Carl Allison Diggler is the pundit 2016 deserves. Pontificating in a weekly column at Cafe.com, a new media startup peddling offbeat political commentary, Diggler is a self-described veteran of the Beltway, a commonsense straight talker who reports on location from his gut. He is smug, out of touch and visibly insecure — in other words, a natural political commentator.
Or, at least, that’s what his media colleagues believed when “The Dig” first came on the scene. In reality, the leering middle-aged D.C. hack has since been revealed as the creation of two twentysomething Twitter rascals, Felix Biederman (@byyourlogic) and Virgil Texas (@virgiltexas).
“Diggler is not an evil man,” Biederman told International Business Times. “He is an ignorant a--hole.”
Biederman, a freelance writer and acerbic Twitter personality, and Texas, a former Onion contributor, joined Cafe.com last year as part of its stable of satirical writers. The two debuted Diggler, whose posts they co-write each week, and were delighted to learn that actual journalists believed him to be the 30-year veteran described in his fake bio. Through Diggler's Twitter account, which they both run, they suckered in MSNBC’s Abby Huntsman, Cosmopolitan’s Jill Filipovic, ex-presidential candidate Jim Webb, and one of Diggler's inspirations, National Journal's Ron "Both Sides Are to Blame" Fournier.
@carl_diggler We've all got opinions. Appreciate your respect for mine. I certainly respect yours
— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) November 11, 2015
But over the past few months, there’s been a bizarre twist in the ongoing Diggler parody: The fake commentator has been calling presidential primary results with mystifying accuracy. What originally began as a joke has produced a pundit who is amassing one of the most accurate track records in the media landscape, such as it is.
IBT set out to find out how he does it.
Digging In His Heels
First, in a possible fluke, he nailed it in Iowa, not only calling the Democrats but also predicting the exact pecking order on the GOP side (Cruz-Trump-Rubio-Carson). Then he correctly predicted that John Kasich would come in second to Donald Trump in New Hampshire, and that Marco Rubio would place second in Nevada.
— Carl Diggler (@carl_diggler) February 19, 2016
Finally, on Super Tuesday, to the amazement of both the creators and their “Dighead” followers, Diggler predicted the Democratic primary with 100 percent accuracy. While others prepared for Hillary Clinton to win in Colorado, Oklahoma and Minnesota, "The Dig" called those states for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
That's a better showing than data guru Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, RealClearPolitics, Bing Predicts, Ballotcraft and PredictWise. “12 contests. 12 predictions. 12 correct calls for Carl Diggler,” he gloated in a Cafe post on Wednesday. “Do not forget my name.”
Diggler came up a bit short on the Republican side that night, calling 9 out of the 11 contests, but with the courage of a true blowhard, went ahead with his victory lap. “People delighted when Ex-Mrs. Dig beat me in a custody fight. They praised family court. They kicked me around. But I knew then that I was right. And I was right again.”
Biederman, out of character, dished to IBT on the duo’s superior methodology, and how they bested Silver (whom Diggler refers to as “the face of dishonesty and cowardice”).
“Nate Silver, he used a math model, and that just doesn’t work, because this is an ahistorical election,” he said, pointing out the baffling performance of Trump, not to mention Sanders’ surprising success taking on Clinton from the left.
So what’s Biederman and Texas’ secret sauce? “What we go by is, like, personal hate of a candidate, the broad prejudices of their voters, anecdotal experience, and sexual pathology.”
“Dig’s gut is way better than Bloomberg or Politico because we’re not afraid to be wildly offensive,” he added.
Pundits' Worst Nightmare
Both guys are political junkies, and while their approach is unconventional (and occasionally vulgar), they appear to have a real grasp on the intangible element of politics. That’s something Nate Silver’s calculations can’t handle, Biederman said.
“[Silver] just built this computer, but this election doesn’t make any sense,” he said, noting the primal feelings that seem to be fueling the Trump phenomenon. “It’s not like 1992 or 1996 anger, which was nonspecific and vague; it’s actual palpable anger.”
He was quick to burn the other, non-data, gut-based side of the spectrum as well, made up of elite talking heads who cash six-figure checks for bum predictions. “These idiots think deep anger disappears because they’ve never been that angry about anything in their lives,” Biederman said with a laugh.
Cafe.com sent both of them to New Hampshire, but usually they’re just doing the best they can in New York. Aside from one predictive stumble in Nevada, which they called for Sanders, their instincts get results.
Take Rubio’s victory in Minnesota, which Google Trends, Ballotcraft and Predictwise erroneously called for Trump. “They’re business conservatives but they’re p---ies, so they’re not gonna go for Trump. We thought about it for two minutes.”
Or Iowa: “We called it for Cruz because this was before Trump really went on the attack and he didn’t know how to organize for a caucus, while Ted Cruz, like a psycho who’s wanted this for so long, had really planned his momentum,” Biederman explained.
In print, Diggler may be lording this over his competition, but his creators are as amazed by his continued success as anyone else. “We didn’t even seek out to do this, the predictions,” Biederman confesses.
He compared their savant status to another 2016 outsider.
“It’s like Trump himself, because you laugh at him and he’s this silly spectacle," he said. "But after a while this guy’s kicking the s--- out of everyone else."
Diggler’s seeming clairvoyance will, of course, be tested all the way to November. But when asked whether Diggler’s uncanny talent could be making the real professionals nervous, Biederman was hopeful.
“I’d like to think it does scare the pundits,” he said. “Isn’t this their greatest nightmare?”