Why Nate Silver Is Still Wrong

Geoff Blades Author, The Trump Presidential Playbook
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Celebrated commentator and highly regarded prognosticator, Nate Silver, still doesn’t get it.

In September 2015, in an article titled, “Six Stages of Doom,” Silver suggested that Trump’s campaign “is nothing all that unusual” and estimated Donald’s chances of becoming the GOP nominee at 5 percent. 

In November 2015, in a letter to the media urging them to “Stop freaking out about Donald Trump,” he suggested that pundits’ giving Trump a 20 percent chance of winning the primary was “substantially too high.”

Yet this past weekend, Silver admitted — with 100 percent certainty — that Trump will be the Republican nominee. And that he has a 25 percent chance of beating Hillary Clinton in the general election.

After “gazing deep into his navel,” Mr. Silver claims to have discovered the answers in an article last week titled “Why Republican voters decided on Trump.” Citing his own tweet, he summarizes the three most important reasons that “things have gone wrong”:

  1. Voters are more tribal than I thought. 
  2. GOP is weaker than I thought. 
  3. Media is worse than I thought.

Yet, while delving into a thoughtful and convincing-sounding narrative, like many observers, he still has it wrong. 

Completely wrong. 

Looking to understand the Trump phenomenon by looking at where the spotlight still shines completely misses how this man came to be here. In looking for answers in the media, the GOP, and the electorate, Mr. Silver is still missing the source of Trump’s victory.

Trump mastered the game of winning.

It is of course true that Donald has proven voters to be “tribal,” but just like Barack Obama did in 2008, wasn’t Donald the one who built the tribe? 

And yes, it might also be true that the Republican Party is “weaker” than Mr. Silver imagined, but isn’t it Donald’s strength that has proven it? 

And, it may also be true in Mr. Silver’s mind that the media is “worse” than he thought, but what is his definition of “worse?” If he means that, when presented with a candidate that will massively drive ratings that they will cover him, he might be correct, but isn’t it the case that, unlike the rest of Trump’s rivals, Donald has consistently given the media something worth covering? 

“To me, the most surprising part of Trump’s nomination — which is to say, the part I think I got wrongest — is that Trump won the nomination despite having all types of deviations from conservative orthodoxy. He seemed wobbly on all parts of Reagan’s three-legged stool.

Might it be that, quite simply, Trump’s success has little to do with “conservative orthodoxy,” and more to do with Trump’s exceptional approach to winning? That is how Trump actually won this campaign. Searching for the source of Trump’s victory by looking back to the days before mobile phones and the Internet is futile.

The reason Trump garnered more votes during primary season than any other Republican in United States history is because his goal was to win, not pander or politick. Responding to Texas Senator John Cornyn’s attempts to advise him on illegal immigration, Trump said, “It’s just what I need, just what I need is more advice. The 17 people I beat are still giving me advice.”

Trump would never play by the rules defined by Nate Silver, polling models, and the establishment. His mastery of sound bites, people, and deal making allow Trump to reach and excite Americans in droves, inspiring fiery passion on both sides of the aisle in a way far remote from Mitt Romney’s wildest fantasies.

Trump collected more than twice as many delegates than Ted Cruz prior to his withdrawal. He trumped John Kasich’s delegate count by almost tenfold. He humiliated Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in their home state of Florida.

Trump won because, as he told Maureen Dowd, he had good ideas, bonded with the people, and his people were loyal.  He clearly was a stronger and better communicator and fighter for the his voters.

A man who has never held office beat out 17 other candidates because he masterful at winning. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton, the figurehead of the American political elite, is still struggling to fend off the first socialist to ever seek the Oval Office.

The Republican elite failed to see how Obama cleaned their clock, twice, and took over the Democrat Party from Hillary.  And they still fail to see how this outsider with little political experience, surrounded by a wave of controversy, has thrashed them at their own game. 

Ted Cruz tried to win the policy game. Marco Rubio tried to win the elite game. Jeb Bush tried to win the donor game.

But Donald Trump won the whole game.

Now on the November.

Geoff Blades is a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs and investor at the Carlyle Group. He is an advisor to CEOs and other leaders on all topics related to winning and getting what they want.