As I write this I want to make something clear. This is not a partisan post stating who was the better candidate and why the election was one or lost. There was a significant piece of this election, however, that seems to have gone unnoticed.
On Tuesday night Governor Mitt Romney gave a stunned concession speech. He had stated earlier in the day that the only speech he had written was an acceptance speech. This was not bravado. He truly believed that he was going to win the election. He and Paul Ryan had worked hard and many of the people they had surrounded themselves with had assured both of them they were going to win the election.
They were highly confidence. They even had a rally in Pennsylvania because they had been told that state was teetering toward them and all it needed was a little nudge. Dick Morris said it was going to be a landslide, going toward them. Talk radio hosts were brimming with confidence, even bravado. The people around the Romney and Ryan Campaign were assuring the two candidates that they had this one in the bag.
It all was, to use an old cliche, a lot of happy talk.
The problem was that the people around the Romney and Ryan Campaign were looking at a lot of hypotheses and ideological perspectives and were seeing the results that they wanted to see. They had become so adept at this, however, they missed something. The numbers indicated otherwise.
Nate Silver is a statistician, an expert in sabermetrics which is is the specialized analysis of baseball through objective evidence, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity, and practicioner of psephology which is a branch of political science which deals with the study and scientific analysis of elections. In short, Silver deals extensively with the obscure practice of the most finite methods if probability and statistics. Silver predicted on the weekend before the election that there was better than a 90% chance that President Obama was going to win the election. Silver predicted the states that would be blue and the states that would be red, and his predictions were made well in advance of the election.
Silver blogs on the New York Times website, or is at least hosted by them. Silver was dismissed because the Times hosted his blog and the presumption was that Silver’s predictions were politically biased. They weren’t.
Silver never looked at the issues and never made any predictions based on what he felt about each candidate. In fact no one knows who he was planning on voting for or if he even voted. Silver has had nothing to say about the issues or the policies of either party or either candidate. He based everything on a deep, deep analysis of the polls.
In short, Silver made a prediction on facts. Probability is a science based on what will probably happen as opposed to what was certain. Silver was very clear on that. There are always uncertainties, last minute changes, voter turn out projections that are wrong. But these uncertainties are often not a big factor and so Silver made a prediction based entirely on the evidence placed before him.
Which brings me to Gil Grissom. Gil Grissom was the head CSI on the television show CSI. Grissom, like Silver, is a nerd. Grissom would always drive the other people crazy because he didn’t go after who he projected the criminal was, he had one mantra, ‘follow the evidence.’ Grissom was a fiend about assuring they followed the facts rather than gut instincts. The gut, he would tell people, leads people where they want to go as opposed to where the evidence will lead them. Grissom, at least in the world of television, was always right. The evidence always leads us to the right answer.
Silver is a modern day Gil Grissom. He predicted 2008 perfectly. He also predicted 2010 perfectly. His predictions on which states would be blue and which would be red were 100% accurate.
People who read Silver’s blog had a strong conviction the election was going to fall the way it did. The people around the Romney and Ryan Campaign kept assuring the candidate that Silver was a crazy liberal who was way wrong. Reality is, no one knows what Silver believes----it doesn’t matter. He follows only facts.
This led to a surprising concession speech. Mr. Romney believed, down deep, he was going to win this election and making this speech, a very, very gracious speech, was probably the most difficult thing he had ever done.
It may be a reminder to us that the Gil Grissoms and the Nate Silvers in this world, these scientific nerd types, are worth listening to as they provide us with information that is real as opposed to happy talk.
Reality is sometimes painful, but it is always real. To his credit, Mr. Romney recognized reality in the end, conceded the election, and very graciously congratulated the winner and very generously offered his prayers. It was, for him, a moment of humility and irony; a life long numbers man lost an election because of the numbers. Gil Grissom is always right. The evidence always tells us what is real.