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Why the world is a better place with @fivethirtyeight

Nate Silver, founder and editor of the extraordinary Fivethirtyeight blog, wields statistical insights like a Jedi Master. Today (after 6PM on New Year’s Eve, no less: Nate has no work ethic shortcomings), he published a comprehensive analysis of Sarah Palin’s chances at winning the GOP nomination for the face-off with Obama in 2012. It is well worth a read, particularly for analysis like this:

Figure that you’re a Republican candidate like Mr. Romney or Mr. Huckabee. If you run in 2012, there’s perhaps a 50 percent chance that you’ll defeat Mr. Obama and become president, provided that you win your party’s nomination. If you wait until 2016 instead, there’s a 50 percent chance that you can’t really run at all since another Republican will already have become president. The remaining 50 percent of the time, you’ll nevertheless lose sometimes to whomever the Democrats nominate; they might nominate Hillary Clinton, who would be a formidable opponent. So, perhaps there’s a 50 percent chance that the Republican nomination is open in 2016 (because a Republican hadn’t already become president in 2012); of that 50 percent, you’ll win the election 55 percent of the time (historically, a party has been at a slight disadvantage after having won two consecutive terms, as the Democrats would have in this scenario, so the Republican candidate would probably be a very modest favorite). That works out to a 27.5 percent chance to become president in 2016 (contingent on having won the nomination), worse than the 50 percent chance you’d have in 2012.

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