Embattled Senate Dem's campaign lashes out at "wrong" Nate Silver

"Wrong in 2010 and will be wrong in 2014"

Published October 30, 2014 6:56PM (EDT)

Nate Silver                        (ABC)
Nate Silver (ABC)

Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's campaign on Thursday knocked election forecaster Nate Silver as "wrong" in his prediction that Udall will lose to GOP challenger Cory Gardner in five days. It's a sharp turnabout from 2012, when Silver earned the enmity of many Republicans for his forecast that President Obama would defeat Mitt Romney.

In an email blasted out to supporters, Udall campaign manager Adam Dunstone exhorted voters that "as long as we keep fighting alongside Mark to move Colorado forward, we will be victorious next week." The email, with the subject line "Nate Silver: wrong in 2010 and will be wrong in 2014," took the statistics whiz to task for his incorrect 2010 prediction that Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet would lose to Republican Ken Buck. While polls suggested Buck was slated to oust Bennet, the senator eked out a one-point win on Election Day.

"Nate Silver is painting a bleak picture these days," Dunstone writes, noting that Silver's FiveThirtyEight gives the GOP "a better chance of taking Colorado than they do of winning in traditionally red states like Alaska and Kansas."

"But in 2010," Dunstone adds, "Silver only gave Sen. Michael Bennet a 34.9% chance of winning his Colorado U.S. Senate race. He underestimated Democrats’ strength in 2010 — and Nate Silver’s got it wrong this time too."

Silver actually sees Gardner as even more of a favorite than he did Buck. FiveThirtyEight's model currently pegs Gardner's chance of taking Udall's seat at 79 percent.

The polls in Colorado have been all over the map of late, with three polls released today showing markedly different results. Quinnipiac University's survey showed Gardner with a seven point lead, while a Denver Post/Survey USA poll has Gardner up just two points. Public Policy Polling, meanwhile, finds the candidates deadlocked at 48 percent each.

Some observers warn that as in previous years, the polls in Colorado could be overestimating the GOP's strength and underestimating Hispanic turnout. In 2012, polls showed Obama barely edging Romney in the state, but he scored a relatively comfortable 5.4 point win on Election Day. Similarly, Democrat John Hickenlooper only slightly led his opponent in surveys for the 2010 gubernatorial race, but he ended up winning by 14 points. And then, of course, there was the 2010 Senate race, when RealClearPolitics' polling average showed Buck leading Bennet by three points -- a lead on par with the 3.6 point edge RealClearPolitics currently gives Gardner.

If Silver's prediction of a Gardner win proves wrong, it would be an upset similar not only to Bennet's 2010 win, but also to North Dakota's 2012 Senate race, in which Silver gave Republican Rick Berg a 92 percent chance of victory. But defying the polls and the prognosticators, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won the race by one point.

By Luke Brinker

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