Nate Silver Was Crucial to 2012 Victory

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    Bob Fertik
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Nate Silver played a major - perhaps even decisive - role in the campaign. While pundits hyperventilated about each day's campaign trivia and zig-zagging national polls, Silver kept his eye on the prize - the Electoral College.

His models relied heavily - but not exclusively - on polling averages, so he didn't fuss over any single poll. That allowed progressive activists to ignore individual polls as well, and focus on the important strategic issues - in particular, the issues at play in the battleground states.

Of course Silver's rise came at the direct expense of the rest of the punditocracy, who bitterly resented him. Howard Fineman is dismissive:

He became a sabermetrics savant, and then went on to use his secret-sauce formulas to aggregate every poll in creation, current and historical, to grind out pretty reliable predictions.

His rise is the perfect metaphor for a society that seems only to care about winning; it doesn’t matter how or even why, but just that it is.

In contrast to Silver, pundits like Fineman were obsessed with analyzing the "how and why" of winning. But what were these pundits actually analyzing? Just the attacks and gaffes of each passing day.

Did any of the daily - even hourly - campaign maneuvers make a difference? Judging by Nate Silver's numbers, the answer is no. The moments that mattered most were the first debate, when President Obama was too passive in the face of Romney's attacks, and the second debate, when Obama finally hit back. All the other events that obsessed TV talking heads like Fineman were just noise.