My friend and former colleague at OpenLeft, Chris Bowers (now with DailyKos), does his usual excellent job at putting it in perspective for us: Nate Silver currently gives Democrats a 21% chance of keeping control of the House. Pollster.com also
October 27, 2010

My friend and former colleague at OpenLeft, Chris Bowers (now with DailyKos), does his usual excellent job at putting it in perspective for us:

Nate Silver currently gives Democrats a 21% chance of keeping control of the House. Pollster.com also gives Democrats a 21% chance. Seems like a consensus to me.

With that in mind, here are three seemingly common things that are less likely than Democrats winning the House in 2010:

1. First, it’s less likely that your birthday is in either August or September (18%) than it is for Democrats to keep control of the House. However, we all know lots of people born in either August or September.

2. Second, your odds of rolling doubles in Monopoly, thus winning a second roll or getting you out of jail, are lower (17%) than the odds of Democrats winning the House. But everyone who has ever played Monopoly has rolled doubles many times.

3. Third, it’s less likely for an NFL team with the ball, and trailing by seven points at the start of the 4th quarter, to win the game (about 12%) than it is for Democrats to keep the House. Still, every football fan, player and announcer knows comebacks like that happen all the time. Two Sundays ago, it even happened twice in one day (here and here). A third, even larger comeback happened on that same day.

Yes, Democrats are behind. However, a 21% chance of victory is far from being defeated.

Giving it some thought, there are plenty more good examples:

  • If you live in the United States, the probability of your blood type being AB+, O-, A-, B-, OR AB- is less than 21%- it's only 18.4%. Yet I bet a lot of you have one of those blood types- I do myself.
  • For those of you who play pinochle like me, it turns out that with a single deck and dealing to four players, chances are only 18.6% that you'll be dealt a pinochle (jack of diamonds + queen of spades). But pinochles are fairly common in meld.
  • Being a rabid player of the board game Risk, I continually seek out ideas on strategies and chances. For those of you who play, you'll know that being on defense can sometimes be harrowing when outnumbered. For example, when playing with all 5 dice, if you're Western United States with 6 armies and Eastern United States is attacking you with 9, your statistical odds of successfully holding onto Western United States are only 13%. Yet there are still plenty of times when your armies stand tall to successfully defend.
  • Depending on what you read, only 8-15% of the population is left-handed. Yet not only is our President left-handed, I bet some of you have your left hand on the mouse right now.

The point is that for all the forecasting, retaining the House isn't hitting a triple bank shot -- it may be more common than events that regularly occur every day. This isn't spin -- it's statistics.

And a contribution to your favorite House candidate at Blue America will only increase those chances. It ain't over 'till it's over.

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