Philip Maddocks: GOP vows to make FiveThirtyEight blog irrelevant by adding Electoral College votes
Fresh from a stinging defeat in this week’s national election, Republicans have been newly energized by a plan they say will bring an end to the FiveThiryEight, the blog that correctly forecast President Barack Obama’s re-election win.
“It’s simple, really,” explained Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer. “We add three Electoral College votes, which will bring the national total to 541, and that will nullify the predictive success of the FiveThiryEight. It’s just math and logic.”
The FiveThiryEight - the blog run by Nate Silver for the New York Times that provides forecasts of upcoming presidential, Congressional, and gubernatorial elections through the use of what he calls proprietary prediction models – has become a target of GOP discontent lately.
Though Mr. Spicer and many of the Republicans clamoring to bring down the FiveThirtyEight admit they still don’t understand the basis of Mr. Silver’s predictions, they are nevertheless convinced that if they can force the probability guru to change the blog’s name, it’s magic will disappear.
“I don’t claim to understand statistics and polling because I believe it’s all a myth, just like global warming,” said Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. “But I think if we change the number of Electoral College votes, it will help people see the FiveThirtyEight for the fraud that it is.”
“Even though Mitt Romney lost the election Tuesday, I think you have to be skeptical of anyone who tries to then argue that that loss was due to Barack Obama winning. I know I am,” Mr. Inhofe added.
A number of GOP lawmakers expressed outrage at what they described as Mr. Silver’s cavalier use of numbers to write off the wishes of their party and the sentiment of “at least 47 percent” of the voters.
“Do you want some unelected bureaucrat telling you what the country is thinking? Or would you rather put your faith in the people you elected who got here telling you what they thought you wanted to hear?” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia told a boisterous crowd gathered outside a boarded up tea party office in Kent, Ohio.
House GOP leaders said they were confident they had the Congressional support, if not the Constitutional authority, “to add a few votes” to the Electoral College in order to turn back Mr. Silver’s mathematical assault on the country.
“With tens of millions of Americans out of work and small businesses struggling to stay afloat, this is not the time to raise new questions about the way we think about and analyze national elections and our nation’s changing demographics,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “We need to get this country going in the right direction, and I think adding two or three Electoral College votes is the way to get us back on track.”
While many in the party continued publicly to accuse Mr. Silver of using “voodoo statistics” and “flawed” analysis, privately, GOP leaders admitted they are concerned at how easily one thirtysomething numbers cruncher with a blog undid their billion-dollar super PAC campaign.
“There is no place in our democracy for a statistical blog that is more powerful and pivotal than all the big-money donors combined,” said Karl Rove, a political consultant and former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
“I’m not sure, but if money is the equivalent of free speech doesn’t that make what the FiveThirtyEight is doing to the super PACs unconstitutional?” wondered one congressional aide. “I’ll have to check with [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia on that one.”
Some lawmakers also suggested that Mr. Silver and his FiveThiryEight blog, surrounded by the trappings of regression analysis and bell curves, was not in touch with the concerns and struggles of the average voter.
“Our nation’s graduating high school class of 2011 had a 32 percent proficiency rate in math and those students are outperformed by 22 other countries in the discipline, for God’s sake,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. “Mr. Silver and his FiveThirtyEight blog just don’t understand how ordinary, hardworking Americans live.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Republicans in the chamber were hopeful of reaching a grand bargain in which they might agree to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans in return for three more Electoral College votes.
“It may not be the popular thing to do, but it’s time we, as a party, start looking toward the midterms and 2016,” he said.
“There’s nothing we can do about President Obama at this point,” Mr. McConnell acknowledged, “so our goal now is to make sure that the FiveThiryEight is a one-term success.”
“We have to start making the numbers work for us,” Mr. Rove added, “And we know how to do it. It’s not magic. It’s just a matter of putting an end to the FiveThirtyEight once and for all and by whatever means.”
Philip Maddocks writes political satire and humor for GateHouse Media and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.