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The main reason that Silver feels Obama is still an overwhelming favorite is that while Romney has surged in the polls to tie (or lead) Obama nationally, the challenger is still, in Silver’s opinion, a long shot to pull together enough battleground states to get to 270 electoral votes. This is the real problem with Silver’s model in the eyes of many Romney backers — the “weighting” he puts into state polls gives an edge to Obama, and the distribution of that weighting is highly subjective.
Jordan is confused about how Silver's model works. He believes that Silver is tinkering with his projection along the way, no doubt because he's “rooting for Obama.” He says Silver "gave Obama” an 85 percent chance of winning, he asks if Silver “observed” movements in the polls, he cites “Silver's opinion” and talks about what “Silver feels.” He calls Silver's weighting of state polls “subjective.”
But here's the thing: Silver isn't a pundit. He doesn't adjust his model once a campaign gets underway -- even if he sees a way to refine it -- because he believes a model should be consistent in its methodology throughout a campaign. It's the model that weights certain polls more heavily than others – based on pollsters' past track records – it's the model that weights the state polls, and it's the model that gives decreasing weight to the economic data as the election grows nearer. No model is perfect -- as Nate Silver would be the first to admit -- but his 538 model is the result of years of statistical numbers-crunching. Having created it long before this election got underway, Silver simply inputs the data from every poll published – not selecting which confirm his view of the race – and the economic data, and runs thousands of simulations per day using those numbers.
He only very occasionally makes a judgment call, and in those cases he's very transparent and his rationale is quite easy to understand. For example, he chose to exclude a poll that was released this week because it was actually conducted in September. He made note of the omission, and he's right not to add September data into the mix in late October.
He does offer analysis of what his model is telling him, but the projections are done by a computer that doesn't have a horse in this or any race. Its microchips and software are neither Democratic nor Republican. It's all based on cold, dispassionate computing of statistical probabilities.
So while desperate Republicans who have convinced themselves that Obama is universally loathed try to stave off cognitive dissonance by insisting that Romney's the clear front-runner, remember that while no model is 100 percent accurate, Silver's has one of the best track records in the game. And that means that while things could change -- and Romney certainly has a good chance of winning (according to Silver, a 32 percent chance as I'm writing) -- Obama's leading where it counts right now.