Do The Early Polls Matter?

Nate Silver continues to argue that there "is a fairly strong relationship between the candidates’ [early] polling and the number of states and votes they won during the primary process — as well as their chances of winning the nomination." Brendan Nyhan objects:

[T]he evidence … suggests that early polls don't tell us much about who will win party nominations — they're largely the result of name recognition and the structural (dis)advantages held by candidates before they enter the race. My headline "Early primary/straw polls don't matter" may have been too strong, but I stand by my conclusion that "At this point in the election cycle, the preferences that matter are those of the activists, elected officials, donors, and party elites who take part in the so-called 'invisible primary.'" Among the subgroup of viable GOP candidates, that's where the most important action is taking place right now — and it's why I'd bet on Tim Pawlenty despite his low poll numbers.