Monday, March 24, 2014

Nate Silver predictions and why they matter to Democrats

Posted By on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 3:10 PM

As Max noted, Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com had some gloomy predictions for Senate Democrats, including Sen. Mark Pryor, projected by Silver to have just a 30 percent shot at holding on to his seat — which was countered by some re-spinning by Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee director Guy Cecil.

Chris Cizzilla at the Washington Post reports on one reason Silver's predictions matter: Democratic funders.  

Know who REALLY listens to what Nate says? Major Democratic donors. They follow his projections extremely closely and, if he says the Senate majority won't be held, they take it as the gospel truth. That, of course, is a major problem for the DSCC and other Democrats focused on keeping control of the Senate — particularly given that major outside conservative groups led by Americans for Prosperity are already spending heavily on ads bashing vulnerable Democratic incumbents. If the major donor community concludes that spending on the Senate isn't a worthy investment, Cecil and his Democratic colleagues know that their chances of holding the majority get very, very slim. Nate's predictions move money in Democratic circles. Cecil knows that. Hence the memo.

In other words, Silver's bearishness on a candidate could become a self-fulfilling prophecy if donors decide it's a lost cause and pull out (though in Pryor's case, he has plenty of cash in hand at this point). I think this general phenomenon helps explain how much time both party's flacks and hacks spend on social media on the tedious topic of which poll to believe months before an election. 

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