From a betting perspective, the latest round produced a decent night. One winner, one loser from two small advised bets, yielding a small 2.2 units overall profit. My predictions were pretty close to the mark.
Longer-term, a mixture of disappointment that long-range prediction Ted Cruz looks less likely than any point since the start of the race, and relief that I got out with a profit just in time, while loading up on the man the market loves, Marco Rubio. This is now an excellent position, offering scope to cash out with a handy profit.
Another piece of good news was the exit of Jeb Bush. Though I didn’t include him in our betting portfolio, because I was opposing Bush long before conceiving of that idea, I am on the record since the start as dismissing his chance. Having laid from 35% down – including a final cheeky lay at 10% last week – this position is all profit as I never bought back.
Looking ahead, Hillary Clinton now looks all but certain to be the Democrat nominee. Bernie Sanders achieved a great result to only go down by 4%, but the lack of a win deprives him of essential momentum required for a series of daunting Super Tuesday contests.
The GOP race now looks, at best, a three-man race. Failure to win South Carolina is a hammer blow to Cruz, although I’m not totally giving up on him yet. A few wins on Super Tuesday – Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee – would keep him competitive and offer the chance to continually state his case to be the only pure conservative and outsider candidate.
The problem with this strategy is that it always depended on Donald Trump’s challenge fading. It simply isn’t. Trump is proving the pundits wrong, because he has 35% solid, uncritical, fanatical support. No matter who he offends or how badly he gets facts or debate tactics wrong, the Trumpeters turn out for their hero.
That does not make him a certainty by any means though. He lost ground among late deciders again in SC, reinforcing my long-held view that he has a ceiling, that will prove vulnerable if this ever becomes head-to-head. Last week saw surveys measuring precisely that scenario and Trump came off a poor second best to his two main rivals. He lost 57-41 to Rubio, which could prove fatal in later, winner-takes-all races.
Whilst that remains my instinct, it is far from certain to play out that way. Cruz is going nowhere for now and that could mean Trump continues to beat a split opposition and Rubio gets branded a loser, rather than the great GOP electoral hope. That scenario also makes a contested convention scenario likelier – encouraging news for my 399-1 bet on Paul Ryan!