As in everything, the gap between success and failure can be painfully thin in both betting and politics. The Missouri primaries demonstrated precisely why betting on politics can be so much fun. The combination of an updating televised scorecard alongside moving betting markets is highly addictive and there aren’t many markets where you have to wait 24 hours plus for recounts before a payout!
Once again, the Democrat race produced a massive upset. Bernie Sanders was backed into down to 1.06 (94%) before the late Clinton comeback. The Republican deficit was similarly marginal, with Donald Trump ruining my bet on Ted Cruz by just 0.2%.
Those few votes by which Cruz fell short could prove highly significant, and not just because every delegate is so valuable when your goal is to prevent Trump reaching 1237. For Cruz, it alters the narrative at a critical moment.
Without a win, Super Tuesday 3 feels like a bad night for Cruz, yet it was not without positives. He lost North Carolina by a much closer margin than generally predicted and won some delegates with second in Illinois. Marco Rubio’s exit will mean a sizeable transfer of votes that would have made the difference in a state like Missouri. Winning there would have strengthened his argument for a head-to-head race, and made it harder for Trump to dodge and therefore cancel the next Fox News debate.
Yet Trump emerged with all the momentum and looks stronger than ever. There is still a big question mark over Trump’s ability to reach 1237, but it seems almost impossible that he won’t win the most delegates now. With that in mind, I advised a big cover bet on our longstanding Cruz and Kasich positions immediately on Twitter. The 1.38 odds are still available, but I doubt they’ll last.
Bet update: Backed Donald Trump 100 units for nomination @ 1.38. Covering big Cruz/Kasich positions to ensure at least a small profit.
— Political Gambler (@paulmotty) March 16, 2016
I’m confident that will ensure a small profit overall on the Republicans, given my positions on Cruz, John Kasich and Paul Ryan. Expect more changes soon – my instinct is that at 84% combined, Trump and Cruz are under-estimated and will shorten in the weeks ahead.
I believe the next two races on Tuesday will be pretty much decisive. If Cruz were to win both Arizona and Utah, especially if beating Trump 98/0 for delegates, it could reset the race. The Cruz argument that he is the only man who can be Trump and deserves a head-to-head fight would gain traction.
Alternatively, a Trump win in Arizona would mean the only real contest involved his reaching the 1237 target. The further ahead he goes, the likelier Republicans will coalesce around him for the sake of unity.
The key date is June 7th, when 303 delegates are available in five states, including 172 in California. I think to have a legitimate chance of stopping Trump at the convention would require him falling short by 100 or more. That involves Cruz and/or Kasich restricting him to no more than 1000 going into the final round of primaries.
The mathematical path to just achieving that limited goal is both complex and growing tougher by the day. In that pursuit, depriving Trump of Arizona’s 58 delegates is essential, especially with a favourable run in the North-East looming.
The latest poll for Arizona is inconclusive – showing Trump 31, Cruz 19, Kasich 10, leaving 40% undeclared. The general evidence is that relatively few of these undeclared swing towards Trump. Expect to see some headline endorsements for Cruz, though whether any can compete with Trump’s support from Sheriff Joe Arpaio is doubtful.
The early Arizona betting strongly favours Trump at 1.12 but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see those odds lengthen, once polls recording closer to 100% of preferences are published. Cruz is similarly priced to win Utah.