No comfort for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

Catch of the Day: New Senate Model, More Uncertainty

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
Read More.
a | A

The Catch goes to Nate Silver, who finally unveiled the results of his 2014 Senate projection model. He emphasized uncertainty, as I did yesterday.

An equally important theme [along with an edge for Republicans] is the high degree of uncertainty around that outcome. A large number of states remain competitive, and Democrats could easily retain the Senate. It's also possible that the landscape could shift further in Republicans' direction. Our model regards a true Republican wave as possible: It gives the party almost a 25 percent chance of finishing with 54 or more Senate seats once all the votes are counted. ...

Our forecast rates about 10 Senate races as still highly competitive, as compared with five to seven in most of the other models I've looked at ... This is the sort of year in which there are likely to be several missed calls — it would be a minor miracle if any of the models, certainly including ours, manage to go 35-for-36 or 36-for-36.

Summing up and updating from yesterday, there are now six projection models out there. Here's how they see the likelihood of a Republican majority in the Senate:

Polls plus:

Monkey Cage/Washington Post 52 percent chance for 51 or more Republican seats

Nate Silver/538: 64 percent.

New York Times "Leo": 67 percent.

Pure polls:

Daily Kos/Drew Linzer: 54 percent.

HuffPost Pollster: 43 percent.

Sam Wang: 35 percent.

As I said yesterday, Republicans appear to be underperforming the fundamentals. But the real story here is that Republicans retain a small advantage, though many outcomes remain possible.

These are all high-quality systems with either a long history of success, or highly qualified maestros, or both. But they aren't wizards, and we shouldn't be playing the good wizard/ bad wizard game (that is, if one of the systems gets a couple more pure coin-toss states correct, it doesn't actually mean that they were "right" and the others "wrong" -- both forecasts could have been sound, with a result well within the expected error). Instead, I would urge people writing up the results to emphasize the uncertainty of the forecasts, including using words such as "edge" and "tilt" rather than "lead" or other stronger descriptors, especially in headlines, at the top of their stories, and in their graphical presentation of statistical results. And to explain just what it means to them that a party has a 52 percent, or 57 percent, or 67 percent chance of a Senate majority.

All of which I think Silver did quite well in this rollout, at least pending an explanation of the details. So: Nice catch!

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at