Statistician Scores One for the Geeks

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President Obama wasn't the only one who did a metaphorical mic drop last night. So did Nate Silver, the New York Times' statistical wizard behind the political analysis blog FiveThirtyEight.

In case you forgot, Silver's audacious predictions of an Obama victory caused quite a stir among political pundits in media both big and small. Last week, when most talking heads where predicting a neck-and-neck horse race between Obama and Romney, Silver predicted Obama had 74.6 percent chance of winning reelction. By Nov. 6, that number had risen to 90.9 percent.

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Naturally, Silver's mathematical model, an election simulator based on past elections, polling data and economic figures, didn't sit well with some of the pundits on the right claiming the race was too close to call.

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Dylan Byers' POLITCO hit-piece called Silver a "one-term celebrity" and quoted Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," calling Silver an ideologue and "a joke." New York Times columnist David Brooks dismissed Silver's predictions as "not possible" and that they came from "silly land."

However, Dean Chambers of the right-wing blog Unskewed Polls wears the crown of King of the Silver-bashers. Chambers minced few words in his outright attack on the openly gay Silver, calling him a "thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice" and of "average intelligence."

Despite facing an imminent swirlie as jock-bully pundits held him by the ankles over the toilet bowl, Silver stood his ground. He even challenged Scarborough to $2,000 bet to which Scarborough declined.

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Well, Silver got the last laugh when he correctly predicted the outcome in all 50 states. He said Obama would get 332 electoral votes, and assuming Obama holds his lead when Florida is done counting votes, that's exactly what the outcome was. Silver wasn't the only one throwing bull's-eyes last night. So too did Josh Putnam, Donna Brazile and Sam Wang. Slate has a nice graphic showing just how close or far off the pundits were.

However, the messianic media beast has spoken and Silver stands to be anointed, though something tells me that's already happened. The day before the election, FiveThirtyEight was responsible for 20 percent of visitors to the New York Times website. Google Silver's name and see if your computer doesn't catch on fire.

Regardless, score one for data-driving journalism and geeks everywhere.

 via Mashable