Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Positive Story from the Blogosphere

I don't have much of point to make with this post, I just think it is a really interesting story demonstrating the meritocratic impact of the internet and blogging. I'm referring to the meteoric rise of Nate Silver as a respected name in election-year journalism. Silver began as an unknown, posting on DailyKos under the name poblano. Before the voting began poblano penned diaries on a broad variety of primary-related topics. He gained a reputation on the site as a thoughtful and insightful Obama-backer. But it wasn't until late January, after several states were in the bag and super Tuesday loomed large that poblano's brilliance as a number-cruncher really emerged.

A pair of super Tuesday previews (initial diary, updated diary) drew huge amounts of attention, and deservedly so. poblano's previews included polling numbers, but greatly exceeded the depth of analysis offered anywhere in the commercial press, incorporating endorsements, fund-raising, and in-state campaign presence. While some of the delegate spreads were off, poblano correctly called the winner in every state (he considered AL, CT, and MO to be toss-ups). Super Tuesday itself provided a wealth of voting data to be mined, and poblano was soon off to the races, dissecting the results and turning them into projections for the general election. Again, the analysis found here was hands down better than anything I encountered in the commercial press.

Having gained considerable notoriety among political bloggers during January and February, in early March poblano moved off DailyKos to his own website, FiveThirtyEight. There he continued providing projections of the primaries and general election, and he also did something professional political writers never do: hold pollsters accountable. In May, poblano crushed the professional pollsters with his projections for Indiana and North Carolina, identified himself as baseball statistician Nate Silver, and finally began to garner attention outside the sphere of political blogs. Not only will Silver likely be a mainstay of election coverage for the rest of the year (and following election years), but I suspect that he has an awful lot of professional analysts reconsidering their methodologies and approaches to political projection. Oh, and, by the way, the projections for Obama at FiveThirtyEight are looking awfully nice these days.

No comments: