Friday Five: Nate Silver, David Axelrod, Eric Cantor, Brad Sherman, Lois Frankel

Statistician Nate Silver of the New York Times

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Statistician Nate Silver of the New York Times “FiveThirtyEight” blog correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. (Randy Stewart via CC/Graphics by Uri Fintzy)

Nate Silver, the 34-year-old whiz who created a system in 2003 that uses statistics to accurately forecast baseball matchups, may have changed political predictions forever. In 2008, he applied his baseball model to the presidential election and accurately predicted the winner in 49 states and the District of Columbia (he got Indiana wrong.) The New York Times picked up his FiveThirtyEight blog — named for the number of electors in the Electoral College – and Silver quickly became a lightning rod for critics and a guru for admirers. But his predictions in recent weeks that President Obama had an 80-plus percent probability of winning earned him derision from both the right and left. On Election Day, however, Silver correctly predicted the victor in all 50 state contests plus DC. On Wednesday, even Silver’s detractors were doffing their hats.

David Axelrod was the mastermind of President Obama’s winning strategy: Tracking tens of thousands of voters in swing states who favored Obama but not might have been inclined to get to the polls, and then making sure through phone calls and offers of rides that they voted. Now that Obama has his second term, Axelrod is hanging up his political consulting spurs to become the inaugural director of the University of Chicago’s new Institute of Politics.

President Obama may have won reelection, but he still will have to reckon with Rep. Eric Cantor when it comes to budget negotiations and the so-called fiscal cliff. The GOP retained control of the House of Representatives, and the House majority leader remains a formidable opponent for the president. Probably to his dismay, Cantor also has retained another title: The House’s lone Republican Jew. All other Republican Jewish contenders for the House lost on Election Day.

Brad Sherman vanquishes Berman

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) didn’t have seniority. He didn’t have many congressional colleagues on his side. He didn’t have Hollywood in his corner. But that didn’t stop him from trouncing Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), a 30-year House veteran and local political legend, after an ugly campaign that pitted two Jewish Democratic incumbents against each other (thanks to redistricting). For all his friends in high places, Berman couldn’t overcome the advantage Sherman had built with years of retail politicking among western San Fernando Valley voters. Now Berman’s slot as ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is up for grabs; Sherman has said he will vie for it.

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The closest Jew-vs.-Jew congressional race in the country ended up in Florida’s 22nd district, where Democrat Lois Frankel, a former West Palm Beach mayor, beat Republican Adam Hasner by a 9-point margin. Frankel is one of four Jewish Democrats newly elected to the House. The others are Brad Schneider of Illinois, Alan Lowenthal of California and Floridian Alan Grayson. A liberal firebrand unseated in 2010 after his first congressional term, Grayson returns to the House after winning in a strongly Democratic Orlando-area district on Tuesday.

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