Polling guru: Iowa has ‘as many as five plausible winners’

Will Rahn Senior Editor
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Nate Silver, the baseball stats fanatic turned New York Times polling guru, says next month’s Iowa caucuses are wide open — “with as many as five plausible winners.”

Silver, whose system assigns more credibility to the most recent polls in an effort to gauge a candidate’s momentum, has former House Speaker Newt Gingrich leading the rest of the Republican field with 25 percent of caucus-goers’ support. Gingrich is followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 20 percent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with 15 percent, Texas Governor Rick Perry with 12 percent, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann with 11 percent, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum with roughly 9 percent.

Chaos reigns in the forecasting model, however, in part because Gingrich appears to be losing some momentum according to Silver’s analysis.

“Our momentum factor is based not just on the magnitude of the trend but also how robust the polling evidence is for it,” Silver writes. “In this case, a few different polls showed a decline in Mr. Gingrich’s numbers, although they are of mixed quality; the model assigns him a penalty, but not a gigantic one.”

Silver says Gingrich’s chances of winning Iowa are now just shy of 50 percent, but he could also theoretically capture as little as 9 percent of the vote when the caucuses are held on January 3.

On the other end of the spectrum, Santorum stands just a two-percent chance of winning based on current models, but could potentially capture as much as 20 percent of the vote come next month.

The forecasting system Silver uses is complicated, but his track record in predicting elections mean his findings are nothing to sniff at: During the 2008 presidential election, he successfully predicted the winner of every state except Indiana.

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