Chaz Nuttycombe works on an article for CNalysis about the primary races for Virginia's legislative elections in May in EspressOasis Cafe in Newman Library at Virginia Tech. Photo by Beth JoJack.
Chaz Nuttycombe works on an article for CNalysis about the primary races for Virginia's legislative elections in May in EspressOasis Cafe in Newman Library at Virginia Tech. Photo by Beth JoJack.

Chaz Nuttycombe leads a bit of a double life.  

A rising senior at Virginia Tech, the 24-year-old engages in typical college student activities: he goes to class, he studies, he works out at the gym. In his free time, he’s been known to sample the downtown Blacksburg bar scene. 

Free time for Nuttycombe isn’t particularly plentiful, however. 

On top of his studies at Tech, where he’s a political science major, Nuttycombe directs CNalysis, a nonpartisan operation he founded that forecasts state legislative elections across the United States. As far as the Hanover County native knows, he’s the only analyst in the country who specializes in these elections.

More than 21,000 politicos follow Nuttycombe on Twitter to read his analysis and forecasts. Reporters, including writers at The New York Times, regularly interview Nuttycombe for their pieces about state elections. 

“He’s filling a niche that no one else has really attempted,” says David Wasserman, a political analyst and senior editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Or, as Nutycombe puts it: “I’ve built a little nerd monopoly for myself.” 

Nicholas Goedert, an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech, has a suspicion about why no one else from the world of election modeling tackled state legislative elections before Nuttycombe hit the scene. Quite simply, he says, it’s a whole lot of work. 

 “There’s a lot less information that’s available,” Goedert says of state legislative races. “There’s very little polling in state legislative races and most of these electoral models are built around polling. So you have to build around other things — things like fundraising data and just what I call fundamentals.”

Depending on the number of states holding legislative elections in a given year, CNalysis could be forecasting more than 6,000 elections in an election season,  according to Nuttycombe. “It’s a lot of work,” he admits.  

That said, becoming an analyst doesn’t require skill at advanced math, Nuttycombe says. 

“There are all sorts of things that I look at when modeling,” he says. “What I think the general election outcome is going to be. That is based on what the expected margin of victory is. So, looking at all the election data and then also looking at the campaign finance data, and then taking into consideration qualitative factors as well.” 

Qualitative factors include things like whether or not there’s been a scandal.

“I would say it’s pretty simple,” Nuttycombe says. “You don’t have to build some very intuitive model … to do what I do. You just have to make sure you’ve got something that’s uniform when it comes to methodology.” 

Nuttycombe was 20 in March 2020 when he launched CNalysis. “A great time to start a small business,” he jokes.  

Although he volunteered for some political campaigns in high school, Nuttycombe stopped commenting on his personal politics after launching the site. He made that decision, he says, because he was “trying to create something that is useful for everyone.” 

Nuttycombe explains he feels almost indifferent to politics. “When it comes to what I want to see in government, I don’t think it’ll happen,” he says. 

To him, elections and politics are two separate things. “I don’t really care about who wins,” he says. “I care about being right.” 

CNalysis survived the pandemic. Today, the operation includes a website, a Twitter account, a Discord channel, a newsletter and a podcast. More than 250,000 unique visitors have been to the website.  

For a while fellow election nerds could even buy CNalysis merch, like a beanie cap ($20), but those sales never took off. 

A handful of folks, including an editor, a campaign finance analyst and a GIS technician, help Nuttycombe run CNalysis. 

“It’s no fixed hours or anything,” Nuttycombe explains of the workers. “It’s just them putting in whatever hours, whenever needed and then paying them based on that.” 

CNalysis does make a profit, Nuttycombe says; however, he declined to talk specifics. “It’s nothing that can feed a family,” he adds. 

The operation generates revenue by followers making donations and by staff selling ads for the site. Additionally, CNalysis sells Substack subscriptions. For $6 a month or $60 a year, subscribers get elections predictions, data sets for state legislative districts and access to a model that identifies the best races to invest in. “Ones that can flip chambers,” Nuttycombe explains.

Currently, CNalysis has more than 200 subscribers, according to Nuttycombe. 

The goal isn’t only making money. Nuttycombe wants to fill a need in society with his election work. 

“Americans don’t really know much about their state governments,” he says. “Part of it is just wanting to kind of shine a light on a very important part of American government.” 

The site certainly helps other election analysts, according to J. Miles Coleman, a political cartographer and associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the newsletter of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

He points to 2021 when Nuttycombe raised $5,000 through crowdfunding to hire a pollster to do a poll on Virginia politics and, in particular, on the gubernatorial race. 

“The reason why we did that was because nobody had called the Virginia governor race yet,” Nuttycombe says. 

The poll, conducted in June, found that about 46% of voters supported Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor, while 42% supported Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin.  

“I think that was a very important poll because you would think that McAuliffe, as a decently popular former governor, would be earning maybe more than that,” says Coleman. “If it wasn’t for Chaz doing that crowdfunded poll we wouldn’t have had that data point there.” 

Chaz Nuttycombe, director of CNalysis, works with Aidan Howard, the site's GIS Technician, in May at Nuttycombe's apartment. Photo by Beth JoJack.
Chaz Nuttycombe, director of CNalysis, works with Aidan Howard, the site’s GIS technician, in May at Nuttycombe’s apartment. Photo by Beth JoJack.

Keeping a low profile

Nuttycombe carefully guards his public image. 

Worried about being portrayed as a wunderkind, Nuttycombe balked at the idea of Cardinal News interviewing his parents. “I’m a little bit old for that,” he says. 

Wasserman agrees that it’s not terribly surprising to find a 24-year-old established in the world of election forecasting. “There’s a really thriving subculture of young election nerds on Twitter,” he says.  

When Nuttycombe meets other students, he says, he doesn’t typically mention prognosticating. 

“It’s just not something I really bring up with people,” he says. “If I’m talking to someone, and they say, ‘What do you want to do?’ I’ll tell them, ‘I predict elections,’ but that’s pretty much it.” 

For the most part, Nuttycombe thinks his professors have no idea he’s running a small business. “I usually kind of keep a low profile with just my focus on the classes,” he says.

Goedert is an exception. He started following CNalysis before Nuttycombe transferred to Virginia Tech. “I follow all election analysis websites,” he says.

Last fall, Nuttycombe took two of Goedert’s political science courses. 

“He was a very good student in my classes,” Goedert says. “But he certainly didn’t make it obvious that he was running this website or was considered a national expert on state legislative races.”

Goedert let the cat out of the bag on Election Day 2022 in a class Nuttycombe was taking.  He told the students they might want to go home and follow the races on CNalysis and mentioned Nuttycombe had founded the site.

“I don’t know if he was entirely comfortable with that,” Goedert says. 

Nuttycombe, for his part, says the in-class mention was “fine.”  

“It’s kind of cool,” he says of receiving recognition for his election work. “But yeah, there is a part of me that’s like, ‘I don’t like the spotlight that much on campus.’” 

Chaz Nutycombe, director of CNalysis, works on the site in his Blacksburg apartment in May. Photo by Beth JoJack.
Chaz Nutycombe, director of CNalysis, works on the site in his Blacksburg apartment in May. Photo by Beth JoJack.

A budding analyst

Nuttycombe’s memories of his earliest exposures to politics aren’t particularly vivid.

In 2008, Nuttycombe’s elementary school held a mock presidential election. He remembers his teacher turning on the television for them to watch President Barack Obama’s inauguration. 

He remembers following the 2012 presidential election, but it wasn’t until Nuttycombe started high school that his obsession really took off. 

He tracked the primary races for the presidential election in 2016. “I really liked following the coverage,” he says. 

In 2017, Nuttycombe volunteered to get out the vote for Tom Perriello, a Democrat running for the party’s nomination for the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election.

When Perriello lost to Ralph Northam, Nuttycombe began volunteering for Schuyler VanValkenburg, a teacher at Short Pump Middle School and a Democrat who was running for the 72nd District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

“I knew his race was going to be pretty competitive,” Nuttycombe says.  

Around that time, Nuttycombe started following election analysts. He emailed Coleman, who was then working with Decision Desk HQ, a website that collects and analyzes election data. Nuttycombe wanted to get involved with the site.  

“I start writing articles with him,” Coleman says. “It was really obvious to me that he knew a ton about the Virginia legislature races. He was tough to keep up with.” 

At the time, Coleman says, the conventional wisdom was that Democrats would pick up seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates because of anti-Trump sentiment but not enough seats to take the majority. 

“Chaz was always saying, ‘No, based on what I’m seeing, I think the Democrats have a chance to take the majority or come very close,’” Coleman recalls. 

That year, Nuttycombe predicted 96 out of 100 seats correctly in the Virginia House of Delegates races. 

The Virginia House of Delegates ultimately became a 51-49 split between Republicans and Democrats. “He was right,” Coleman says.

That race built Nuttycombe’s confidence. “I was like, OK, maybe I should go beyond Virginia,” he says.  

In 2018, he made predictions for legislative elections in 46 states and predicted about 95% of seats correctly. 

The following year, Nuttycombe launched CNalysis casually as “a place to put my maps and predictions.”

By the next spring, Nuttycombe decided to launch the site as a business. People noticed. “We got a lot of traction that year,” Nuttycombe recalls. 

Nuttycombe enjoyed doing the work. 

“That’s really the year that I thought to myself, ‘OK, I would like to do this professionally,’” he says. 

Although Nuttycombe is a fourth-generation Virginia Tech student, becoming a Hokie wasn’t his first choice. He didn’t get accepted at the University of Virginia. 

“That was basically our loss,” Coleman says. 

Now that he’s about to start his senior year at Virginia Tech, Nuttycombe has a lot of plans; many of them center around November. “I always do like to try and set a goal for myself to try and get a certain percentage of seats correct,” he says.  

In Virginia, Nuttycombe hopes to correctly forecast at least 97 of the House of Delegates seats and 38 of the state Senate seats. 

After graduation, Nuttycombe has plans to create other tools for voters. He envisions “creating something that can let people track campaign finance, bills and ideology, especially ideology.”

“CNalysis is kind of my first thing,” he says. “It’s not my forever and always.”

While it may be Nuttycombe’s starting point, VanValkenburg maintains sites like CNalysis help to protect democracy in an age when local newspapers, often owned by financial firms, continue to cut staffs. “He’s filling a gap,” VanValkenburg says of Nuttycombe. “You don’t have the kind of full time political reporters [anymore] who do the kind of data crunching that he does.” 

And Americans need to know things about their state legislative elections, Wasserman maintains. 

“They’re really critical,” he says, “for understanding not only how state politics work, but who are the next crop of up-and-coming people and what does it take if you’re a Democrat to win a Republican leaning seat. What does it take if you’re a Republican to win a Democratic leaning seat?”

Nuttycombe, Wasserman adds, has “done an extraordinary job of documenting that.”

Correction, posted 1:16 p.m.: Updated with correct tally for 2017 House elections.

Beth JoJack is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Roanoke. She can be reached at