By Rodger Streitmatter
Blogger Nate Silver first moved onto the national radar screen during the 2008 presidential race when he accurately predicted the winner in 49 of the 50 states. His only slip-up was with Indiana—he said John McCain would take the state, but Barack Obama won it by a single percentage point.
But Silver’s star really soared last year when just about every news organization in the country was saying the presidential election was too close to call—not!—while Silver said Obama had a 90.9 percent chance of being reelected—yes!
Indeed, the creator of FiveThirtyEight.com correctly called the winner in all 50 states, including all nine swing states.
In the wake of his success, Silver was lauded by lots and lots of media outlets. Jon Stewart had him on The Daily Show, for example, and saluted him as “Nate Silver! The lord and god of the algorithm!”
Be sure to catch more of the Daily Show on Comedy Central At: The Daily Show.com
On the downside, Silver was gay baited by conservative Dean Chambers of UnSkewedPolls.com. In dismissing the blogger’s prediction of an easy victory for Obama, Chambers pronounced him a “thin and effeminate” man “of small stature” with a “soft-sounding voice.”
Gawker then characterized Chambers’s attack as “a jock slapping a math book out of a kid’s hands and saying, ‘NICE NUMBERS, FAG.’”
Doesn't Rachel Maddow remind you of that math teacher you had who told you to use this formula to arrive at the answer but you thought you could do it your way but found out you couldn't and she stands there with a smart assed look on her face, ready to bring your mistake to the attention of the rest of the class? Aren't you glad she's on OUR side?
Because the profiles of Silver that have appeared in any number of publications—including such high-profile venues as Newsweek, Rolling Stone and the Wall Street Journal—have mentioned his sexuality, he’s emerged as, without question, the most famous gay geek in the country.
I won’t suggest this development is on the scale of Tammy Baldwin becoming the first openly lesbian senator—hello, Barbara Mikulski!—in American history, but I think it’s important that the public knows gay people come in pretty much all sizes, shapes, backgrounds, occupations and degrees of nerdiness.
Also, Silver, 35, is a person of accomplishment beyond his success as an election prognosticator.
He earned an economics degree, with honors, from the University of Chicago and then took a job as an economic consultant for KPMG, a professional services company.
While still at KPMG, he developed a system for forecasting the career prospects of professional baseball players—think the film Moneyball.
In 2003, he sold the system to Baseball Prospectus and also started writing for the statistical organization’s website.
Silver moved into the world of politics in 2007 when he began writing a diary for the progressive political blog Daily Kos.
A year later, he established his own blog, FiveThirtyEight.com, named after the 538 electoral college votes. He also started appearing on national TV shows such as CNN’s American Morning and being referred to by such descriptions—tinged with affection—as “a Supergeek” and “a pretty convincing Clark Kent pre the Superman makeover.”
“I regard myself as a rational progressive,” he told Progressive magazine. “I believe in intellectual progress–that we, as a species, are gradually becoming smarter. I believe that there are objectively right answers to many political and economic questions.
Progressive also quoted him, in its 2009 profile, as saying, “I believe that our society is now so exceptionally wealthy–even in the midst of a severe recession–that it has little excuse not to provide for some basic level of dignity for all its citizens.”
In 2010, Silver “re-launched” FiveThirtyEight.com under a NYTimes.com domain and also began writing for the print edition of the Times.
And then just last month his name appeared in the headlines when he took his blog to ESPN. With his new employer, Silver will be writing about sports as well as politics.
His book, The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t, was released by Penguin last year. The bestseller emphasizes his ability to use probability and statistics to predict election outcomes.
Silver once worked with the dating site OkCupid to calculate the best nights of the week to meet someone at a bar. Wednesdays and Thursdays came out on top, with the statistician dismissing Fridays and Saturdays as attracting such huge crowds that they’re best described as creating “clusterfucks.”
The country’s most high-profile gay nerd also attributes facts to helping him find his boyfriend, Robert Gauldin. The couple met at a club in Chicago called Berlin.
“It was mainly a gay clientele but not entirely,” he said. “They actually had good house music and good strong drinks, and it was about the right size.”
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