ABC News Warps Nate Silver’s Numbers In Order To Predict a Really Big Republican Senate Win


Nate Silver was on ABC’s This Week where Jon Karl took Silver’s slight Republican advantage in the 2014 Senate races and turned into a cheerleading session for a gigantic Republican win.



KARL: The stat guru and his team have been crunching the numbers. Who will win the senate? Nate unveiled for us the projections Washington has been waiting for. The most important number to remember, six, that’s how many seats Republicans need to take back control of the senate.

We’re hear at the Fivethirtyeight white board, there’s 36 races overall, and most of these are not competitive.

We have a group of races we can kind of put aside. And even just with that, Republicans pick up three seats.

SILVER: West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana.

KARL: So a large group of states in the mid-term election to be basically up for grabs.

SILVER: Yeah, what we’ve done is kind of sort these in order of most likely to least likely pickups for the GOP. You know, Arkansas is one where they’ve been pretty consistently ahead in the polls. You know we give them probably a 70 percent chance of winning in Arkansas.

KARL: OK, and next up is Louisiana.

SILVER: Louisiana, about 55 percent.

North Carolina, it’s more of a purple state so that’s as close to 50-50 as it gets.

KARL: OK, so let’s stop right there. You have these three seats where Republicans have a very good chance of winning.

SILVER: Sure. And that’s the path of least resistance I would think.

KARL: But not the only one. Nate gives the GOP a good shot in Alaska, and even in blue states Michigan, Colorado and Iowa.

What about Scott Brown in New Hampshire?

SILVER: We think the Republican opportunity is a little overhyped. Scott Brown was extremely popular in a different state four years ago.

KARL: The GOP’s chance of a win there, just 25 percent.

This is the drum roll. Republicans need six seats. What’s the projection? How many are they going to pick up?

SILVER: I’d say exactly six, but it’s probably six plus or minus five. That means it could be…

KARL: They could pick up 11 seats.

SILVER: They could, yeah.

KARL: What you’re basically saying is a 60 percent chance that Republicans win the senate.

SILVER: Something like that. So you kind of imagine like a bell curve distribution, sort of where this is the most likely outcome. This is what Republicans would need to take over. This is 51 for them. So you see probably 60 percent of this pie is colored in here.

KARL: Translation for the math impaired, Nate’s projection is a 40 percent chance Democrats hold on, but a 60 percent chance the GOP wins with a 30 percent shot they win big.

Still a lot of time, but a pretty decent chance of a really big win.

SILVER: That’s right.

ABC’s biased interview didn’t quite match up with what Silver wrote about his own numbers:

Our new forecast goes a half-step further: We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber.

As always, we encourage you to read this analysis with some caution. Republicans have great opportunities in a number of states, but only in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas do we rate the races as clearly leaning their way. Republicans will also have to win at least two toss-up races, perhaps in Alaska, North Carolina or Michigan, or to convert states such as New Hampshire into that category. And they’ll have to avoid taking losses of their own in Georgia and Kentucky, where the fundamentals favor them but recent polls show extremely competitive races.

So our forecast might be thought of as a Republican gain of six seats — plus or minus five. The balance has shifted slightly toward the GOP. But it wouldn’t take much for it to revert to the Democrats, nor for this year to develop into a Republican rout along the lines of 2010.

Right now, Nate Silver is giving Mitch McConnell a 75% chance of retaining his Senate seat. These odds are much, much too high in McConnell’s favor. The problem with using a similar model as what is used to successful presidential races is that statewide races are more volatile. There is also less data available. Pollsters poll Senate races less. With less data, Silver’s modeling could become less reliable.

Silver seems to think that Obama’s low approval rating in Kentucky tilts the balance towards McConnell. The reality is that Obama’s approval rating is higher than McConnell’s in the state.

What Republican Jon Karl tried to sell as a slam dunk Republican takeover of the Senate is really much more of a 50/50 chance, and if Republicans lose in either or both Kentucky and Georgia, they will not be retaking the Senate. What Silver wrote was actually more accurate that the misleading interview that ABC edited and packaged.

It is fair to ask if Nate Silver is being set up by the same mainstream media that relies on the partisan analysis that Silver criticizes. If Republicans lose the Senate, pro-Republican journalists such as Karl will turn around and use their defeat to attack Silver’s credibility in 2016. As time goes on, and nation gets closer to Election Day, the picture will become clearer. I suspect that if Democrats continue to have success in Kentucky and Georgia, Silver’s odds will change.

Republicans like Jon Karl are warping Nate Silver’s initial projection to depress Democratic turnout. The pro-Republican bias was obvious in this interview, and it will be interesting to see if the media ignores Silver if his projection shifts more towards the Democrats.

27 Replies to “ABC News Warps Nate Silver’s Numbers In Order To Predict a Really Big Republican Senate Win”

  1. I think what everyone is overlooking with the overemphasis on the Senate is that nothing has been getting done at the Federal level regardless. Far more significant, I think, is the potentially big shift in the States, where all the action has been.

    Dems are VERY likely to take over the Governor’s Mansions in Pennsylvania and Florida, and have good chances in Wisconsin with possibles in Arizona, Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. They are strong in Kentucky and Colorado. Given that Governors can veto the raft of Voter Suppression, Pro-Gun, and Anti-Women legislation that has come out of the States thanks to the Koch Bros. and ALEC, this is significant.

  2. Since Senate races are state-wide, gerrymandering isn’t a factor like it is in House races — so the Senate candidates have to appeal to enough voters of BOTH parties to win their seats.

    Some of these Tea Party/GOP Senate candidates — and hoary old establishment characters like McConnell in particular — aren’t very appealing even to Republican voters.

    I think someone’s “gotten” to Nate Silver. He used to be quite a bit more objective, with clear explanations why his predictions were 1) accurate, and 2) were usually the lone voice in the wilderness compared to Rasmussen, Gallup, etc.

  3. If there was ever a cheerleader for the Democrats it has to be you. look in the mirror.

    And if a liberal like Nate Silver says it is 60 percent chance, it is really a 65 percent chance of GOP takeover.

  4. Very interesting all of these GOP landslide predictions are brought to you by the same people that predicted a landslide GOP win for Mitt Romney.

    If you are worried about this good. Just remember the way to win an election is for ALL to get out and VOTE! All Democratic party members and Independents need to remember that a stay at home voter is a vote for the GOP and their policies. Time for all voters to be accountable for the mess this country is in. Get out and VOTE! No one knows the winner until ALL the VOTES are counted!

  5. I’m in MI, and Snyder is NOT ahead there. Also, the Senate race is trending Dem already. People are fed up here with the ALEC laws taking away our rights, our votes, and our voices. We will not continue down this road to Kochland. And I suspect my feelings are the same as those of other people living under the boot of the GOP Governors. We also know who is to blame for the lack of progress in DC, and it is NOT Obama. Nor is the ACA the anchor the GOP would have you believe. So keep lying, Karl. Please proceed. When we turn this country blue, you can thank us in 2016.

  6. What world are these two living in? Every day the repubs are trashing women, minorities, LGBT, and poor people. It’s becoming more apparent they are being brought to you by Koch brothers money. The incumbents have a job approval rating of about 15%. Not to mention people are just plain fed up. All those people marching at Moral Monday are voters. Of course the repubs refered to them as “fecal matter”. Brilliant and compassionate.
    In New Mexico we have a repub Governor, the first one in years and she has screwed up everything she touches, not to mention the scandals. She will be gone in November. People here are counting the days she has left. We have one repub Congressman who some how slid in and he will be gone too.

  7. In Republican controlled North Carolina there are 800,000 more Democrats than GOP. The pitiful impact of this situation is plain and simple voter apathy especially among Democrats. Another voting cycle of this apathy and you won’t be allowed to vote once the Koch GOP apartheid system gets a stranglehold on this country. If the voters are that stupid they deserve the same treatment they are getting in NC. Screwed!

  8. LMAO republicans are so delusional is really pathetic! lets look at a few of their predictions shall we?? mccain & the dilf, LOST BY OVER 8 MILLION VOTES, willard & eddie munster LOST BY OVER 5 MILLION VOTES and of course Obama was supposedly taking away everybody GUNS!! not one taken, too bad if so gz the psychopath wouldn’t have murdered a teen and Sandy Hook children would still be breathing. The GOP has insulted EVERY group on Earth other than WHITE REPUBLICAN MALES, so good luck on the viagra, rogaine party!! you better keep recruiting senior citizens homes for votes!

  9. What the repubs have not yet figured out is that there is a new fangled thing called the internet. So when they bump their gums on some obscure radio talk show, or blather and rant on in one of their little 40 person townhall meetings in a barn in somewhere it isn’t just heard there. Within seconds it will be posted online and the whole world will see and hear your idiocy. Oh yeah, on the internet there’s no do-overs, sorry repubs.

    P.S. Don’t tell them about it either.

  10. Don’t count Maine as a shoe-in for the Republicans/teabaggers. Sheena Bellows is making a lot of progress in her admittedly tough race against Susan Collins.

  11. I agree about the Governor races.

    Also We don’t Nate Silver’s algorithms except that he is pretty good at predicting outcomes based on numerical analysis.

    How much of his model depends on the Presidential Approval rating?

    This is just a snapshot in time.


  12. MSNBC is reporting the same 60% chance of Pubs taking Senate…so it’s not just J. Karl, unfortunately. This may very well depress Dem enthusiasm and turnout, so it’s meddling, but what else is new.

  13. Huh? Silver doesn’t do his analyses based on his political beliefs. I think where his analysis fails here is in overemphasizing things like polling and assumptions based on President Obama’s perceived unpopularity.

  14. For whatever my opinion is worth, I agree with your analysis. However, as a Democratic supporter, I cannot escape some level of trepidation, especially since Silver called the 2012 election with pin point accuracy. Whether someone is interfering with his current prediction is another story. Here though, is my concern:

    What does Silver’s prediction say when a Republican Party has been literally on the wrong side of history on nearly every single issue including:

    (1) Immigration reform
    (2) Violence Against Women’s Act
    (3) Voter’s Rights
    (4) Food Assistance
    (5) Equality
    (6) Affordable Education
    (7) Affordable Health Care
    (8) Unemployment insurance benefits extension
    (9) Veteran’s Benefits

    And these items are just the beginning. Let’s not forget exactly WHO was responsible for shutting down the federal government; the Republicans!

    And what about the debt-ceiling fiasco which turned out to be a downgrade on our credit?

    When Democrats run like Republicans we lose! And yet…

  15. A great post!

    Yes, Sheena Bellows is in many ways, ahead of Susan Collins.

    She has been a guest speaker at our County Democratic meetings in Bangor. She is a smart woman who will be rewarded with a win as Democratic senator — Susan Collins!

    We are sick of the TGOPs and want them out of Maine where they don’t belong.

    Our State of Maine needs to move ahead and not lag behind with a new democratic governor, Mike Michaud, new democratic senator Sheena Bellows, and another democratic representative Emily Cain, in our Second District.

    These three are caring and progressive people for the State.

  16. I know that in off-year elections, politicians of the party opposing that of the president usually get elected. I wonder if that’s part of what Nate Silver is basing his prediction on. If people give the Senate to Republicans with their votes, I will have to sadly conclude that there are Americans who are so terminally and congenitally stupid that no amount of destruction the Republicans have wrought can wake them from their stupor. Regardless of what Nate Silver predicts, we cannot afford to give up without a fight. That means that everyone who wants to vote the Republicans out needs to get out and vote, because our ultimate survival depends on it.

  17. I have noticed that people get so focused on one subject that they refuse to look at the larger picture to see what else these people stand for. I truly hope that there are enough people upset with what the Repubs/Teabaggers are doing to this country that they will be voted out. I am afraid to think what the conseqences will be if those awful people get control.

  18. I do not believe republicans will win the senate, my prediction and im going by my gut feeling not the polls not the pundits even though I do read the polls and listen to pundits, but we all have what u call gut instinct and my gut instinct says this republicans will keep control of the us house but dems will win a small number of seats in us house but republicans will keep control of us house, as for the us senate I do think republicans will win 2 to 4 seats in the senate but will not win the us senate, dems will keep us senate by the skin of the teeth, I remind everybody that some republican seats in the us senate are up for grabs, as for mitch mcconnel senate seat I predict he will lose is us senate seat and he is republican,the last poll I saw showed Alison grimes the democrat with w 4 point lead over McConnell so I think mcconnel is done with

  19. plus mcconnel has a tea party nut case running against him, if the tea party wins mcconnel that is it Alison grimnes for sure will win mcconnel seat, even some of the polls that shows mcconnel and Alison grimes shows that mcconnel is in serious trouble of keeping his seat, so any pundit that says like in this article above that mcconnel has a 75 percent chance of keeping his seat is ignorant and stupid and needs there head examined cuz most of the polls are showing yes it will be close but there showing Alison grimes will win in November, in 2012 I told republican friends that Obama would get relected they laughed at me, but when Obama got relected they came to me and admitted I was right and I told them who got the last laught I did haha, the polls all showed Obama would lose mitt Romney was gonna win and republicans were gonna stomp dems in 2012 all the polls were wrong Obama got relected and dems did better, as long as democrats turnout and vote this novemeber they will be ok

  20. when its all said and done this November democrats will do better than what people think I brush aside all the pundits opinions and vote and I encourage all to vote democrat

  21. sally I agree with you, this polls now shows that senator carl levins seat is now back in the democrat column, democrats need to turn out and vote november

  22. remember democrats and independants do not sit home in primaries this year and November get out and vote in ur primaries this year and in November this year do not sit home turn out in huge number, no matter what the weather do not be bullied get and out and vote and if they try to stop u from voting, refuse to leave the polls and call the law and get attorneys and file lawsuits, do not pay attention to polls or pundits trust me the Koch brothers and republicans are trying there best to scare us to stay home vote anyway in huge, then its already decided we will turn out in massive numbers in 2016 and kick tea partys butt gop and elect Hillary for prez, if they refuse to let u you vote do not budge let them haul us to jail cuz in the end we will win and put a boot in gop and tea party baggers rea ends

  23. Nate Silver’s technique is fairly simple.

    In a Presidential Election year, there are tons of polls going on; he averages them, corrects for bias if necessary, and gets a forecast of voter turnout.

    But the problem with doing that for Senate races is he doesn’t have as many polls available to work from.

    Instead of one race and eight major polls, he’s got hundreds of races to deal with and the polls are thin on the ground.

    That REALLY widens his Margin of Error.

    He’s made a real mistake trying to predict the chaotic mess of a Midterm Election, and it’s going to hurt his reputation.

    Oh, he waffled a bit; he predicted a GOP gain of 6, but it was “plus or minus five”.

    That could be a gain of one, and the GOP fails to take the Senate.

    When that happens, Nate will say “but I TOLD you the Margin of Error was 83%, weren’t you listening?”.

    But the people that don’t get Math will never trust him again.

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