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FiveThirtyEight's time in the sun


I was going to include Nate Silver's name in the headline for this post, but he's better known by his Web site,, which -- with good reason -- has become a sensation this campaign season.

Here (h/t Romenesko) is part of the backstory:

Political commentary on the Internet is nothing new these days. So how did Nate Silver go from blogging under the guise of a chili pepper to hosting Election Night coverage with Dan Rather in a matter of months? By focusing on one number: 538.

While a number of sites and other media outlets offer aggregated polling information that can give a snapshot of the state of the presidential race, Silver's site takes things up a notch. after the number of votes in the electoral college--uses a predictive algorithm to determine the most likely electoral outcome based on polling data and other variables, such as pollster reliability and demographics.

Silver's methods are based on Pecota (short for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm), an algorithm he wrote to predict the performance of baseball teams. As an analyst at the sports media company Baseball Prospectus, he made a name for himself as a numbers guy with startlingly accurate results.

(Credit: FiveThirtyEight)

FiveThirtyEight is simple in design but crammed with numbers, graphs, and maps that deconstruct the data. The site also features a blog where Silver and writer Sean Quinn offer insightful commentary on campaign events.

Even though Silver launched the site as recently as March, its straightforward approach, daring predictions, and short but impressive track record has put it on the map of political sites to follow. The Washington Post featured Silver in its 14th annual election prediction contest this year, and he'll be reporting on Tuesday night's results with Dan Rather on HDNet.

As of Monday morning, Silver's projections had Democrat Barack Obama winning the presidency, with about 340 votes, and gave Republican John McCain less than a 4 percent chance of becoming president. Silver is open on the site about his support for Obama, but he claims that it shouldn't interfere with his methodology.

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