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40-percent chance' of a 'stupid' Romney comment: A look at the math

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A hot mic picked up BuzzFeed Reporter McKay Coppins saying that there was a "40-percent chance" Mitt Romney would "say something stupid" at an event in Ohio today.

My Blaze colleague Becket tipped me off on the story. I told him I was pretty sure Coppins' math was off. Surely there would be a 50-percent chance Romney would "say something stupid" at any given moment because he either would or wouldn't. Coppins was low balling.

I'm not much of a numbers guy so I asked a friend of mine who does number crunching for a market research company. He said the math depends on the assumption one makes in this problem.

"If Romney says stupid things 40 percent of the time, then the probability of him saying something stupid is 40 percent," my friend said. But he went on to say for that to be the case, one has to assume Romney says something stupid in two out of every five speeches.

He said the "50-percent chance" probability also stands if you were only going to look at this one particular speech today.

After the speech, Coppins followed up on Twitter. "Looks like my snide comment, caught on livestream, was wrong," he said. "Romney got the tone just right at this event in Dayton."

In retrospect, we now know there was a 100-percent chance that Romney would not say something stupid. Because he didn't. And from now on, I recommend reporters not play these kinds of difficult probability games.

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