Former poker player nailing political pickson October 19, 2012 @ 10:34 am (Updated: 11:56 am - 10/19/12 )
On the basis of that, the New York Times hired him to write his popular "FiveThirtyEight" column for them. His daily column is called that because that's the number of electoral votes in the Electoral College, but then we all knew that, right? Right.
I spoke with Silver about his powers of prognostication, and the first thing I wanted to ask him was if he could explain to my esteemed colleague Linda why following polls was important. But he was a big disappointment to me.
"I have no problem if you just want to tune everything out and wait until election day and see what happens," Silver laughed.
Score one for Linda, who just doesn't get my passion for politics.
But seriously, there's a lot of value in what Silver does.
"It would be a little grandiose to say I'm helping the democratic process or whatever," Silver said. "But I do think that we provide a counterbalance to other types of news coverage, news coverage that sensationalizes every development on the campaign trail, that takes polls that are outliers relative to where the consensus of the evidence is and trumps them up because it makes for better headlines. We're trying to sort through all this data and find, extract a useful signal from it."
Not surprisingly for a guy who at one time lived primarily on his winnings from online poker, Silver says his analysis is all about determining the right odds.
"We're thinking about things in terms of probabilities more like a handicapper or an investor or a gambler might, but we're not saying 'oh we know what's going to happen for sure.' Of course we don't know. You shouldn't listen to anyone who says for sure they know what's going to happen on November 6. But we can say given the information we have and given how well it's performed historically lets give you some betting odds. What odds do you need right now to bet on Romney or Obama.
So where does the race stand right now? Silver has the electoral vote count as 287.2 for Obama to 250.8 for Romney and a 50.1 to 48.9 popular vote, again for the President.
As of today, he calls Obama a "modest" favorite.
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