The Silver-Wang debate will end on November 5th, when Nate Silver will walk from New York City to Princeton, wearing nothing but the ashes of burned printouts, and kneel to kiss Sam Wang’s feet. Like all of my predictions, that’s 100% guaranteed. (More)
People often ask me, “Squirrel, how do you maintain such amazing precision in your predictions?”
Okay, people don’t often ask me that. In fact, no one’s ever asked me that. But I know they think about it, because my Super Bowl prediction record was 100% and my 2014 predictions are 100% so far. Nobody else has a 100% prediction rate, although Dick Morris and William Kristol are close.
So of course I’ve been following the prediction spat between FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver and the Princeton Election Consortium’s Sam Wang. That went public when Silver wrote this:
I don’t like to call out other forecasters by name unless I have something positive to say about them — and we think most of the other models out there are pretty great. But one is in so much perceived disagreement with FiveThirtyEight’s that it requires some attention. That’s the model put together by Sam Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology at Princeton.
Silver went on at some length about why he thinks Dr. Wang’s model is wrong and then took to Twitter to launch more salvos. And in case anyone hadn’t yet noticed the spat, Silver wrote a post for Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire.
Silver compares where we are in the race to the third quarter of a football game. I’d argue that we are still in the pre-game period. The game – or more accurately, an election that will determine the direction of our national government – is still four weeks away. He and I aren’t the players; we’re in the announcer’s booth. Meanwhile, on the field are the candidates, the strategists, and the men and women who are giving their time and money in key races. They’re the ones who are making the 2014 Senate campaign exciting.
Over at The Daily Beast, Daniel Altman wondered why Silver keeps stoking the feud:
Here’s my guess at the reasons why. First, Silver fears Wang. In 2012, Wang’s model did a better job predicting the presidential election. Wang called not only Obama’s electoral college total of 332 votes, which Silver matched, but he also nailed the popular vote almost perfectly. Wang’s model also picked the winner in every single Senate race in 2012. It’s not good for business if Silver keeps coming up second-best.
But more importantly, Wang is the only one predicting Democrats will win. This represents a huge risk for Silver. If every forecaster had Republicans taking the Senate, then they’d all be either right or wrong in November; no one would have a better headline the next morning than Silver. There might be differences in the accuracy of predictions for each seat, but there’d be little embarrassment for Silver even if someone else happened to hit closer to the mark in a few races.
Yet with Wang in the picture, that’s not the case. If the Democrats hold the Senate, then Wang will stand alone; Silver will just be another one of the many who got it wrong. As of this writing, Silver’s own forecast says there’s a 41 percent chance this will happen. Imagine that – a 41 percent chance that the whole empire comes crashing down.
Thus my prediction: on November 5th, Nate Silver will print out all of his spreadsheets, carry them naked to Times Square, and burn them in a pyre. Then he’ll rub the ashes over his body and walk to Princeton, New Jersey, where he’ll kneel and kiss Wang’s feet. After tweeting “Polls Only” 40 times for penance, Silver will stand and Wang will use a Princeton orange Extend-a-Hose to rinse the ashes off Silver’s body. Wang will next offer Silver a set of Princeton bib overalls (for modesty) and Princeton flip flops (for his sore feet). They’ll take a selfie and tweet it at the same time. Then they’ll go to Wang’s office for mugs of hot chocolate and a plate of
Halloween Princeton Oreos.
Like all my predictions, that’s 100% guaranteed, down to the last detail.
Good day and good nuts