US Election: Ranking the Democrat Candidates

A US Election is a marathon like no other. Prior to the main event in November and all the related state, margin and electoral college markets, there are fifty primaries covering each state to resolve the Democrat Candidates. Primary season starts in a fortnight at the Iowa Caucus.

Since the Democrat race begun last summer, many candidates have come and gone. For the record, my book is currently red. I made some money from Beto Rourke’s early rise, but timed trades on Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg badly. An earlier lay of Bernie Sanders has since been reversed for a small loss. The less said about my opening 259/1 punt on Michael Avenatti, the better.

No matter – it is early days. Here’s my analysis of the top-seven candidates.

Joe Biden

Underestimating Biden was a mistake. I doubted he’d run, let alone compete against a younger, more diverse crowd. Yet he leads by an average of 8% nationally.

Nevertheless, my fundamental doubts persist. That he is a very ordinary campaigner, who won’t generate enough enthusiasm among activists. When pressed, he will struggle to defend unpopular positions of yesteryear, shorn of their historic context.

So why hasn’t it? The lack of a clear, strong alternative. The fear among moderates of Sanders/Warren and their progressive agendas. Perhaps simply name recognition and familiarity. Doubtless aided by association with Obama, the former Vice President is dominant among black voters – a big chunk of the Democrat electorate.

That has powered Biden to an average 17% lead in South Carolina – fourth on the schedule. What happens before, in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, will have a profound effect. If winning one or more, he’ll be in a very strong position. However, defeat in both IA and NH has historically been very hard to come back from.

One potential positive – there is bound to be a big rise in turnout compared to 2016, driven to a large extent by moderates determined to stop Trump. Biden consistently polls best in this regard.

Bernie Sanders

Despite suffering a heart attack last year, the 78-year-old has momentum and is trading as favourite for both Iowa and New Hampshire. The latest Des Moines Register poll (the IA gold standard) recorded Sanders ahead. In 2016, he trounced Hillary Clinton in NH, which neighbours his own state of Vermont.

The Sanders campaign has formidable energy on both the ground and social media. He has endorsements from influential leftists such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. That positioning, however, generates opposition. It will be very hard to see Sanders getting the required 51% of party delegates in the first round of voting, so he will eventually need an alliance with Warren.

Elizabeth Warren

Warren was hot favourite only a couple of months ago, as she eclipsed Sanders among progressives. She’s since been hurt by her stance on eliminating private healthcare and the affordability of her programme. However, she is far from finished – the NYT today endorsed either Warren or Amy Klobuchar.

The recent row with Sanders regarding the electability of a woman candidate may help her cause. This electorate is bound to see a vast rise in women voters, in keeping with trends during the Trump era.

Warren is also an excellent campaigner with a strong ground game. She’ll stay competitive and could yet emerge as the unity candidate – much more acceptable to the Democrat establishment than the outsider Sanders.

Watch out for her contribution to Trump’s Senate trial too. She has been forthright in calling him out his corruption from the start and was the first candidate to call for impeachment.

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete made impressive early progress in IA and NH but is yet to break out nationally. Strong performances there could transform his profile and he’s a good communicator.

Relatively moderate, he would be well-placed to capitalise if Biden falls back and is precisely the type that defecting, moderate Republicans could support. However, his lack of resume and apparent problems with black voters are a severe handicap.

Michael Bloomberg

Considering he hasn’t even made a debate stage, Bloomberg is incredibly short in the betting. His route to victory involves effectively skipping the very early races to focus on an advertising blitz in Super Tuesday states. He is making some headway in polls and is probably more electable against Trump than the rest.

Bloomberg is evidently determined to play a big role – promising to donate $1BN to defeat Trump, whoever is the candidate. While Democrats will appreciate the help, it remains hard to see a party of the Left picking an ex-Republican billionaire.

Andrew Yang

Yang appears no more than a fringe candidate. A social media phenomenon with no suggestion of cutting through in the real world. Unlikely to stay in, or at least relevant, for long and inexplicably short in the betting.

Amy Klobuchar

Finally the outsider with a chance, albeit with a slim one. Klobuchar is creeping up the polls in IA and NH and just received a joint-endorsement from the NYT.

In her case, that really matters in terms of boosting her profile. A Mid-West moderate known for pragmatism and working across the aisle, she needs Biden to slip in order to win his lane.

I reckon she would fare best in a general election and be Trump’s nightmare opponent. It is awfully late for Democrat primary goers to draw the same conclusion, though.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Elizabeth Warren for Next President at $27

 LAY – Michael Bloomberg for Democrat Nominee at $9.20

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