Resilience Part 1 (or a First Look at the 538 Model for 2024)

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538 just released its official 2024 forecast model. It shows a toss-up. (Technically, out of a thousand simulations, Biden wins 53% of the times and Trump wins 47% of the times.) This is significant, but not perhaps in the way you think.

First, while poll averages are helpful to making sense of the current state of the race, forecasts are like predicting the future. In fact, they are literally about predicting the future. And predicting the future is hard — a basic life lesson if you haven’t come across it yet. To me, the 538 modeling is the gold standard. But I see it still as half a novelty. That’s no criticism of the people who put it together, incredibly smart folks. It’s just that there are a lot of factors that can’t be reduced to formulas and data inputs and the data that can be put into the model come with their own clouds of uncertainty. To me it’s a helpful data exercise which takes a knowledgable person’s range of factors, adds a bunch more and looks at them in a systematic and consistent-over-time fashion, stripped of wishful thinking. That’s helpful. It’s just not the be all and end all.

But here’s why it’s significant.

We’ve been hearing for approaching a year that Biden is behind, losing, that Democrats need to get out of their denial about the fact that Biden is losing, that Biden needs to get out of denial that he’s losing. There’s even been a whole press conversation about when Biden’s going come clean about the fact that he’s losing. Remember the press bubble about White House “polling denial”? Then, secondary to that Biden’s-losing discourse, you have the whole fantasy football world of Biden dropping out of the race, being replaced in some Sorkinesque Thunderdome Convention. I could go on and on. That’s produced not only a lot of anxious Democrats but a significant degree of demoralization.

Demoralization isn’t a fun or a pleasant way to live life. It also has big, real-world implications. Demoralized teams lose more often than focused, positive and motivated ones. Demoralized parties waste time in pointless conversations; they fritter away energy on blame games over elections that haven’t even been decided yet. It’s simply not a good way to live in the world, let alone run a campaign.

In any case, I say all that to note that some very sharp people have poured all the polling data, historical data, economic data and probably a lot of other stuff into the mix and they’ve come up with a tie. So if you’re fretting that it’s hopeless or that something dramatic needs to happen for Biden to win, none of that is true. It’s a tight race and one or the other candidate is going to win because its team put more hustle and smarts into the contest.

If you’re inclined to get involved, you can do so with the knowledge that your involvement is critical and will matter. If you’re inclined to be a spectator, know that the MSM storyline about this race is quite likely wrong and has significantly understated Biden’s odds.

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