New York Times polling guru Nate Silver took aim at Politico’s brand of reporting on Friday, saying the Washington-based news outlet covers politics like sports but “not in an intelligent way at all.”
Reflecting on Politico’s pre-election criticism of his FiveThirtyEight model, Silver told Grantland’s Bill Simmons on his “B.S. Report” podcast:
What was remarkable to me is that you had some, like, journalist for, um, Politico, or something … who, like, tweeted … ‘All Nate’s doing is averaging polls and counting electoral votes?’ … ‘That’s the secret sauce?’ It’s like, well, yeah, and the fact that you can’t comprehend that very basic thing … that says more about you than, than about me, right?”
The tweet Silver is referring to came from Politico’s Jonathan Martin, and actually reads: “Avert your gaze, liberals: Nate Silver admits he’s simply averaging public polls and there is no secret sauce.” Martin linked to a piece by his Politico colleague Dylan Byers, who wrote the definitive piece of Silver skepticism during the 2012 cycle. In the piece — headlined “Nate Silver: One-term celebrity?” — Byers considered the possibility of Silver’s star power dimming if Mitt Romney became president.
“Prediction is the name of Silver’s game, the basis for his celebrity,” Byers wrote in late October. “So should Mitt Romney win on Nov. 6, it’s difficult to see how people can continue to put faith in the predictions of someone who has never given that candidate anything higher than a 41 percent chance of winning (way back on June 2) and — one week from the election — gives him a one-in-four chance, even as the polls have him almost neck-and-neck with the incumbent.”
Asked whether he reached out to Silver after the election, Byers told TPM: “I reached out to him for an interview. He did not respond. The request still stands.” Byers declined to comment further on Silver’s remarks Friday. Politico did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.
In the interview Friday, Simmons said Politico’s criticism seemed “passive aggressive,” like they “couldn’t really figure out a good way” to go after Silver.
“Politico is … it’s like ‘Who won the day?’ kind of thing, right?” Silver responded. “They’re trying to cover it like it’s sports, but not in an intelligent way at all, right? And they want to create noise, basically, right? Their whole thing is, you have to have a lead story about some gaffe that some candidate made on the campaign trail.”
Silver came under intense scrutiny from more than just Politico in the heat of the election for predicting high odds of an Obama victory in a race pundits believed was simply too close to call. “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough in October said Silver was a “joke” for declaring the race anything but a tossup:
“Nate Silver says this is a 73.6 percent chance that the President is going to win? Nobody in that campaign thinks they have a 73 percent chance — they think they have a 50.1 percent chance of winning. And you talk to the Romney people, it’s the same thing. Both sides understand that it is close, and it could go either way. And anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they’re jokes.”
Silver did not respond to TPM’s request for comment. Listen to a clip of the interview below:
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com