Election Predictions: From Nate Silver to HuffPo, Who Got It Right? (Update)

With Florida results still out, Politico still has a chance at perfectly predicting the Electoral College outcome

Last Updated: November 8, 2012 @ 6:36 PM

(Updates to add that Nate Silver said that of the likely scenarios, the most likely was Obama winning with 332 electoral votes.)

President Obama wasn't the only big winner Tuesday.

A handful of prognosticators won in the race to correctly predict Obama's victory, among them Nate Silver's 538 blog for the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Politico and ABC News' Matthew Dowd. Among those who were off was Unskewed, a conservative blog that has personally mocked Silver.

Republican strategist and Fox News analyst Karl Rove was out of step even after results were in, cautioning his Fox News colleagues that they were too quick to call the election for Obama. He noted his own experience with the Florida recount in the 2000 election.

NBC, meanwhile, thrived in the moment-to-moment challenge of deciding when to call states and the election. The network was more aggressive than its rivals in calling contested states and the presidency. And its projections have so far held up.

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The Florida vote is still out, leaving the final Electoral College count uncertain, but Mitt Romney's concession in the race makes it very unlikely that his campaign will challenge the results in other states. The popular vote, meanwhile, is still being counted.

The current Electoral College count stands at 303 to 206, with Florida's 29 votes still up in the air. If Obama wins Florida, that would bring the final Electoral College tally to 332-206. If Romney wins Florida, the final tally will be 303-235.

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The latter result would make Dowd and Politico this election's most on-the-nose masters of prognostication.

On ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Dowd, President Bush's top strategist in 2004, predicted a 303 win for Obama. None of the other panelists had that number. Conservative columnist George Will was the furthest off, predicting 321 electoral votes for Romney.

Story continues after the video:

On Tuesday, Politico, which used Real Clear Politics polling averages, joined Dowd in putting Obama at 303 votes.

If Obama wins Florida, Stanford political science professor Simon Jackman, who created HuffPo's Pollster tracking model, can claim that he called it. But he only did it with some hedging. His last blog post before polls closed had Obama winning by either 303 or 332 Electoral College votes. He was right: Obama will win by one of those numbers, depending on which way Florida goes. But he offered two scenarios, rather than doubling down on one.

Silver, whose data was perhaps the most closely watched of the campaign, again came very close to nailing it. But he won't be as close to perfect this time around.

In 2008, Silver predicted the popular vote within one percentage point and predicted every state correctly except for Indiana, making himself perhaps the most celebrated statistician in America in the process.

This year, even as Romney and Obama appeared neck-and-neck in the polls, Silver predicted a very high probability of Obama winning. The president's supporters staved off their anxiety by embracing the meme, "Keep Calm and Trust Nate Silver."

As of Tuesday, he said, there was a 90.9 chance of Obama winning again. He forecast a 313-225 Electoral College count based on an averaging of the most likely outcomes (see his chart, left). But he also said that of those outcomes, the most likely was Obama winning with 332 electoral votes. If Obama wins Florida, Silver's 332 projection will be right on the money. Silver said there was a 20 percent likelihood of Obama hitting 332.

Silver's popular vote projection, 50.8 percent for Obama to 48.3 percent for Romney, is also very close to current vote totals.

Conservative blogger Dean Chambers tried to position himself as the anti-Silver with his UnskewedPolls.com, a new website that emerged during the summer and vowed to "unskew" what Chambers saw as liberal-leaning polls. In a post late last month, Chambers went personal on Silver (right), describing him as "a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the 'Mr. New Castrati' voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program."

"In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound," Chambers added. "Nate Silver, like most liberal and leftist celebrities and favorites, might be of average intelligence but is surely not the genius he's made out to be. His political analyses are average at best and his projections, at least this year, are extremely biased in favor of the Democrats."

So how did Chambers do in his prognostications? Not nearly as well as the "effeminate" target of his ire. As of Tuesday, Chambers had Romney winning by 275 electoral votes to 263 for Obama.


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