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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Predictive Theories: How Did They Grade Out?

As we all sort through various theories for what happened on November 4, and what it all means, Mark Schmitt of The American Prospect performs a public service by looking back at some of the predictive theories bruited about during the campaign season, and grading their eventual accuracy.
He gives his highest grade to the model advanced back in 2002 by TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira and The New Republic’s John Judis in their book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, which, as Schmitt notes, made “predictions [that] were close to an exact map of the Obama demographic.”
He gives somewhat lower but still positive grades to Tom Schaller’s signature efforts to predict a Democratic majority that ultimately did not depend on southern votes; the “economic determinist” models that predicted a Democratic victory based on macroeconomic indicators; and those such as Michael Lind who drew attention to the enduring resistance of Appalachian voters to Obama’s candidacy.
David Sirota’s “Race Chasm” theory, which projected into the general election Obama’s success in states with many or few African-American voters, gets a “C-minus.” A “D” is assigned to the “wine-track” theory that Obama would become just another Democratic candidate attractive to elites but repellant to working-class voters. And “Fs” go to the prophets of a vast “Bradley Effect,” and to those who thought disgruntled Hillary Clinton voters would swing the election to McCain.
Finally, Schmitt gives a big shout-out to Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, whose demographics-and-polls based analysis of the entire campaign from Iowa to November 4, was spot-on, culminating with very accurate predictions of the final popular-vote margin and the state-by-state results. Since Nate’s background is in sabermetrics (the statistics-based analysis of baseball), you’d have to say that he had the kind of year that was the equivalent of winning both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards.
In any event, Mark’s report card is good clean fun, at least for those who didn’t get assigned failing grades.

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