutiae showed Obama with a healthy lead in enough swing states to carry the Electoral College.
Since then, his prediction, updated daily, showed Obama as the favorite, even after the first presidential debate, when the national polls flipped to a Romney lead and most pundits and political reporters were wringing their hands over an election squeaker.
If you've followed my posts, you know I reference Silver often. While he took some time to defend his model and methods, he was always careful to say that his prediction was only a probability, not a certainty, that he couldn't account for unknowns like the possibility of biased polling methodology, and that his numbers consistently showed a strong win for Obama, no matter what direction the zeitgeist was swinging in that particular week.
So is this the end of the "gut-feeling" election savants? I doubt it.
We'll definitely see news outfits working on their own models and finding their own statisticians, which might muddy the waters as each political party gets into the modeling business, just as they've gotten into the polling business.
But bloviation pulls in too many eyeballs, for the networks to abandon the current events version of reality television.
It will be with us for a while to come, so I'll continue to try to cut through the chaff for you.