This was a short interview conducted recently in Washington DC on Fox5, discussing the concept of political betting and how the 2016 US Election would be the biggest ever.
Archives for January 2016
We’re already on Ted Cruz to be the Republican nominee. Backing Marco Rubio now is the perfect cover.
As promised when advising this bet on Twitter yet, some more detailed reasoning. Even after banking a profit from my initial position on Cruz, he could net a further 250 units profit. It makes perfect sense to cover on the man I believe will be his main rival.
— Political Gambler (@paulmotty) January 31, 2016
Thanks to the market surge for Donald Trump, Rubio is at his biggest odds for some time. Yet as explained in my final verdict on the Iowa Caucus, Trump’s favorability numbers are terrible, way behind both Cruz and Rubio. As I argued in my wide-ranging analysis for Politico last year, favorability is the key number to watch, ahead of the inevitable winnowing of the GOP field.
It seems certain that Rubio will be in the thick of that battle, and he will be extremely well-financed. Among that final group, he would be a much stronger General Election candidate than Trump, and probably than Cruz. This must matter.
There’s no question that, in organisational terms, Rubio is late to the party. He’s been criticised for a lack of visibility in the early swing states, compared to other rivals on the mainstream wing of the GOP.
His event in Ames yesterday was low-key compared to Cruz. The crowd mostly arrived late and, from my conversations, included virtually no committed supporters. This was a crowd of undecideds, checking out a frontline candidate, probably for the first time.
They greeted Rubio enthusiastically, but not fervently. Yet this crowd loved everything he had to say, just as focus groups have after TV debates. I went away certain that he had won new converts and sealed the deal with many undecideds.
It is probably too late to win Iowa, but he is booked for clear third place at least. That will generate momentum going to New Hampshire and I expect some current Jeb Bush supporters to switch. Maybe Chris Christie and John Kasich too.
Finally, why back him for the Presidency rather than nomination? Simply the odds. 8.4 in the former market compared to 3.2 in the latter implies Rubio would be more than 2.5 in a head-to-head with a Democrat. As arguably the most electable GOP candidate that strikes me as much too big.
He has defied all expert opinion and conventional wisdom since the beginning of this race six months ago. One by one, rivals that challenged him have been abused and ended up worse for wear. He has the media dancing to his tune and gives the impression that he could be rewriting the rules of political campaigning. Even betting markets have, finally, jumped aboard his bandwagon. Nevertheless, I still cannot buy into Donald Trump and believe now is the perfect time to take him on.
The final, much-respected Des Moines Register poll records him 5% ahead of Ted Cruz for Monday’s Iowa Caucus. Cruz, 10% up in the same poll last month and rated an 80% chance in the betting, has slipped badly. Weeks of relentless character assassination from Trump and the GOP establishment have taken their toll. Yet look deeper into the numbers, then consider the nature of caucus voting, and these numbers are not great for Trump either.
First, remember that caucuses are not the same as the standard, straightforward secret ballot that most of us are used to. This is a time-consuming, complex process that may involve having to argue the case for your vote in front of friends and neighbours. Typically for this time of year, there is a snowstorm forecast for either Monday night or Tuesday. No wonder turnout is expected to be well below 20%.
That is bound to favour the most organised, committed activists and usually blindsides the polls. On that score, there is near universal consensus that Cruz is best equipped. I saw some of it first hand yesterday at his event in Ames. His supporters are passionate, organised and, critically, registered. Twice as many households acknowledge contact with the Cruz campaign compared to Trump.
In contrast, the big question mark hanging over Trump is that so much of his support comes from groups less likely to turnout or be registered Republicans. Again, speaking to political activists and insiders across the country, there is near universal doubt over Trump’s ability to convert his poll share into votes.
That may not matter in some of the open primaries, with easier registration and secret ballots, where Trump currently holds huge poll leads. In Iowa though, 5% looks extremely fragile.
Even more so when considering the numbers in depth. More than one in three poll respondents didn’t declare support any of the top-three, (also including Marco Rubio). 9% were still undecided. Expect plenty of these to switch on Monday to somebody with a chance of winning. Even if they all turn out, Trump’s 28% may not be enough to win, and he badly trails Cruz and Rubio in terms of second choices. Here Rubio gets 20%, Cruz 17%, Trump just 7%. In a head-to-head, which is how this is being framed and reported, Cruz wins 53-35.
Furthermore, Trump remains toxic with a substantial portion of the GOP base. 47% view him unfavourably, meaning a net rating of just +3, compared to +49 and +37 for Rubio and Cruz. It bodes ill for Monday and terribly for the wider race, when the field is whittled down to a handful in a few weeks.
This is precisely why I recommended backing Marco Rubio to be Next President last night. I will blog shortly in depth about this.
— Political Gambler (@paulmotty) January 31, 2016
Eventually, I believe this will realistically boil down to a three runner race between Trump, Cruz and Rubio. We are already on Cruz for the nomination, so it must make sense to get Rubio on side. It will be an upset were he to win Iowa, but he is booked for third and will at least come away with momentum.
Rather than backing Cruz in Iowa, it makes better sense to just lay Trump at 1.6 (63%), therefore keeping the late Rubio run onside. Just to clarify, I already advised a lay of Trump at these odds on Twitter earlier in the week, but cashed out for a tiny profit after Cruz’s poor debate night. I’ve since gone back in at the shorter odds.
The Democrat race, for which Hillary Clinton is rated 3% ahead, makes less appeal from a betting perspective. I think she’ll win, on the same grounds that Bernie Sanders’ supporters are less likely to be registered. However, 9% remain undecided and supporters of third-placed Martin O’Malley tend to break more towards Sanders. However the market rating of 70% for Clinton looks only fair and certainly not a betting proposition. Especially given the history of upsets in these races.
After another bad week for one-time runaway Iowa Caucus favourite Ted Cruz, the betting flip-flop is complete. Donald Trump is now down to 1.6, rated a 63% chance to win the opening stage of the Republican primary process. In the Democrat race, Hillary Clinton is forecast to withstand the Bernie Sanders surge at odds of 1.4 (71%). But can we trust the market signals?
If this were a contest to run a country, state or even a city, previous evidence would overwhelmingly say “Yes”. In every major UK or US election since the advent of Betfair in 2001, the favourite 100 days out in the main market – Next President or Winning Party, for example – has gone on to win.
In fact, these early primaries have proven an absolute nightmare for favourite backers in the last two US election cycles, producing big upsets and some of the most exciting in-running events in the history of political betting.
As the global betting industry evolves, ever more diverse markets are coming on stream, involving subject matters worlds apart from the racetrack, roulette wheel or football stadium. To some, politics is a matter of life or death. To others, its a golden opportunity to make money from predicting elections, leadership contests or even which currency a country will use.
Advocates will tell you this kind of real-world betting is easier to win at than sports, because the luck element is almost entirely removed. Even the media are getting in on the act, with highbrow newspapers presenting betting odds as an alternative to opinion polls, based on a remarkable recent record.
In this guest piece for www.casino.org, I run through some historical highlights of this fast growing market
Throughout my tour of the USA, I’m constantly doing radio interviews. Here’s a selection of them. As I receive copies, all are being added on here.
Forward Thinking Radio with Jonathan Aberman, at Sirius XM, Washington DC, Jan 17th
The Steve Hexom Show, for KBUR, Iowa, Jan 18th
1 hour interview with Ernest Hancock on Freedoms Phoenix Radio, Jan 27th
Lets Talk with Chris Johnson on KGRN, Iowa, Jan 28th
Interview with Chris Lenois on “Green Mountain Mornings” for WKVT in Vermont
Interview with Jonathan Aberman for Forward Thinking Radio, Sirius XM Progress, September 11th
To book me for radio, TV or other media platforms, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
A conspiracy theorist might think the row between Fox News and Donald Trump had been manufactured. It ensured that, during a crucial window in which Iowa voters traditionally take a closer look at all the candidates, the entire media focus was on a celebrity and trivia, rather than policy.
It also ensured a debate in which every one of his rivals was scrutinised like never before, and repeatedly attacked one another. The two men most likely to challenge Trump were confronted with cringeworthy video footage, which made them look like typically opportunistic politicians.
Frank Luntz’s focus group – an essential guide, with a long history of predicting winners in UK politics – scored Marco Rubio the clear winner, with Ted Cruz again faring well. I didn’t see it that way and felt two men with no chance of being the candidate – Rand Paul and Chris Christie – fared best.
That must amount to another win for Trump. He has more embarrassing video footage – advocating politicians and policies that are toxic to the average GOP primary voter – than the rest combined. Maybe it will reach a wider audience later in the race, but he’s dodged a potentially lethal bullet just days before the pivotal Iowa Caucus. Meanwhile his rival Cruz performed at best ordinarily and can only have emerged from the debate weaker.
That doesn’t mean the race for Iowa is over. Cruz still has a superb ground game, and doubts persist over whether Trump’s voters will turnout. His failure to appear is unlikely to help that particular cause. When he withdrew from the debate, I laid Trump at 1.6. He’s drifted a little, so I’ll take a tiny profit by cashing out at 1.67.
Nevertheless, the master media strategist seems to have won again, and his national front-runner status looks stronger than ever. While proper politicians did the conventional thing – argued and defended policy in front of the voters – Trump fought his little war on Twitter with his followers’ favourite bogeyman. The mainstream media.
In return this so-called foe – that cannot help but hang upon his every word – helped his cause by giving his rivals the guns to shoot one another on live TV. It isn’t a conspiracy. Its a genius media strategist who may know nothing about policy or political consistency, but who understands how the game has changed in the social media age. In four years time, the mainstream GOP may have caught up, but for now Trump looks like leaving the rest of the field for dead.
Former NYC Mayor’s mooted bid could alter calculations from all sides
After another dramatic week on Betfair’s US Election markets, punters holding long-term positions about Donald Trump and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg have plenty to celebrate.
With voting for the Iowa Caucus just a week away, opinion polls and markets have flip-flopped in favour of Trump, at the expense of long-term favourite Ted Cruz. From being a 1.25 chance and rated 80% likely to win Iowa a fortnight ago, Cruz’s market estimate has fallen to 36% at odds of 2.8.
Trump is now heavily odds-on at 1.59 or 63%. The billionaire also continues to shorten in the main markets, down to 2.1 (48%) for the Republican Nomination and 5.5 (18%) for to be Next President.
They are both certain to retain dominance of media coverage, entering a pivotal period.
Rarely, if ever, has a political endorsement caused such waves. One could almost hear the cheers in newsrooms and media boardrooms when the news of Palin’s return to the political frontline emerged yesterday. Her speech at Trump’s Iowa rally, littered with histrionics, memorable soundbites and swipes at her enemies and usual targets, didn’t disappoint.
It matters not that she constantly slates that reviled enemy of the US Right – the mainstream media. They love her just like they love The Donald – because they never cease to be entertaining, newsworthy or put bums on seats. Saturday Night Live, already thriving on the back of the GOP race, will be in it’s element.
This is deeply troubling for Trump’s rivals. His front-runner status owed much to celebrity and an ability to thus far make the race all about him. Rivals have been squeezed out, struggling to be heard. Just as they hoped the race would get serious as the primaries near, Trump doubles up with a second reality TV star.
This threatens to turn the Republican Iowa Caucus on its head
Time to take the risk out of GOP positions and guarantee a small profit on Cruz
In a long election with many twists and turns – plenty of which have already occured before the primaries have even started – the key to making money is timing. As candidates rise and fall, we must try to buy and sell their ratings at the opportune moment – trading their odds like a stock portfolio.
That is why, given the impact of Sarah Palin’s dramatic, headline-grabbing endorsement of Donald Trump, this is a prudent moment to be cashing out *some* of our substantial position on Ted Cruz for the Republican Nomination. I actually tweeted this cover position immediately after her speech.
New #Election2016 bet: Lay Ted Cruz 25 units @ 6 for GOP nomination. Still leaves big profit, but Palin endorsing Trump could be gamechanger
— Political Gambler (@paulmotty) January 19, 2016
The two bets placed earlier yield a return of 400 units for an outlay of just 15 units. So by laying (or selling back) 25 units at odds of 6, we are guaranteed ten units profit on the bet, while reducing the potential return to 250 units. See the equation below.
This does not mean I’ve lost faith in the bet. It is a recognition that an unpredictable variable has just entered the equation. Tomorrow, I’ll be writing a new piece weighing the Palin effect. Given the uncertainty – I am nowhere near as confident about my long-range prediction, that Cruz will win Iowa or the early Southern states now – it would be unprofessional to carry risk and take no profit out of an excellent position.