by David John Wellman
If I ever hear someone use the words “Republican” and “responsibility” in the same sentence, I will tell them the following story.
About two weeks before the election, someone finally made me aware of the existence of UnskewedPolls.com, the website of Dean Chambers, in which he adjusted the numbers of the major pollsters according to what he believed were the correct turnout demographics for 2012. This site was incredibly popular among conservatives during election season; it had tens of thousands of likes on Facebook, and was frequently mentioned by mainstream media outlets.
Upon examining his site and his processes, I sent Dean the following email:
Subj: A Proposition re: Polls.At 11:59pm EST on November 5th, I will take screenshots of the projected EV total for Mitt Romney at FiveThirtyEight, and the projected EV total for Mitt Romney at UnSkewedPolls. (At present these numbers are 242.5 and 359, respectively.) I will invite you and any interested third party to do the same, so that everything is kept honest.
For every electoral vote by which Nate Silver’s projection deviates from Romney’s actual projected EV total following the election, I will owe you twenty dollars, For every electoral vote by which YOUR projection deviates from Romney’s actual projected EV total following the election, you will owe me twenty dollars. The loser will pay the winner the difference.
Payment will be due at noon EST on November 7th, or when at least three major news outlets (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, PBS) have projected a final electoral vote tally, whichever comes last.
Dean responded promptly. After holding forth a bit on Nate Silver’s silliness in assuming that an elector can be chopped in half, he stated the following:
As for the bet I can agree to that but have to stipulate, given how MANY different projections and analyses are on my site, that my OFFICIAL projection/prediction of the election will be the final revised version of this:http://www.unskewedpolls.com/…
The actual one that will be my final projection/prediction of the presidential race will be at this address:
That isn’t up yet but it will be. I expect Nate Silver to be off on 2-3 states where Romney will unexpectedly win. At $20.00 per electoral vote, the possible upset states could cost you some money:
New Hampshire: $80
New Mexico: $100
The very accurate projection by the two U. of Colorado professors has Obama winning Nevada but Romney winning New Mexico and Minnesota and Colorado. Nate Silver could cost you $480 for those three states.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if Nate changes his predictions at the very last minute so they almost echo mine, assuming he wants to be accurate rather than try to predict Obama winning.
In subsequent emails we established that the loser would pay the winner via PayPal, and that he looked forward to taking my money.
As you may recall if you followed Dean’s site, his final official projection was that Romney would win 275 electoral votes; a far cry from his original 359, but quite close to Nate Silver’s 242.5. Did I hear an echo? Meanwhile, Nate Silver’s projection at 11:59 on election eve was 222.7. (This changed to 225.0 on election day.)
Romney, as we all know, ended up winning 206 electoral votes. This meant that Dean owed me over a thousand dollars. I sent a PayPal link for him to pay me.
Would it surprise anyone to learn that Dean refused to pay?
He tried to pretend that he never thought the wager was for real money. He also took the position that the bet we made is illegal because of online gambling laws, the kind that prevent online casino businesses from collecting money or running wagers as a third party, but do not prohibit private, social wagers, either on the federal level or in our respective home states. I told Dean this, and he responded by linking to several websites along the line of Yahoo! Answers that addressed completely different subjects. When that failed, he simply started repeating himself.
I consulted with my lawyer and confirmed that the bet we made is indeed legal. When I told Dean this, he countered that (a) he also had a lawyer, (b) he had advised Dean that the bet is illegal, and (c) she would arrest me if I tried to collect my winnings. (You read that correctly. Evidently, Dean’s lawyer had a sex change operation in the middle of our exchange.)
After a bit more back and forth, Dean finally emailed me the following:
This will be the last e-mail you get from me. Your only recourse left is to the scream from the mountaintops to anyone that will listen, that “Dean Chambers reneged on a bet over the presidential race he lost the bet and won’t pay.” Good luck with that.