By Justin Sink
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) denounced Nate Silver’s political forecasts as “bad most of the time” in an interview with the Washington Post published Friday.
The sharp criticism from the Nevada Democrat was the latest in a push by Senate Democrats to minimize a polling analysis completed by Silver showing that Republicans were now favored to pick up at least six Senate seats and take control of the upper chamber.
But in his interview with the Post, Reid noted that Silver’s Senate model has incorrectly favored Republicans in the past.
"He gave me a 16 percent chance of being reelected, he gave Heidi Heitkamp an 8 percent chance of being reelected, he gave Jon Tester a 34 percent chance of being reelected,” Reid said. “So all polls are about like Nate Silver's predictions: good sometimes, bad most of the time."
Earlier this week, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released a comprehensive memo pushing back on Silver’s Senate predictions.
“Most Democratic candidates are out-polling, out-fundraising, and out-campaigning their Republican opponents up and down the map. We’re going to hold the majority again in November because Democrats are fighting for the middle class and Republicans are fighting for Washington special interests like the Koch Brothers, the Tea Party, and their reckless and irresponsible agenda that voters despise,” Cecil wrote.
The Democratic operative also noted that Silver’s Senate model had struggled in the past, due largely to infrequent and poor quality polling in Senate contests, relative to the presidential election.
In his original analysis, Silver urged readers to approach it “with some caution.”
“Republicans have great opportunities in a number of states, but only in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas do we rate the races as clearly leaning their way,” he said. “Republicans will also have to win at least two toss-up races, perhaps in Alaska, North Carolina or Michigan, or to convert states such as New Hampshire into that category. And they’ll have to avoid taking losses of their own in Georgia and Kentucky, where the fundamentals favor them but recent polls show extremely competitive races.”
But following the DCCC memo, Silver suggested Cecil was guilty of hypocrisy.
"Our forecasts could be wrong in November. In fact, they probably will be wrong — it’s unlikely that Republicans will win exactly six seats, Silver wrote. “But we think it’s equally likely that our forecast will be biased in either direction. If Democrats retain just one more seat, they’ll hold the Senate. Or Republican gains could grow to seven seats, or quite a bit more.
"And here’s the least surprising news: Political campaigns are hypocritical. At the same time the DSCC is criticizing our forecasts publicly, it’s sending out email pitches that cite Nate Silver’s 'shocking, scary' forecasts to compel Democrats into donating.”