It’s the Data, Dummy: Obama Re-Elected, but Nate Silver Knew That Already

Stats, not punditry, win the day

It's finally over. After nearly two full years of fringe candidates, mudslinging, punditry and speculation, Barack Obama won re-election this evening, made official by Mitt Romney's concession just before 1 a.m. ET. 

While many predicted a decision wouldn't come until morning or even days later, NBC was the first network to call the election at 11:12 p.m. Yet, for all the jockeying between networks to be first and right, nobody had a better night in the media than New York Times blogger and poll guru Nate Silver, who correctly predicted 50 out of 50 states in his electoral map this evening. Yesterday morning, at 10:10 a.m., Silver forecast that Obama had a 91 percent chance of winning and would score 313 electoral votes to Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s 225. As of 1:10 a.m. this morning, CNN projected 303 electoral votes for Obama and 206 for Romney, based on unofficial returns.

Silver took the wind out of the windbags and let the data (accurately) tell the story. 

Digital won the night almost everywhere else as well. According to Twitter, the social network reached a peak of 327,000 TPM following the network's call for Obama's re-election. It remains the highest Twitter volume for the entire 2012 election season. Setting another record, Obama's official Twitter account posted a photo of the first couple hugging with the words "four more years." As of 1:20 a.m. the tweet had well over 430,000 retweets and is the most retweeted photo ever in the site's history.

Websites everywhere had banner days as a result of the decisive evening. Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile said his real-time analytics program, which provides data for many of the biggest news sites in the world, was receiving nearly 200,000 data requests per second, perhaps foreshadowing a record night for the Web.

It's worth noting as well that the Obama campaign will most certainly tout its usage of data in the coming days and months. Armed with a large staff of programmers and number crunchers, the campaign made a priority of collecting scores of data on its probable voting body to help with microtargeting and then implemented a vast and sophisticated field organizing digital platform known as Dashboard. While the campaign ultimately boils down to a complex series of events, there's no doubting that these digital tools helped play a role in managing the campaign's enormous infrastructure.

All told, the night was exciting for both politicos and media types alike. For a media event largely billed as "the digital election," there was no letdown. Obama won, but so did data and digital.