I thought this might be a fun little distraction from the normal give and take on poll results and political shenanigans this site usually deals with. All of us on SSP are political junkies by definition, and I decided it might be a fun exercise to list my favorite sites for Horse Race analysis.
A couple of points: When I say Horse Race, I am not taking into account policy analysis, or anything else that is not related to elections and campaigns. I care only about how well the site in question covers the day-in and day-out of candidates, poll numbers and campaigns in general. I don’t care about bias, as long as that bias doesn’t interfere to much with the actual analysis. So, keep this in mind when you look at my top 10. I base this ranking on three criteria, which I call HRR or HR squared, if you prefer:
Honesty If the site has a bias, is it still up front with its partisans when a polling result is bad? Does it try to hide or downplay situations which might hurt the candidates the hardcore readers of the site would tend to support?
Reliability Is the site reliable in terms of what it tells you? Or, through carelessness or bias, does it not give you the whole picture when it comes to a specific election?
Realism Is the site realistic in terms of what a specific polling or election result means or will mean, or when they look at the state of the race in general? Or does it try to spin the result to comfort readers of the site?
Obviously, my number one site would be Swing State, but since I’m writing this diary on the site it seemed prudent to leave it out of consideration. But I truly think it’s the best, and it’s the only one I post on.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the rankings:
The 10 Best Horse Race Sites:
1). Five-Thirty Eight (Nate Silver). Nate has been a game changer since he started his own blog a couple of years ago. Consistently the best analysis on the web, backed by the zeal of a true statistician. His fellow commentators are pretty good as well, although I occasionally have qualms about Tom Schaller (who I think sometime phones it in). But Silver himself is the real attraction here, and in a class by himself.
2). Post Politics (Chris Cillizza) The Post has some halfway decent commentators in Dan Balz and (with some major qualifications) Dana Milbank, but Cillizza is the real attraction here. He’s not always right, but he’s always interesting to read, and more than often right on target in his analysis. Bonus points for fun things like his Friday rankings, which make his commentary go down smoothly. Minus points for his commentators, which used to be very amusing in how off-topic they could get, although things are a bit better lately.
3). Real Clear Politics A right-of-center compilation blog that usually has something for everybody, and some good original commentary (if occasionally too Rassmussen believing) from Jay Cost and the Real Clear Politics Blog. Probably the most comprehensive site for politics on the web. Bonus points for their daily Best Of the Blogs, which guides you to a lot of stuff you might not otherwise look at.
4). Politico (esp. Ben Smith and Josh Kraushaar) Let the hate posts begin. About a month ago I read someone on SSP post that Politico posts nothing but right wing talking points. Interesting, because just a couple of weeks before, I had read on a conservative blog how Politico was nothing but a left wing hack job. Here’s the truth: Politico is biased toward gossip and conflict and gets lead astray by its sources on both sides of the aisle. But it’s second only to Real Clear Politics in terms of the breadth of its political information, Ben Smith is a terrific commentator, Josh Kraushaar’s 2010 area gives you almost all the information you need on the races that matter this year, and Mike Allen is the first thing the White House reads every day. “Nuff said.
5). The Rothenberg Political Report Rothenberg is probably the best individual political commentator on the web, and although he can be wrong, he’s always pretty insightful. Demerits for most of his stuff being subscriber only, but what he actually posts on his blog for the public is worth reading.
6). National Journal/Charlie Cook Most of National Journal’s best work is subscriber only, as is true of their occasional contributor Charlie Cook. Cook has also been a tad too pessimistic about the Democrats for my tastes this cycle, although that may be changing with PA-12. But Cook’s weekly column is usually worth a read, if only to give you the state of Beltway wisdom in its purest form, and National Journal occasionally lets good things out from behind its firewall for the public to see.
7). Daily Kos (Kos/Steve Singiser) I know, this blog is descended from Kos, so of course it’s going to be on here. But here’s the scoop: while Kos pugnacious progressivism leads him to make some very wrong predictions (e.g. his guarantee that John Corzine was going to win the New Jersey’s governor race), when he’s on, he’s very on and very prescient. He was one of the first to predict Charlie Crist would never get the nomination for Senate on the Republican side, back in the days when the likes of Cillizza were predicting Crist’s money advantage would prevail. Steve Singiser, Kos’ other main political guy, writes well about specific races, but his real strength is his take on the weekly state of the nation poll, which is both spin-free and always worth reading.
8). National Review/Jim Geraghty – The Campaign Spot Geraghty certainly prints his share of right wing talking points (and is the source for some of them) and like Real Clear Politics has a tendency to believe every Rassmussen polll, but if you can look past that he is often very insightful and unpredictable: he doesn’t neccesarily tell his readers what they want to hear. He also is very well connected among Republican professional political types, giving their sometimes brutally honest perspectives on the races. And if you want to see what the worst nightmare could look like for this fall, don’t forget to check out his analysis of 90 Dem held seats and how the Republicans could theoretically win them.
9). Pollster.com The most comprehensive site for polling information. Mark Blumenthal and team rival Nate Silver in their ability to go deep in analysing what the polls actually mean.
10). CQ Politics/Taegan Goddard CQ Politics is a comprehensive, if uninspired site for political news and opinion. The true reason to go there is Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire, a listing of the political happenings of the day with pithy, often snarky and always readable thoughts on what it might all mean.
And the 5 sites you can avoid
Washington Examiner (Michael Barone) This pains me to say it, because Barone is one of the most storied political guys around: the man behind the seminal Almanac of American Politics. Too bad his commentary these days seems to be picked up mostly from RNC talking points when its not just repeating the same thing you can find in half a dozen other places.
Huffington Post The most popular political site, Huff Po has apparently made a decision not to invest much in election coverage, probably because no celebrity wants to write about it.
Red State Okay, so I’m a hypocrite – of course I go to Red State, for two reasons. First to find out who the tea party is backing these days, and secondly to take in Erik Erickson’s unintentionally hilarious writings and rantings. My recent favorite: when he announced that Carly Fiorna had to get out of the race for Cal Senate in favor of wingnut Chuck DeVore, despite reprinting a poll in the same column in which Fiorna was winning and DeVore was a far away third. Priceless. The rest of the commentary on Red State is a toxic stew of angry prose and right wing propaganda and not worth anyone’s time.
Talking Points MemoTPM is one of my favorite sites to go to for Josh Marshall’s always excellent take on the day’s news and the great reporting on various political (mostly Republican) scandals. That said, I find the horse race writing (contained mostly in the TPMDC part of the site) pretty uninspired. I think Josh and his team need to kick it up a notch.
The Atlantic/Marc Ambinder Ambinder is one of the most respected members of the political commentariat. So why does his writing leave me “meh”? Too much of the “on the one hand, on the other,” type of prose. Of the rest of the team, Chris Goode is, well, good, and Josh Green is a rising star but its not a must-read the way it should be, and does not measure up to the great Atlantic bloggers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates.