Are you surprised that Republicans are surprised they lost? If you were following the polls guru Nate Silver’s blog fivethirtyeight.com you would be.
It’s not that I was certain Obama would win. But reading Nate Silver’s estimates before the elections gave me odds to be cautiosly optimistic. The day before the election I estimated the chance of Obama winning (based on Nate’s 91%) like being all in with pocket kings pre flop. You’re in good shape and this is the position you want to be against a single opponent, but that doesn’t mean Romney can’t flop an ace. So Romney’s entire electoral calcualtion was based on flopping that ace, but they acted as if they have already won. I find such baseless certitude stunning.
But it’s not like they didn’t have their own models. Because reality has a well-known liberal bias, Republicans have retreated into their own world where their polls showed that they were leading Obama by 6-7 point margins. They called it “unskewed polls”.
“Unskewed polls” is an entirely new phenomenon that didn’t exist during any of the previous elections. 4 years of Obama presidency really did something to the minds of the right-wing bubble occupants that they have severed any and all connections to reality that they still possessed in some form prior to 2008. Unskewed polls is a way one conservative blogger (www.unskewedpolls.com) dissected the “biased”, in his opinion, national and battleground polls conducted by professional polling firms. What he did in his “unskewing” is even out the proportion of Republicans and Democrats in the polls to bring it to more “fair” ratio. For instance, most of the polls had more registered Democrats than Republicans, simply due to the fact that there are more registered Ds than Rs, it’s a reflection of the population as a whole. He wasn’t satisfied with this weighing as he considered it biased against the Republicans. So in his unskewing he brought the ratio to about even. Of course, if Romney and Obama were tied in official national polls and the sample in question had 44% Ds and 37% Rs, then, after he brings it to 37/37 in his own recalibration, Romney would lead Obama by 6 or 7 points. These are the polls that had Republicans believing, nay, knowing, that they were going to win. How else would you explain the fact that the fireworks were on stand-by near Romney headquarters in Boston and that Romney didn’t even write a version of a concession speech? He knew he was winning! It’s stunning that no one, NO ONE in his campaign had raised any doubts about the overly positive numbers. Looks like the entire campaign was only pleased to be blissfully unaware about the true state of the race, and incapable of dealing with bad news or with reality. That pre-election certitude based on make belief numbers explains the state of shock both in conservative media world and Romney’s campaign headquarters when results rolled in.
By contrast, Obama campaign has always, even when they were ahead in the polls, assumed that they were 10 points behind. I heard it from many folks in the Obama headquarters.
But back to Nate Silver.
It is rare that in our lives, and especially in our politics, one side admits to being wrong. It just never happens, because when you’re not dealing with hard sciences like math and physics, there are always ways to spin the results. Not now. Nate Silver got the Electoral Vote count 100% correct! What’s more he got his detractors to apologize and to admit that they were wrong. They even apoligized for calling Nate Silver names. This is the ultimate revenge of the nerd!
Why I think this is important, and why I think Nate Silver has to receive even more recognition is because I’d like our public, that has gotten used to base their decisions on “gut feeling” and on emotions, to reassess the nature of their decision making. We really need them to come back to reality and reason, rather than immerse in baseless hysteria cultivated by talking heads. Nate showed them how to do it – with numbers. It’s a simple skill that, for some reason, has been discarded, especially on the right, in favor of wishful thinking. In their opinion Obama simply could not win due to a number of unquantifiable factors, like energised conservative base and impossibility of a reelection of a Muslim Socialist! That was a big part of their model. The other part was cooked numbers – an especially delicious part of their delusion as they were only happy to fool themselves.
All of this makes Nate’s win unique. His is a clean victory, and the one that is acknowledged by both sides. It also is a win for a common sense over heated rhetoric. It must be brought back into our national discourse.