Democrats to Nate Silver: You’re Wrong

Guy Cecil says the famed statistician was wrong in 2012 and will be wrong again in 2014 with his prediction of a GOP Senate takeover.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 21: Nate Silver attends the 16th Annual Webby Awards at Hammerstein Ballroom on May 21, 2012 in New York City.
National Journal
Alex Roarty
March 24, 2014, midnight

Demo­crats aren’t tak­ing Nate Sil­ver’s latest Sen­ate pre­dic­tion ly­ing down.

In an un­usu­al step, the ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee on Monday is­sued a re­but­tal the famed stat­ist­i­cian’s pre­dic­tion — made a day earli­er — that Re­pub­lic­ans were a “slight fa­vor­ite” to re­take the Sen­ate. Sil­ver was wrong in 2012, the polit­ic­al com­mit­tee’s Guy Cecil wrote in a memo, and he’ll be wrong again in 2014.

“In fact, in Au­gust of 2012 Sil­ver fore­cast a 61 per­cent like­li­hood that Re­pub­lic­ans would pick up enough seats to claim the ma­jor­ity,” Cecil said. “Three months later, Demo­crats went on to win 55 seats.”

The DSCC memo took pains to com­pli­ment Sil­ver, say­ing his work at newly launched Fiv­eThirtyEight was “ground­break­ing.” And the group’s main cri­tique — that Sil­ver’s mod­el re­lies on a smat­ter­ing of haphaz­ard early polling in battle­ground states — is one that he him­self ac­know­ledges is a lim­it­a­tion.

But the com­pre­hens­ive push­back from Cecil, the power­ful com­mit­tee’s key staffer, is a test­a­ment both to the in­flu­ence Sil­ver wields and the sens­it­iv­ity of Sen­ate Demo­crats to the per­cep­tion they’re los­ing their grip on the up­per cham­ber. Oth­er out­lets have sug­ges­ted sim­il­ar odds on the Sen­ate, but none have earned this kind of re­but­tal.

Sil­ver earned fame and for­tune after he cor­rectly pre­dicted the out­come of the last pres­id­en­tial elec­tion des­pite the skep­ti­cism of many pun­dits, a res­ult that also earned him a great deal of cred­ib­il­ity with many voters. (In fun­drais­ing pitches this cycle, Demo­crats reg­u­larly in­voke his earli­er pre­dic­tion that the battle for Sen­ate con­trol was a “toss-up.”)

But in the memo, Cecil ar­gues that Sil­ver’s track re­cord is less than stel­lar. It cites four races in which Demo­crats won des­pite Sil­ver once pre­dict­ing oth­er­wise: Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and John Test­er in Montana in 2012, and Harry Re­id in Nevada and Mi­chael Ben­net in Col­or­ado in 2010.

“All four are sen­at­ors today be­cause they were su­per­i­or can­did­ates run­ning su­per­i­or cam­paign or­gan­iz­a­tions who made their elec­tions a choice between the two can­did­ates on the bal­lot,” said the ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or. “Only three Demo­crat­ic in­cum­bent sen­at­ors have lost reelec­tion in the last 10 years, and our in­cum­bents are once again pre­pared and ready.”

The nearly 1,000-word missive goes on to cite the ef­fect­ive­ness of the party’s at­tacks against con­ser­vat­ive third-party spend­ing, its $60 mil­lion field and voter-con­tact pro­gram known as the “Ban­nock Street Pro­ject,” and the op­por­tun­ity Demo­crats have in GOP-held seats in Ken­tucky and Geor­gia. “We don’t min­im­ize the chal­lenges ahead,” he said. “Rather, we view the latest pro­jec­tion as a re­mind­er that we have a chal­len­ging map and im­port­ant work still to do in or­der to pre­serve our ma­jor­ity.”

In truth, Sil­ver’s sug­ges­tions that Re­pub­lic­ans are fa­vor­ites to win the Sen­ate matched the as­sess­ment of most ana­lysts in Wash­ing­ton. A map that has Demo­crats de­fend­ing sev­en red states (Re­pub­lic­ans would need to win six to re­claim the ma­jor­ity), Pres­id­ent Obama’s slid­ing ap­prov­al rat­ings, and the mul­ti­mil­lions of dol­lars spent by out­side groups led by the Koch broth­ers-backed Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity have com­bined to give the GOP a clear op­por­tun­ity at the ma­jor­ity. Even be­fore Obama­care’s polit­ic­ally dis­astrous rol­lout, Demo­crat­ic strategists privately ac­know­ledged that con­trol of the Sen­ate was far from guar­an­teed in 2015.

What We're Following See More »
‘PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE’
Priebus Asks Party to Unite Behind Trump
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
FEELING THE MIDWESTERN BERN
Sanders Upsets Clinton in Indiana
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

Despite trailing Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, Bernie Sanders wasn't going the way of Ted Cruz tonight. The Vermont senator upset Clinton in Indiana, with MSNBC calling the race at 9pm. Sanders appears poised to win by a five- or six-point spread.

Source:
TRUMP IS PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE
Ted Cruz Bows Out, Effectively Ceding the Contest to Trump
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

And just like that, it's over. Ted Cruz will suspend his presidential campaign after losing badly to Donald Trump in Indiana tonight. "While Cruz had always hedged when asked whether he would quit if he lost Indiana; his campaign had laid a huge bet on the state." John Kasich's campaign has pledged to carry on. “From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory,” said Cruz. “Tonight, I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed."

Source:
TAKES AT LEAST 45 DELEGATES
Trump Wins Indiana, All but Seals the Nomination
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Republican establishment's last remaining hope—a contested convention this summer—may have just ended in Indiana, as Donald Trump won a decisive victory over Ted Cruz. Nothing Cruz seemed to have in his corner seemed to help—not a presumptive VP pick in Carly Fiorina, not a midwestern state where he's done well in the past, and not the state's legions of conservatives. Though Trump "won't secure the 1,237 delegates he needs to formally claim the nomination until June, his Indiana triumph makes it almost impossible to stop him. Following his decisive wins in New York and other East Coast states, the Indiana victory could put Trump within 200 delegates of the magic number he needs to clinch the nomination." Cruz, meanwhile, "now faces the agonizing choice of whether to remain in the race, with his attempt to force the party into a contested convention in tatters, or to bow out and cede the party nomination to his political nemesis." The Associated Press, which called the race at 7pm, predicts Trump will win at least 45 delegates.

Source:
THE QUESTION
What’s the Average Household Income of a Trump Voter?
14 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Seventy-two thousand dollars, according to FiveThirtyEight. That's higher than the national average, as well as the average Clinton or Sanders voter, but lower than the average Kasich voter.

Source:
×