Election 2014 update: Nate Silver attacks "wrong" Princeton rival

The king of electoral predictions says Sam Wang "makes several assumptions" that "don’t check out against the data"

Published September 18, 2014 1:23PM (EDT)

Nate Silver (Nam Y. Huh)
Nate Silver (Nam Y. Huh)

The audience isn't quite as big and the stage is much less expansive, but even if 2014 is a midterm and not a presidential election year, FiveThirtyEight prediction guru Nate Silver still has a lot on the line.

With enemies like Politico's Dylan Byers playing the role of angry luddites, threatened by Silver's mathematical models and jealous of their inside access, any result that discredits the trustworthiness of Silver's empirical model would be a significant threat. Not just to Silver, but to those who believe political journalism should rely more on facts — and less on feelings — in general.

Which is why it was no small surprise on Wednesday to see Silver take to his site in order to criticize another wonk's model, calling Princeton's Sam Wang's system "wrong" and built on assumptions that "don’t check out against the data." It's a wonk civil war!

Here's more on Silver's disagreement with Wang, as well as the latest midterm news:

  • "That model is wrong," Silver writes of Wang's predictions, which give the Democrats a better-than-even chance of holding onto control of the Senate (Silver, by contrast, says the odds are in the GOP's favor). "It substantially underestimates the uncertainty associated with polling averages and thereby overestimates the win probabilities for candidates with small leads in the polls," he continued. "This is because instead of estimating the uncertainty empirically ... Wang makes several assumptions about how polls behave that don’t check out against the data." For his part, Wang is uninterested in getting into a food fight with Silver, telling Talking Points Memo, "I do not want to turn this into a shouting match — it's really unnecessary."
  • Staten Island GOPer Michael Grimm, who is being indicted by the feds and recently was caught on camera threatening to physically destroy a reporter, is leading his Democratic challenger, according to a recent poll. National Journal dives into the race to figure out why; the answer is a mix of SI's parochial, chip-on-its-shoulder politics as well as some of the structural afflictions mucking up U.S. representative democracy today.
  • The Los Angeles Times has a good look at how many Democrats — especially those running for election to the U.S. Senate in GOP-leaning states — have tried to campaign both against the GOP and President Obama, who is currently about as popular as the flu. The article's premise might be a bit oversold, however; its main examples are Kentucky and West Virginia, where Democrats running as anti-liberals is pretty standard, no matter who the president happens to be at the time.
  • Despite all his protestations against the Koch brothers for how their money is impacting U.S. elections, the Washington Post finds that Harry Reid and his allies are raking in dough, hoping it will create a buffer between a conservative electorate and Democratic control of the Senate. Behold, the glorious future of post-Citizens United American politics.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

MORE FROM Elias Isquith

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Dylan Byers Election 2014 Election 2014 Update Harry Reid Michael Grimm Nate Silver Sam Wang