USA Election Betting: Is Warren Another Bad Favourite?

Irrespective of the unfolding impeachment drama surrounding President Trump, the other side of the 2020 Election equation is becoming clearer. Elizabeth Warren’s march towards the Democrat Nomination is gathering steam, with the Massachusetts Senator now odds-on at $1.90. Is she a certainty?

Paul Krishnamurty, aka The Political Gambler, seeks to answer this question.

The history of the favourites

First to clarify my position. I backed Warren at $13.00 for the presidency in June – that market is preferred to the nomination given that Trump trails all the leading Democrats badly, as are Republicans on the generic ballot. I’ve no plan to lay back.

Nevertheless, it would remiss to not explain how betting at short odds-on, early in what is always a marathon process, has a very poor track record. Consider the last three election cycles.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton was odds-on at this stage before losing to Barack Obama. Republican nominee John McCain was around 20/1, well behind front-runners Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. Neither made any impact once the primaries started for real in February.

There was only one primary in 2012, involving several different favourites before Mitt Romney prevailed among Republicans. Sarah Palin and Herman Cain didn’t even make the opening ballot and Rick Perry imploded during an early debate.

In fairness, the only one of those previous favourites whose credentials were meaningfully comparable to Warren today was Clinton. In Obama, she lost to an extraordinarily talented politician and against Bernie Sanders last time, the former First Lady was never headed in the Democrat primary betting.

Early shopping

The fundamental reason these races are so open to fluctuation is lack of early engagement. Whilst we politicos are searching for the next election candidates immediately after the last one ends, most voters only start to truly engage in the month leading up to the Iowa Caucus, then rapidly so once the results emerge.

As with everything else during the Trump era, though, normal rules may not apply. Engagement has risen sharply on various measures, especially among the President’s opponents. The sort of voters who will turn out in primaries have, in large part, been thinking about who to put up against Trump since 2016.

In terms of any early benefit from name recognition, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders started in a much stronger place. Depending which poll you read, they still are. Biden led Warren in only two of the last six polls but by double-digits both times. Bernie remains solidly in the high-teens, despite suffering a heart attack.

Where does Warren Sit?

The trend certainly favours Warren and it seems the more people engage, the better she fares.

Her campaign has been by far the most impressive – from showcasing a range of detailed policies, beating her rivals out of the blocks in calling for impeachment and positioning herself as the anti-corruption candidate. She knows how to campaign as this clever ad on Facebook – exposing how the platform allows fake ads – demonstrates.

Crowds at her events are becoming bigger and more enthusiastic. This exchange from last week’s Town Hall event quickly went viral – exactly what the socially liberal Democrat base wants to hear and effectively delivered.

If there’s a weakness, it is that Warren is more left-wing than the wider electorate, especially potential swing voters that voted for Trump. Costing her Medicare for All healthcare policy, for example, could be problematic in a general election, under fire from Republicans. That could be exposed as the field winnows – Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris will all highlight it as they try and establish themselves a more electable, mainstream choice.

How to bet around Elizabeth Warren

The best way to bet on a US election is to follow it stage by stage, pre-empting the trajectory of candidates. Warren is building a very strong ground game in Iowa – a critical asset for the caucus which always kickstarts the primaries. She’s merely $1.40 to win there and $1.50 for the New Hampshire Primary a week later. Very short odds but hard to argue against on the current information.

The race will then develop very quickly. All recent history says the nominee must win one of these two states, so if she wins both, Warren will likely be shorter than $1.30. The field will immediately whittle down to a realistic handful at most. Perhaps a head-to-head, with Biden the obvious alternative. There is no evidence that the unproven allegations from Ukraine at the core of the impeachment enquiry have damaged the former Vice President.

If you’re looking to oppose Warren, this would be the time because there are much tougher races ahead. She is still well behind Biden in South Carolina and among black voters, who will make up a vast segment of primary votes, particularly in the Southern states. If Biden or anyone else starts to surge ahead in delegate-rich California – elevated forward in the schedule to Super Tuesday on March 3rd – they could swiftly erase any early Warren lead.

Finally a word about the other big recent market mover. At $16.50, Hillary Clinton’s odds represent atrocious value and a good lay. US elections are always full of mad speculation which invariably feeds into the betting. News sites will run any old nonsense about Clinton because it drives clicks. She won’t run and, even if she did, Democrats are not about to repeat their mistake.

Betting Strategy

 LAY – Hillary Clinton – Presidential Election 2020 Democratic Nominee

About the author

Paul Krishnamurty, aka The Political Gambler, has been betting on elections for over a decade. A politics graduate from the University of Hull, he also works as the chief political analyst for Betfair UK.

As you’ll soon see, his pieces are researched and full of opinion.

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