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Hillary Clinton, like President Obama four years ago, has spent a lot of time with a chance of winning the election that is somewhere between 60 and 80 percent in our forecast. Right now, she’s squarely in the middle of that range, with a 68 percent chance according to our polls-only model and 67 percent according to polls-plus.
I’ve found that probabilities in the 70 percent range can be especially difficult to write about, because there’s the possibility of a misinterpretation in either direction. On the one hand, in a 70-30 race, you can usually cherry-pick your way to calling the race a tossup without that much effort, even when it really isn’t. We often saw that occur in 2012, when reporters and commentators consistently characterized the election as too close to call despite a fairly steady lead for Obama in swing-state polls.
On the other hand, a 70-30 race indicates that the bulk of the evidence lines up on one side of the case — in this case, that Clinton rather than Donald Trump will probably be elected president. But people can get carried away, dismiss contradictory evidence, and take a 70 percent chance to be far more of a sure thing than it really is. This year, we’ve spent a lot more time pushing back against people who seem to think Clinton has the race in the bag than we did with Obama in 2012, even though the chances of both have been similar. For most of the election, our model has seen the race as being more uncertain than in 2012, and has therefore given a better chance to the underdog (Trump) …