Green Room

NYT’s Nate Silver Has Pipe Dreams About Last Debate

posted at 7:46 am on October 24, 2012 by

New York Times’s Nate Silver, who writes the 538 Blog, has some serious disconnections with reality.  First, the headline for his October 23 post after the last presidential debate read “Obama unlikely to get big debate bounce, but a small one could matter.”  Talk about trying to positively spin ‘leading from behind.’  As I’ve mentioned previously, this debate did not matter and the debate before that didn’t matter.  In fact, Romney gained a point in Gallup’s Daily Tracking Poll amongst likely voters, even though Obama was declared the winner.  Obama’s chance to slay Romney was in the first debate, and he failed miserably.

As Jeff Greenfield of Yahoo! News wrote after the second debate, “had the Obama of this debate showed up two weeks ago, he might well have ended Romney’s effort to present himself as a credible alternative to the president. That opportunity vanished that night. While it’s clear that Obama’s performance will revive the enthusiasm of his supporters, it seems unlikely that it will cause those impressed by Romney to reconsider. Like they say in show business, timing is everything.”  Sadly, this hasn’t resonated.

Silver noted that by “averaging the results from the CBS News, CNN and Google polls, which conducted surveys after all three presidential debates along with the one between the vice-presidential candidates, puts Mr. Obama’s margin at 16 percentage points. That compares favorably to Mr. Obama’s average 10-percentage-point margin after the second debate, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s 6-point margin against Representative Paul Ryan, but is smaller than Mr. Romney’s average 29-point win in Denver.”

Again, the debates after the first one, in this cycle, don’t matter  Romney twenty-nine point curb stomping on Obama was the game changing event in this election.  Silver admits this, albeit not forcefully, and stated that this debate was competing with Monday Night Football and the San Francisco Giants game, which probably garnered an incrementally larger viewership given the soporific nature of the third debate.  Silver also said that meat low-information voters were looking for was all laid before them in the first, and most important, debate – but he still has his head in the clouds concerning any meaningful bounce this may produce for the president.  He concludes his post by saying:

Finally, the subject of the debate, foreign policy, is not as important to most voters as economic policy, although some voters may have judged the candidates on style regardless of the substance of the conversation, which did end up including a fair amount of domestic policy as well.

Still, with the contest being so tight, any potential gain for Mr. Obama could matter. Mr. Obama was roughly a 70 percent Electoral College favorite in the FiveThirtyEight forecast in advance of the debate, largely because he has remained slightly ahead in polls of the most important swing states.

If Mr. Obama’s head-to-head polling were 2 percentage points higher right now, he would be a considerably clearer favorite in the forecast, about 85 percent. A 1-point bounce would bring him to 80 percent, and even a half-point bounce would advance his position to being a 75 percent favorite in the forecast.

Still, Mr. Obama should not take even that for granted. There have been some past debates when the instant-reaction polls judged one candidate to be the winner, but the head-to-head polls eventually moved in the opposite direction.

So, since Obama is ahead of Romney within the margin of error, why does that constitutes a win for the president?  I think most analysts would put a 2-4 point lead, for any candidate, in the toss-up column – especially for a battleground state.  Thus, making his 70% prediction of an Obama victory a nonsensical exercise.   Silver has states listed as toss-ups on the blog, but didn’t reference them here.

Furthermore, Silver’s notion that a half point ounce would increase Obama’s probability of re-election to 75%, a 1 point bounce to 80%, and a 2 point bounce to 85% is abjectly senseless.  He is lying and waiting for a miracle to happen.

In all, this wet dream within American liberalism of an Obama re-election just demonstrates how disassociated with reality they’ve become over the past four years with their cult-like devotion to one of the most dishonorable men to ever sit in the Oval Office.

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Nate Silver doesn’t create or administer polls, he just interprets them. Anyone could do this. If you read his blog, you get the feeling you are watching someone play with his hobby, or fiddle with some new technical gadget. You don’t get the feeling you are watching a scientific mind at work.

Dextrous on October 24, 2012 at 8:06 AM

Didn’t mean to insinuate that he puts polls in the field – obviously i disagree with his interpretations, but to say obama has a 70% chance at re-election is absurd.

That’s the gist I was trying to convey – another blogger at a MSM paper who’s in bed with Obama and they’re panicking that he isn’t doing so well now

Matt Vespa on October 24, 2012 at 10:10 AM

NYT’s Nate Silver Has Choom Pipe Dreams About Last Debate


Marcola on October 24, 2012 at 10:56 AM


Great article and I totally agree. Nate Silver’s blog has been a continual disappointment to me this election cycle. He is utterly out of synch with most polling in America because he gives much greater weight to polls that put Obama ahead, even if they are weeks older than the polls in which Romney leads.

I have just one minor (or maybe major) objection to your post. “Curb Stomping” has significant racial overtones, as it is widely associated with the film American History X. In other words, you may as well have said, “Romney’s twenty-nine point lynching of Obama was the game changing event in this election.” In other words, I’d pick a different synonym for dominant victory.

Longing4Lincoln on October 24, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Scott Rasmussen nailed it yesterday: none of the debates had a significant effect on the polls. Romney was rising prior to the first debate, and continues to rise after the third debate. Rasmussen says, maybe, the first debate added a point or so to his improvement but everything since has just been noise. He went on to say that undecideds in Ohio appear to be breaking Romney’s way at present but, with two weeks yet to go, this is still anyone’s race.

MTF on October 24, 2012 at 1:38 PM

Longing4Lincoln on October 24, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Thanks Lincoln! Glad you enjoyed the post – and thanks for the feedback.

I have seen that film and IN NO WAY was I insinuating a racial overtone with this entry. Apologies if you were offended. My passion gets the better of me at times.

Matt Vespa on October 24, 2012 at 4:05 PM

Matt Vespa on October 24, 2012 at 4:05 PM

I’m sure you didn’t intend a racial overtone, but I think the term itself has racial overtones. Just like “lynching” doesn’t inherently mean a racist act, it certainly has become synonymous with racism.

Maybe I’m being overly-sensitive, but the term didn’t really enter the vernacular until after Ed Norton’s neo-nazi character “curb-stomped” a black man in American History X. I guess that, as with most things, mileage may vary whether people will find it racist. Personally, I’d avoid it even absent the racial undertones when discussing a sitting president, as it is horrifically violent.

Longing4Lincoln on October 24, 2012 at 5:19 PM