Not to throw my arm out of whack patting myself on the back, but I had a pretty good Election Night 2012.
As of today, I have correctly called all 49 of the states that have determined a winner in the presidential race. It looks like I am probably going to miss Florida, which I predicted Mitt Romney would win, but where President Barack Obama leads by about 40,000 votes with about 3 percent of the votes still to be counted, per CNN. Still, even 49 out of 50, if that’s where it ends up, puts me in very good company. Larry Sabato and his team at the University of Virginia Center for Politics—unquestionably among the best in the business—got 48 states right this year and, like me, picked Romney in Florida.
I’m not on the level of Nate Silver just yet—if Florida does go for Obama, as seems likely, he’ll be 50-for-50, and I tip my hat to him. He’s got an excellent system, far more scientific than mine, and he’s either 98 or 99 for 100 the past two presidential elections, depending on the final results in Florida. You can’t argue with those kinds of results (though many tried this year, and ended up with a plateful of crow).
I didn’t get every Senate race right—I missed Montana and North Dakota, as well as my prediction that Democrats would win either Nevada or Arizona, and my perception that Bob Kerrey had the momentum in Nebraska turned out to be badly off the mark. But in terms of the final spread, I came as close as a guy can get without actually being perfect: I said the Democrats would end up with a 54-46 majority in the Senate (counting independents Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with Democrats, and Angus King of Maine, who is presumed likely to caucus with Democrats). Because Heidi Heitkamp eked out a victory by less than 3,000 votes in North Dakota, I missed the final total of 55-45 by a single seat—as I did in 2006 and 2008.
In the House, CNN reports that there are still eight seats that are too close to call. Currently the Republicans lead 233-194. If the Democrats hang on to win the six seats in which they lead, and the Republicans hold the two seats in which they lead, that will put it at 235-200—exactly the number I predicted last week, as recorded twice on this website in advance of the election.
I admit that I approach political prognostication as more of an art than a science. For much of my adult life, I have extensively studied statistical, anecdotal and historical data about the politics of the various states and their Congressional districts, and I follow polling obsessively. I try to put my political knowledge and my powers of observation together and arrive at the right result, and despite my own political leanings, I strive to be scrupulously objective in making election predictions.
Since 2006, I’ve come extremely close in three elections out of four. I blew it in 2010 (missing the House by 10 seats and the Senate by three), but I wasn’t alone. It was an odd year. In three elections out of four, my average House prediction has missed by two seats (2, 4 and 0, if the 2012 totals hold up), and my Senate prediction by exactly one seat each cycle. (Interestingly enough, in all four elections since 2006, I overcalled the Democratic House total two times, but I undercalled the Democratic Senate total in each case.)
I take this political prediction business seriously and do my best to be a credible source. One thing is for sure: there weren’t many this year who had a better night.