Contribution Link pitting man vs. machine in political forecasting game

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For the upcoming Florida election cycle, we may soon answer a question as old as both technology and humanity.

Contribution Link — the Tallahassee-based consulting firm specializing in data mining, research and campaign strategy — launches Decision Link, its new election predictive tool, with a game that puts a political twist on “man vs. machine.”

To introduce Decision Link, Contribution Link founder Brecht Heuchan will pit sixteen of the state’s most savvy political observers in competition during the upcoming statewide primary and election season.

The stakes are high: bragging rights – perhaps for the human race — and thousands of dollars to charity.

Decision Link works by calculating probabilities in Florida legislative elections, using historical political information, advanced modeling techniques and the science of Big Data.

Heuchan notes the Decision Link “machine” performs with 94% rate of accuracy. Taking a wealth of information and political circumstances that exist in the present, the model will calculate the likelihood of future outcomes.

To put the model to the test, and for some “bipartisan fun,” the real competition begins when humans are added to the mix —  with some of the most skilled, successful and colorful political players in the country.

Sixteen contestants, every one of them at the top of their game, are Pat Bainter, Chip Case, Joe Clements, Ana Cruz, David Custin, Rich Heffley, David Johnson, Jackie Lee, Anthony Pedicini, Travis Peterson, Marc Reichelderfer, Jim Rimes, Steve Schale, Ryan Tyson, Steve Vancore and Ashley Walker.

Each player will compete against Decision Link and each other, by choosing winners in the state’s 46 primary election contests (30 Republican, 16 Democrat), and 57 general election contests (52 House, 5 Senate).

Will they outperform Decision Link? The game is on.

In the case of a tie, estimates in the Florida governor’s race, the fate of Amendment 2 (seeking to legalize medical marijuana), and the turnout of the general election (to the nearest tenth) will be tiebreakers.

Adding the human factor, Heuchan believes the competition with Decision Link raises the bar on political prognostication by highlighting a number of fascinating dynamics, such as how a single player’s decision will affect the guesses of the others.

Also in play is the significance of the most human of instincts — “gut” political feelings.

“An experienced consultant’s political intuition is an irreplaceable tool of the trade, but emotion can cloud judgment,” Heuchan says. “Which of these scenarios will carry the competition?”

Each player submits a total of five ballots, two for the primary and three for the general election. Initial votes in Decision Link begin July 21. A $100 entry fee from each player will be pooled, with the overall winner donating proceedings to the charity of their choice.

Throughout the competition, players will be promoted on Contribution Link’s website and across social media platforms.

As November rolls around, and all votes are counted, Decision Link could very well prove — perhaps once and for all — who are the true masters of the political landscape.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.