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25% ≠ 0%

Right now, our trusty little model of Massachusetts gives Martha Coakley just a 25 percent chance of prevailing tomorrow. Intrade also puts her odds at about 1 in 4. My subjective assessment might be a little better than that, but not much.

People are acting, however, as though 25 percent is the same as zero percent. And — as disappointing as it might be to be in this position — obviously it is not. This is not some basketball game where the score suddenly became Brown 75, Coakley 25; a 25 percent chance of winning means, quite literally, 25 percent.

Of the 86 elections that we made calls on the morning of November 4th, 2008, only 6 (the Senate election in Minnesota, and the Presidential elections in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina and North Dakota) featured contests in which the trailing candidate had a 25 percent or better chance of prevailing. The outcome of this election remains more uncertain than that of at least 90 percent of other elections, even if it’s less uncertain than it was 24 hours ago.

And yes: this is directed mostly toward my friends on the left. I would say the same to my friends on the right, but I don’t think that they need the reminder; the energy, focus and enthusiasm of those in the online right has been something to behold, and will be a force to be reckoned with even if their candidate should lose this race.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.