For Nate Silver, the Late Apologies Are Trickling In
Three weeks ago, Nate Silver was right. Very right.
He accurately predicted President Barack Obama's reelection, just as he had in 2008. But in the weeks leading up to election night, the New York Times polling wizard withstood a wave of criticism that came with his sudden rise to prominence -- his FiveThirtyEight blog was raking in 20 percent of the Times' web traffic.
Yet, with Republican candidate Mitt Romney now catching up on his 'Twilight' movies, and sales of Silver's book surging, some who criticized or doubted the statistician disavowed their comments.
Here are the best five vindications -- some begrudging, some not -- of Nate Silver's mathematical methods.
1. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough The "Morning Joe" host was by far Silver's loudest critic. He sparred with the numbers nerd on his morning program, prompting Silver -- once a professional poker player -- to bet $2,000 that he'd be right. Tuesday, when Silver appeared on "Morning Joe" to explain why many polls incorrectly skewed Republican (they forgot about those nifty cell phones the kids are using these days), Scarborough admitted that he donated to AmeriCares in Silver's name.
Later on Tuesday, he published an op-ed on Politico titled "My (semi) Apology to Nate Silver," he admitted Silver's model likely has some holes in it, but that in the end, he was right.
"Just as ball players who drink beer and eat fried chicken in dugouts across American can screw up the smartest sabermatrician's forecast, Nate Silver's formula is sure to let his fervent admirers down from time to time," he wrote. "But judging from what I saw of him this morning, Nate is a grounded guy who admits as much in his book. I was too tough on him and there's a 84.398264 percent chance I will be less dismissive of his good work in the future."
2. Politico's Dylan Byers Politico's prolific media columnist was among the first non-pundits to raise serious doubts about the numbers on FiveThirtyEight.
In a piece published in late October, Byers called Silver "highly overrated" and predicted that the Times' poll guru could be a "one-term celebrity," his fate tied to that of the president's.
"For all the confidence Silver puts in his predictions, he often gives the impression of hedging. Which, given all the variables involved in a presidential election, isn't surprising," Byers wrote. "For this reason and others -- and this may shock the coffee-drinking NPR types of Seattle, San Francisco and Madison, Wis. -- more than a few political pundits and reporters, including some of his own colleagues, believe Silver is highly overrated."
But in his post a day after the election, Byers opened with: "Nate Silver nailed it last night."
3. Gawker's Max Read It's remarkable to think that anyone -- especially a media celebrity whose rise was no less than meteoric -- could escape a good Gawker put-down at some point.
But not Nate Silver. No, Silver was spared the biting tone of Hamilton Nolan's typepad and instead got an explainer by the slightly-less-snarky Max Read.
"How does he do it?" Read wrote after the election results proved Silver right. "Using... math."
4. Jon Stewart "The Daily Show" host heaped praise on Silver after the election, having him on the Comedy Central program to plug his book "The Signal and the Noise."
The somewhat camera-shy Silver was slow to catch on to Stewart calling him a "Chick-fil-A sandwich" for reality -- a comparison to the Georgia-based fast food chain's anti-gay marriage position turning it into a totem for like minded politicos -- but it probably helped his skyrocketing book sales.
"You are so reasonable -- don't you want to stand up and say 'I am Nate Silver, bow down to me." Stewart said theatrically. "I am Nate Silver, lord and god of the algorithm!"
5. UnSkewed Poll's Dean Chambers Dean Chambers, a frothing-at-the-mouth conservative and alleged homophobe, was among the many on the right that sought to dismiss the openly gay Silver's prediction that Obama would win.
The difference is, he bluntly said it with an ad hominem attack -- which is, you know, oh so effective.
"Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the "Mr. New Castrati" voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program," Chambers wrote last month. "In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound. Nate Silver, like most liberal and leftist celebrities and favorites, might be of average intelligence but is surely not the genius he's made out to be. His political analyses are average at best and his projections, at least this year, are extremely biased in favor of the Democrats."