Tavis Rendell – US Election Betting

In our latest interview in our Pro Punter series, we are speaking with political betting expert and US Election trader Tavis Rendell.

Every fortnight a new instalment of Rendell’s US Election analysis will be published, talking over all of the main topics from the previous two weeks and where the value lies in the current US election betting markets.

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The US Presidential race had recently entered a mid-summer lull, but the Biden campaign rocked the betting markets Tuesday with an announcement their campaign will soon select a Vice Presidential nominee.

Joe Biden did not name a specific date for an announcement, stating only “I’m going to have a choice in the first week in August”. Several days later, sources reported the announcement would take place the week of August 10th prior to the Democratic National Convention. While still vague, it certainly narrows things down and is arguably the most vital piece of news for political bettors since Biden clinched the nomination. For political bettors, knowing when an announcement is going to be made can be just as important, if not more so, than the content of the announcement itself.

In all likelihood, we are days away from the announcement of Joe Biden’s running mate. And in a year when both parties will be holding dramatically downsized conventions during the pandemic, this announcement will likely be the most important event in the campaign until the presidential debates this fall.

Biden’s choice could have major ramifications on the overall Presidential and Individual State betting markets. Veteran political bettors will anticipate those likely market moves based on the political and geographic strengths and weaknesses of each prospective VP candidate, and invest accordingly.

As we review the final contenders, it’s important to note there are actually very few. Politically speaking, the Biden campaign is boxed in for two reasons. First, Biden pledged to select a female as his running mate earlier this year. Second, upon bowing out of the race, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, widely considered a VP favourite herself, stated she believed Biden should select a woman of color. While Biden has not specifically pledged to choose a woman of color, Klobuchar’s statement adds political pressure on him to do so.

With that in mind, let’s take a final look at one of the most exciting political markets until the election:

The Favourites

Kamala Harris

Harris has been the deserved favourite wire-to-wire. That said, her price is inflated as a result of US political website Politico posting a July 28th article on declaring Harris as the choice. The article was quickly removed. Not surprisingly, this did not prevent the ensuing avalanche of speculation in political media.

Did Politico really have the story? It’s possible. It’s also possible they had a draft “in the can”, ready for publication the moment Harris was (or is) announced. That said, the article contained a direct quote attributed to Biden, lending more mystery (and possible credibility) to the story. It could also have been a piece of disinformation leaked by the Biden campaign to throw the media off the trail, as prior campaigns have done this before during VP searches.

Harris has rocketed to the status of heavy favourite for other reasons as well. She would be a typical “do no harm” choice and would not significantly aggravate large portions of the Democratic base.

Biden is an old-school politician, reliant on personal relationships and chemistry above all. If that dynamic between the two of them is strong enough, she’s the choice.

Susan Rice

After months of speculation and credible press appearances, Rice has risen in stature and credibility to the position of runner-up. Her strengths and weaknesses are clear.

Biden has known Rice for years and established a strong, trustworthy relationship with her in the White House when she served as President Obama’s National Security Adviser. He would highly value her loyalty as a confidant and powerful governing partner. On personal chemistry, she would likely be his first choice.

Her political negatives are clear, however. Rice has never run for public office. While this could prove helpful in that she may never seek the presidency herself and overshadow a Biden first term, it also makes her a riskier choice to throw into the fray of what is likely to be a volatile, highly negative campaign. Selecting Rice would also feed into the frenzy of right-wing media on the subject of Benghazi, and divert attention from Biden’s core messaging on the pandemic and economy.

It’s understandable why Biden might opt for comfort with this choice, but as he holds such a sizeable polling lead, Rice’s negatives appear to outweigh her positives.

In the Running

Elizabeth Warren

The lone non-woman of color on the list, Warren remains in the running. Biden is said to be privately very impressed with Warren’s deep knowledge of fiscal policy and her political acumen, viewing her as highly capable of stepping into the Presidency on day one.

Her selection would undoubtedly invigorate the liberal base of the Democratic party. One other item of note: It’s not all about race. Warren could also, perhaps surprisingly, boost African American turnout for the ticket. She has polled very well among this demographic, even more so than other African American candidates.

On the downside, Warren is viewed as liberal enough that she could add even more polarization to an already polarized campaign, and endanger Biden’s strength among suburban moderates who will decide this election. There is also the issue of her Senate seat in Massachusetts. If elevated to the Vice Presidency, Democrats would have to defend this seat in a special election which could prove to be a needless (and costly) seat to defend in the early months of a Biden presidency, especially if control of the Senate hinged on the outcome.

Val Demings

A probable future Democratic star, Demings’ price reached runner-up at the peak of the Black Lives Matter and law enforcement reform protests in the US. It has fallen the past month through no fault of her own. Law enforcement reform will still play a role in shaping the dynamics of the election but given the continuing pandemic in the US, it may not be as prominent an issue come November.

There is also the issue of Demings’ background as a former Chief of Police. With continuing debate over police brutality, it’s unlikely Biden would opt for someone with such a heavy background in law enforcement that could strike some portions of the Democratic base as tone-deaf. Her political future remains bright, but it’s likely a case of bad fortune and poor timing for Demings. This probably isn’t her year.

Tammy Duckworth

Duckworth is the most likely choice of those “in the running”, and offers the fewest negatives.  A two-term senator from Illinois and double amputee who served as a Lieutenant Colonel in Iraq, she has an inspiring life story. Politically speaking, she possesses a near untouchable resume and would be the most difficult choice for the Trump campaign to attack, by some margin.

Duckworth enjoyed a rise in the markets several weeks ago, but has fallen considerably for no identifiable reason or apparent bad news, making her a real value bet here. Like Harris, this will all come down to personal chemistry for Biden. She would be the ultimate do no harm choice with no discernable weaknesses.

The Long Shots

Karen Bass

A veteran congresswoman from Los Angeles with little national name ID, Bass had a near inexplicable rise in the betting markets over the past two weeks. This was perhaps due to a recent string of press appearances where she performed well and, notably, declared she would not run for President in 2024.

Like Susan Rice, the notion that a campaign to become his successor would not immediately kick off on Inauguration Day could be appealing to Biden. The problem here is Bass, despite being a very well-respected legislator and a safe pick, ultimately brings nothing extra to the table that is not surpassed by any of the aforementioned candidates.

Michele Lujan Grisham

An Hispanic governor of New Mexico, Grisham is the most plausible and most intriguing of all long shots in the market.

There’s been a clear drop in her price over recent weeks, and that’s simply down to a lack of buzz in the press. But even as a long shot, it’s easy to develop a rationale for selecting her. Biden struggled somewhat with Hispanic support throughout the primary, and has not yet consolidated this voting bloc. Grisham could offer help there and as the lone governor on this list, presents a credible choice with executive experience to step into the presidency if needed.

The Pick

The Biden campaign is on offense in traditionally Republican states and has been operating smoothly throughout the summer. With a double-digit lead in national polls and a consistent lead in swing states, there’s no need to make a choice that could rock the boat.

For these reasons, Duckworth deserves to be priced among the top three contenders. She offers a clear choice for Biden consistent with his polling lead and existing dynamics of the campaign and is the safest pick for him of all contenders. A price like this is a clearly underpriced play offering maximum value for your investment.


BACK (WIN) – Tammy Duckworth

The 2020 US Election will be the biggest betting market in history. Back and Lay Trump and Biden on Betfair.

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