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Franken wins by 225 (and our contest winners…)

January 5th, 2009, 8:52am by Sam Wang


In the Minnesota Senate race, the count’s nearly final: Franken over Coleman by 225 votes, a margin of less than 0.01%. The final count is Franken 1,212,431, Coleman 1,212,206. Court challenges are pending, but the count will be certified this afternoon. So Franken wins the statistical coin toss in a race that was, in any meaningful sense, a tie.

The winner of our contest (entries here) to guess the margin is Vicki Vance (+215 votes). Congratulations, Vicki! Your copy of Welcome To Your Brain is on its way.

First runner-up is Bob X, who made the closest data-based estimate (+250). A special nod goes to Omar, with his cosmologically-inspired guess (+137). No book for Nate this time (+27, 8th place out of 16 entries).

And now, a hard-hitting look at the newest Senator (h/t TalkingPointsMemo):

Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA) is also said to be in there. If you know which guy he is, let me know. (See comments – it’s a different Tom Davis. Imagine my disappointment!)

Tags: 2008 Election

10 Comments so far ↓

  • bugjackblue

    That’s Tom Davis in the ripped white shirt, Franken’s comedy partner from SNL and a MUCH funnier Tom Davis that that pathetically unfunny hack from VA.

  • Nicholas J. Alcock

    Dear Sam,
    I was very sceptical about your statistical ability to pick tied races. However,
    given your ability to pick the Sn Mn winner
    can you explain why you failed to do this in
    the Pres Indiana contest?

  • Vicki Vance

    That’s wonderful, Sam. See, I told you I could guess just as well as the next guy. I really look forward to the book – hope it will be signed by the famous author.

  • Lorem

    Isn’t first runner-up in fact Bob X, as abs(250-225) < abs(137-225)? Although the cosmological guess definitely wins points for being the most fun.

  • Sam Wang

    Good point, Mr./Ms. Ipsum. Post edited accordingly.

  • omar

    I am happy to have been within an order of magnitude.

    And, as it happens, I received Sam’s book for Christmas anyway!

  • Hank Gillette

    I think it is only fair to point out that Nate’s +27 guess did not include the possibility of additional absentee ballots being counted. Franken’s lead before adding in the additional absentee votes was what, +49?

    Considering the error margin he indicated with this guess, I think -22 is pretty close.

    • Sam Wang

      I believe that you are cherry-picking. Are you willing to show equal diligence in looking for reasons why he was even farther off? Motivated reasoning is a topic that I wrote about in the New York Times. The point of that article was that we inadvertently maintain false beliefs in the face of mixed or contradictory evidence, partly by discounting evidence we don’t like.

      Sorry to belabor the point, but the error bar on the estimate was so large that the fairest word for it is “guess.” Arguments that leave out a consideration of uncertainties are unsound. My understanding is that he later backed off from such showboating, which is laudable. It would be good for fans to follow suit.

  • Hank Gillette

    Since I twice called Silver’s number a guess, I’m not sure why you feel compelled to reassert that it was a guess, as though I had called it something else.

    I’d be happy to put the same effort into finding reasons why he was further off, since the only effort I put into the other remark was remembering that he made his guess well before the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that at least some of the rejected absentee ballots would be counted. Nothing comes to mind.

    I quite agree that the methods Silver used in the Presidential election were not that useful for projecting the results of the Minnesota Senate election, because there were simply too many unknowns.

    So why did you gratuitously point out the inaccuracy of Silver’s guess while neglecting to mention that your guess was 15th out of 16 entries?

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