Unable to cope with Romnesia McScissorhands’s dwindling chances to ride his anti-women, anti-gay, anti-Latino, anti-middle class, anti-details, anti-facts, anti-consistency campaign to the White House, the right is now attacking Nate Silver for being one of the few commercial media figures to tell the truth about the stability of Obama’s electoral college firewall: Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Iowa.
Mainstream media mavens like David Gergen, Wolf Blitzer, Chuck Todd, Piers Morgan, and the entire editorial staff of CNN Online are busy flogging the Romney camp's preferred ‘Mitt is closing!’ horserace narrative, both downplaying the polls putting Obama ahead in the places he needs to win and ignoring the deep blue wave of early voting in swing states.
Although Nate Silver has now sold his brand to the New York Times, Silver rose to prominence from the progressive netroots and thus seems immune to the Beltway's horserace fever. Silver keeps calmly pointing out that popular vote polls are all over the place, but that Obama has retained a stable electoral college lead and remains the favorite.
Silver’s sober, optimistic analyses throw cold water onto Romney operatives shameless flogging of surveys from Rasmussen, Gallup’s already infamous outlier poll, and fly-by-night conservative junk pollsters like Gravis, ARG, and Susquehanna -- the outfit responsible for last week's howler that put Romney up in Pennsylvania. Out to dent Silver’s credibility, the right-leaning RealClearPolitics (RCP) is pushing an article from right-wing publication National Review titled ‘Nate Silver’s Flawed Model’ by Josh Jordan.
Jordan begrudgingly notes that Silver correctly predicted 49 of 50 states the last go around, besting most pollsters in the process. But then Jordan begins whining that Silver is “openly rooting” for Obama. Jordan's article is the latest angry conservative salvo against Silver, following the Daily Caller article 'Nate Silver vs. The Word' pushed by RCP last week. Although thankfully, Jordan refrains from challenging Silver to a bet like the pathetically immature Philistines at the Daily Caller.
Jordan accuses Silver of weighting polls in a “highly subjective” manner. Of course, that is Silver’s privilege and prerogative given that his subjectivity was famously accurate in 2008.
The almost impeccable accuracy of Silver's subjectivity is why Republicans are so scared of his predictions. It is why Jordan has to point to RCP - a GOP favorite because it has cachet with liberals despite being founded by conservatives for conservatives - as the antidote to Silver's criminal subjectivity:
The current Real Clear Politics average is nearly a full point more favorable to Romney: It has Obama at 48.1 and Romney at 46.0. The difference comes from the fact that Real Clear Politics gives equal weight to all of the polls it includes…Lost on Jordan is that by choosing which polls to include and exclude in its averages, RCP is similarly subjective. The difference is the track record: Silver’s final 2008 prediction map was more accurate than RCP’s, an inconvenient truth Republicans do not want to acknowledge.
Jordan then intimates that the only difference between Nate Silver and unskewedpolls.com - the 2012 campaign’s biggest polling laughingstock – is that Silver’s analysis is more “subtle.” This is a little like claiming that Edward R. Murrow is slightly more subtle than Geraldo Rivera.
Jordan goes on with the right-wing wishful thinking that Obama actually isn’t leading in Ohio. To spin this yarn, he points out that Romney is up with Ohio independents in the polls – conveniently forgetting that Obama is up even bigger with Ohio early voters in the actual booth – and links to his own article about Gravis Marketing’s last Ohio poll showing a tied race.
The punchline, of course, is that the poll which got Jordan all hot and bothered was... from Gravis Marketing. And even the hacks at Gravis couldn’t manipulate the numbers enough to get Romney to anything but a dead heat.
Jordan finishes up complaining Silver favors polls with partisan samples that (allegedly) overestimate Democrats. Jordan, like so many right wingers, does not understand that most reputable pollsters do not choose the partisan affiliation of respondents. Rather, the partisan sample reflects what those contacted tell the pollster about their party membership. This self-identification is thus a fairly accurate snapshot of partisan enthusiasm, since disillusioned voters can also chose to identify as ‘independent’.
Most independents lean to one party or another, so even the party ID in a poll with a D+11 sample – like the NBC/Marist Ohio poll Jordan excoriates Silver for weighting – does not necessarily suggest that Democrats outnumber Republicans in any meaningful way. Instead, it may show that the Republicans are "hidden" in the sample as independents. Unable to grasp this concept, Jordan tries to play gotcha with Silver:
Furthermore, Silver explained on Saturday that a tie in the Gravis Marketing Ohio poll is actually a negative for Romney in his forecast because Gravis shows a Republican-leaning bias in polling. But the Gravis poll released Saturday has a nine point advantage in party identification for Democrats — almost double the Democrats’ advantage in the 2008 election. Then, regarding the PPP Ohio poll mentioned above (where Romney cut Obama’s five-point lead to one in a week), Silver notes that “Public Policy Polling has lost most of the strong Democratic lean that it had earlier in the cycle.” He means that PPP’s polling results have tended to favor Obama less than they used to, and thus that the “house effect” of their democratic tilt has lessened. But this subjective measure fails to take into account the possibility that Romney is doing better among the same samples. The PPP poll of Ohio actually leaned more Democratic this week; Democrats had an eight-point party-ID advantage this week but only a four-point advantage last week. So while the poll swung more to Obama’s advantage in the sample, Silver declares that it has actually lost its “Democratic lean.”Jordan does not get that a poll like Gravis might include too many Republicans and too few independents compared to other more respected polls at the same time it shows D+9 sample overall. Jordan also does not grasp that a poll can rise from a D+4 to a D+8 sample and at the same time show such a steep rise in ‘independents’ that later the D+8 poll (for example, D-34, R-26, I-40) is still less Democratic overall than the earlier D+4 poll (for example, D-41, R-37, I-22).
One must wonder if Silver’s forecast model includes a little bit too much hope of an Obama victory against what appears to be a surge of Romney momentum.
No, one musn’t wonder that unless one does not understand how early voting, the electoral college, and poll sampling for party identification work. Those ones are the only ones thinking Romney’s overstated surge has carved a path to 270. Those ones are going to be in for a rude reality check on election night, while Nate Silver will have gotten it right. Again.