Hanover 8th grader makes national news for her election predictions

Posted at 12:19 AM, Nov 21, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-21 14:15:39-05

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. (WTVR)--Noted political and sports statistician Nate Silver solidified his reputation as a near-perfect prognosticator during the recent national election, as he did during the 2008 contest.

A late-summer Washington Post contest sought to find equally clairvoyant armchair political analysts among its readers.

“We were both reading the Post and we saw that they had this contest,” said Dr. Miles McCrimmon, an English professor at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College. “And I said, ‘let’s do it!’”

He was talking to his 13-year-old daughter, Sophia, a politically active 8th grader at Chickahominy Middle School in Hanover County.

The contest sought the first 10 people to accurately predict the electoral college tally in the presidential race.

“I had just started doing a project on the Electoral College in civics,” Sophia McCrimmon recalled. “I was doing an independent study.”

She entered her prediction – 332 electors for Barack Obama - on September 14, well before the first debate.

“I figured that Obama would probably win all the states he won in 2008 except for Indiana and North Carolina,” Sophia explained.

Her father predicted Obama winning by an even wider margin.

Not only was Sophia, by far, the youngest of the 10 winners, she was also the lone female. She was also quite close with her prediction of the popular vote percentages.

“I got an email from Al Kamen of the Washington Post, I think about a week ago,” she recalled.

The well-known reporter asked her about her methodology and included her in an online Washington Post story Tuesday morning.

Like her parents, Sophia loves English. But also politics (she’s a daily Washington Post reader). And she’s thinking of becoming a reporter.

So imagine how she felt when she heard for one of the Post’s heavyweight reporters. “I was really excited,” she said.

“Fabulous, yes,” said her mother, Dr. Catherine Ingrassia, an English professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “It’s an opportunity to realize that it’s a big world out there, and your thoughts matter.”

But all you have to do is glance at all the Obama stickers in Sophia’s room and on her laptop to see her prediction was also part wishful thinking.

“Yes,’ she admitted, “I supported him, and I think he’s been a really good president.”

Back during the 2008 election, “my dad and I, we canvassed around 1,800 houses (for Obama) in the Hanover County area.”

“That was when she was all of nine years old,” her father recalled. “We’d go door to door and I’d sort of put her kind of in front of me sometimes when we weren’t quite sure what kind of door it was going to be. So I feel a little guilty about using her as a human shield there back in ’08.”

Miles McCrimmon says they’re a competitive family, and he’s smarting a bit that Sophia whipped him in the political race. And she and her younger brother have also teamed up to lead a complex family-and-friends football pool.

“It’s funny,” Sophia admitted, “we’d get help from the (family) guinea pig over there. Like, we’d hold her, in the beginning, we used to like ask her and she’d bob her head and we would take that as a prediction.”

When asked if Coco, the guinea pig, had any input on her successful election predictions, Sophia said not a bit.

And Coco nodded her head, as if approving this message.