Stacey Abrams Has As Much Chance of Winning As Florida Beating Georgia This Weekend

… and other fun statistical factoids.

Will Leitch

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During the 2016 Presidential Election, I hosted a daily podcast for my old Website Sports On Earth. This podcast featured a different guest every day, as well an intro from me that ran down the day’s sports news and made a few jokes. For the second half of 2016, part of my daily spiel was to inform listeners of that day’s Odds of Donald Trump Becoming the Leader of the Free World Update, via FiveThirtyEight. These numbers were usually low, maybe 21 percent, maybe 17 percent, never lower than 15, never really higher than, like 34. But even though these numbers were small — particularly compared to how high Hillary Clinton’s numbers, sitting right next to Trump’s, always looked — I tried to remind readers of how commonly such unlike events happened all the time. When Trump reached his high point of 34, I noted that “the odds of Donald Trump becoming the most powerful person on the planet are now the same as Tony Gwynn getting a base hit.” That seemed a good way to drive the point home … particularly when he did ultimately become the most powerful man on the planet. Line drive to left, base hit Gwynn.

The point — one that FiveThirtyEight founder and editor-in-chief Nate Silver makes constantly — is that extremely unlikely events happen all the time. Just because something unlikely happens doesn’t mean that the people putting percentages on the likelihood of it happening were wrong; it just means something unlikely happened. FiveThirtyEight had Trump with 29 percent odds of winning in 2016, which is not saying he wasn’t going to win. It was just saying there was a 29 percent chance of it. That’s the odds of Nolan Arenado getting a hit. That happens all the time: He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame for all the hits he gets.

So that’s how I still try to process FiveThirtyEight’s odds: Through sports. Sports provides a constant stream of unlikely events, but sports provides many more likely events: It’s why good teams are good and bad teams are bad. We remember when the bad team pulls off the upset, but usually, the good team wins by a ton and we don’t even notice.

So, then, here are some looks at some key races, less than two weeks out from Election…

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Will Leitch

Author of six books, including “How Lucky” and "The Time Has Come." NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin. https://williamfleitch.substack.com