In the 2008 election season's closing weeks, throngs of wonks and laypeople alike were glued to FiveThirtyEight.com, a habitforming political blog. Red and blue bar charts crowded the scrollbars as the pulse of exit polls crept along the site's latest projections. It seemed almost miraculous: In a year of acute turns of favor, the site's owner and mouthpiece, Nate Silver (who blogged anonymously as "Poblano" until outing himself on May 30, 2008, as a baseball numberhead), managed to predict the winners of every U.S. Senate contest -- and the general Presidential election.
Besides being just-damn-fascinating, Silver's analysis is a decidedly contrarian gauntlet thrown before an unrepentant, spectacle-driven media. The up-and-coming pundit, who cut his teeth forecasting the performance of Major League Baseball players, has a fairly direct explanation of why most projections fail: "Polls are cherry-picked based on their brand name or shock value rather than their track record of accuracy."
Silver's considerable smarts are already helping local campaigns build constituencies and strategize. He is the author of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - but Some Don't.