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Nate Silver Thinks Predictions on Biden Too Optimistic

Biden has 71% chance of winning, but that still leaves Trump with a decent shot
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2020 9:05 AM CDT

(Newser) – (This file has been corrected to reflect that 40,000 simulations were run.) Stats guru Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight.com team ran 40,000 simulations of the November election and concluded that Joe Biden has a 71% chance of defeating President Trump. This is clearly good news for Biden: "Having a 70-ish percent chance of beating an incumbent in early August before any conventions or debates is far better than the position that most challengers find themselves in," writes Silver. But he also thinks that widespread predictions of a Biden romp are misguided. He reminds readers that his site's final forecast in 2016 also had Trump with an identical 29% chance of victory. "So if you’re not taking a 29% chance as a serious possibility, I’m not sure there’s much we can say at this point, although there’s a Zoom poker game that I’d be happy to invite you to."

Silver runs down the reasons that it's too early to write off Trump, and one is the "uncertainty index" built into the models. This year, the coronavirus is a big factor in that. A vaccine or a dramatic decline in cases or deaths before November could give Trump a boost. Another issue: Silver expects the race to tighten in the coming months, and it appears that Trump would have an advantage over Biden in the Electoral College in a close race. Of course, uncertainty cuts both ways—it's possible Biden could widen his lead between now and Election Day. Silver's bottom line: Biden is in a good position with a "robust" lead, but there's too much time left to be making assertive predictions about a victory in November. (Read the full analysis.)

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