But will the polls follow suit?
After a couple of days digesting the fallout from the latest Republican debate, there are clear conclusions to be drawn regarding who won or lost, whose stock rose or fell.
Jeb Bush’s campaign is in total crisis. The longstanding early market favourite was put firmly, embarrassingly in his place by Marco Rubio after an all too transparent and predictable attack on his former protege.
That is the only contribution viewers will remember from Bush, as he totally failed to make an impact. Worse for an under-pressure, establishment candidate, all his main rivals did pretty well.
In terms of winning the broadly defined ‘mainstream’ segment of GOP opinion, Bush is locked in a five-cornered fight and all four rivals had good nights.
Rubio was the clear standout performer, again. Chris Christie barged his way into plenty of airtime and typically scored with populist lines. As did Carly Fiorina. John Kasich may receive no benefit, but made the ‘moderate, real-world, anti-outsider’ role his own.
When I laid out seven reasons why Bush won’t be the nominee a month ago, he was rated a 35% chance. He’s now just 9% and a terrible bet at those odds. If you laid when he was favourite, my advice is to stick with it rather than closing out for a profit. He won’t win.
Regarding the front-runners in polls, neither Donald Trump or Ben Carson looked like presidential material. This debate was of a much higher standard regarding policy, detail and clarity. Both looked inferior to conventional politicians.
The market continues to get behind Rubio. He’s now rated a 36% chance for the nomination on Betfair, 15% for the Presidency. Along with most commentators, my view remains that he’s the likeliest winner and most electable. At present, the front-runner tag does not seem a burden.
These are potentially attractive bets, but lets wait to see a bit more evidence in forthcoming polls. It is all very well for pundits and experts to pick their winner, but going into the debate he was a long way behind Trump and Carson in the polls. Actual voters increasingly take a very different perspective, as someone like Carson proves.
The other big winner was Ted Cruz, and he remains the outstanding betting option that I felt he was last week. As with Carson, we could secure a profit already on those trades but I believe his odds have a long way left to fall. At 7% for the nomination and just 3% for the presidency, Cruz remains a superb value trade.
His spirited attack on the CNBC moderators will have gone down a treat with the conservative base that love Cruz. Remember, he has won the Voter Values Summit three years running. He has vast sums to hand and a deep grassroots network. Nobody is better placed to pick up voters now having second thoughts about Carson or Trump.
As for the rest – Huckabee, Paul and the four undercard candidates – they simply aren’t in the race. Soon this will be down to a maximum of five realistic candidates. Rubio and Cruz are certain to be among them.