One factor behind the excellent predictive record of political betting markets is that, whereas media coverage is driven by headline national polls, the serious gambler will analyse the race on a deeper level. The 2012 election was a classic case in point, with virtually every commentator declaring it ‘too close to call’ even on the night, on the basis of tight national polls. However the markets were strongly pro-Obama partly because, as I explained here in October 2012 for Betfair, his votes were better distributed, making victory in the electoral college extremely likely.
The 2012 US Presidential Election was one of my successful political betting markets ever, as I was consistently backing Obama from the 2010 mid-terms onwards. Here for Betfair, in May 2012, I argue he is well-placed to exploit three critical dividing lines.
Political betting can be about more than just party politics, elections and leadership contests. During the summer as the crisis in the Eurozone intensified, one of the most fluid markets concerned the Greek referendum on the Euro, and then whether they would stay in the single currency.
For Betfair in July, when the odds were shortening fast on a Grexit, I analysed the situation and argued that the Greek government and EU would negotiate a deal.
The Chancellor is in pole position to succeed David Cameron
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 19: U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne attends the launch of the National Loan Guarantee Scheme (NLGS) at a Barclays Plc bank branch on March 19, 2012 in London, United Kingdom. Osborne won the backing of all except one of Britain’s major banks for his credit-easing plan that aims to funnel cheap loans to small and mid-sized companies. (Photo by Simon Dawson-Pool/Getty Images)
It has been a pretty good week for George Osborne. His pre-election budget passed off without much controversy and received a good press. It may not have yet generated an improved poll rating for his party, but if the Tories don’t win the election, nobody can blame the budget.
The last parliament saw a dramatic re-alignment in British party politics. The Lib Dems lost two-thirds of their support, while the SNP assumed almost total control of Scottish politics. The transformation of UKIP from irrelevant minor party to European Election winners, by-election insurgents and nationwide force represented another earthquake. 4M votes at the General Election had a profound effect on the result, even though it ultimately yielded only one parliamentary seat.
In this piece for Esquire, from May 2014, I explained the rise of UKIP and their charasmatic leader Nigel Farage.
Businesswoman steals the show from Donald Trump
From the early market reaction there’s no question about who ‘won’ last night’s second Republican debate. In line with almost universal good reviews, Carly Fiorina is storming up the markets.
The former CEO of Hewlett Packard is now trading at [11.0] or 9% for the nomination, [30.0] (3%) for the Presidency. Those ratings have doubled since the hours before the debate, when I tipped her at [60.0] along with Ben Carson at [34.0].
— Political Gambler (@paulmotty) September 17, 2015
With the field due to whittle down considerably soon, I reckon there’s still plenty of mileage in both bets and have no plans to lay back yet. The market has so far been dominated by the dubiously short-priced Jeb Bush and the coverage by Donald Trump. Bush remains poor value and last night may prove to be the moment Trump’s bandwagon begun to fade.
It wasn’t that Trump had a terrible debate, more that others stole the show. While others made their mark, Trump’s night will be best remembered for being owned by Fiorina’s cool response to his snide remarks about her appearance. Republicans on social media generally seemed delighted that someone had finally taken The Donald down.
As I argued last week, both Carson and Fiorina can boast the same ‘outsider’ credentials that have played so well for Trump, but are both ultimately more electable and non-offensive. If Trump fades, they may well be the beneficiaries.
Carson’s performance was also ordinary but his recent poll numbers, challenging Trump nationally and ahead in today’s Michigan survey, mean he remains a front-tier candidate. He’s particularly enthusing evangelicals – a voting block that earned Mike Huckabee second place in 2008, and whose support is pivotal in Iowa.
Fiorina on the other hand looks the ideal mainstream Republican candidate. She’s shone in both debates, has a good personal story to tell, isn’t damaged by failures in office and the media seem to love her. Just as Trump’s celebrity has boosted media interest and TV ratings for this contest, so will a confident, intelligent woman from the outside world, in a contest against ten men.
In the short-term, I’m holding these positions in expectation of lesser candidates falling away. I expect both Carson and Fiorina to be among the leading handful when we get to Iowa and New Hampshire, at much shorter odds.
A good start, but the new leader’s fundamental problems were clear to see
It is my confident prediction that more people watched this afternoon’s PMQs than ever before. Compared to the usual, mostly ignored, often derided piece of theatre, Jeremy Corbyn’s debut was genuinely a hot topic of conversation this morning.
People from outside the political class, who would never usually consider giving half an hour of their day to watch Parliament, were fascinated to see this outsider politician they’ve read and heard so much about in recent weeks. A man portrayed relentlessly by Conservatives as a ‘threat to national security’, who had inspired 300,000 people to join the Labour Party, yet remained viscerally unpopular with dozens of his own MPs. A man with the lowest expenses claims of any MP. A man who doesn’t sing the national anthem!
Americans will understand the phenomenon with regard to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Outsiders are all the rage these days, with the popularity of professional politicians and the old ways of doing business at an all-time low.
Having already won his party’s nomination, Corbyn now has to deliver. The purpose of an outsider is to change the game and, without jumping to premature conclusions, he may just have changed it in one small respect.
Corbyn’s leadership campaign stressed his unwillingness to get into personality politics or trade insults. Much of his popularity stemmed from being a straight-talking, authentic, polite human being. He promised a new ‘Peoples Question Time’ in which he would pose questions from the general public directly to the PM, and that’s exactly what he did.
Cameron welcomed this plan for a polite, serious debate and duly answered, without trading insults or trying to score overt political points. It was nothing like previous PMQs, and everyone on the BBC’s panel were really enthusiastic about the new tone. After weeks of constantly brutal media coverage and a morning dominated by the national anthem row, Corbyn will be pleased he managed to change the subject into something positive.
Once the leaders’ exchange was over, however, the parties reverted to type and this later spell explains why so many believe Corbyn is unelectable. First a Tory question about renewing Trident offered Cameron the chance to contrast his enthusiasm for it with Corbyn’s opposition to nuclear weapons, thus reinforcing his ‘threat to national security’ spin.
Another question from the DUP’s Nigel Dodds will have made Labour supporters wince, condemning their new Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s call 13 years ago for IRA members to be ‘honoured’. Like Corbyn’s various foreign policy musings over a long career, these charges will be repeated ad nauseum in the years ahead.
In these ‘security’ areas at least, there are only votes to be lost and it very much remains to be seen whether Corbyn can survive as Labour leader until the next election in 2020. I’m already on the case, looking for value bets to replace him and will be offering some names very soon!
Follow me on Twitter @paulmotty
Will Jeb prove to be another dodgy Republican favourite?
Thanks in no small part to Donald Trump, the 2016 Election campaign has become big news even earlier than usual. 11 candidates, (out of 16 left in the field), will debate in California tomorrow, suggesting the most open race in history.
The fundamental challenge facing 14 of them is simply being heard, in order to build the national name recognition required to compete with household names like Trump and longstanding favourite Jeb Bush. On current prices, this pair are taking out nearly 50% of the book.
Although the profits were ensured weeks ago via a series of cover bets, today’s confirmation of Jeremy Corbyn as the next Labour leader was nevertheless a particularly satisfying moment. A vindication of my early tip, at which stage Corbyn was the unconsidered 24/1 outsider. A devastating blow for the credibility of the Westminster Village talking heads that dominate our mainstream political coverage.
Lest we forget, the newspapers and channels reporting Corbyn on a loop tonight almost universally dismissed Corbyn as a no-hoper. Indeed, if there’s a betting lesson to be learnt from the Labour contest, it’s to ignore media predictions, especially if they emanate from Rupert Murdoch’s empire. When the contest was in it’s early stages and the betting markets quiet, speculation from the Murdoch stable drove Dan Jarvis into second-favourite, before an even stronger move on Liz Kendall. The former ruled out a run within hours of the first gamble, Kendall finished last on 4%.
So we should be wary when watching the new media saga, over whether Corbyn can manage his own, divided party, let alone win an election in five years. The pundits who so comprehensively failed to predict this result, or the social media revolution that inspired Labour’s new followers, could be just as badly wrong about the aftermath.
Of course, there is a realistic chance that Corbyn will resign or be forced out mid-term by MPs who’ve never supported him. However they are not about to move against him immediately – the overwhelming scale of victory secured his legitimacy – and Labour’s poll rating is unlikely to collapse even further. We have time to weigh up the new situation before striking any substantial new bets, especially regarding the next election.
Nevertheless, I am looking ahead already to the next Labour leadership contest, whenever it is to happen. Betfair’s Next Labour Leader market has just gone up and I have a few longshot names in mind, but am waiting to see the composition of Corbyn’s cabinet before getting involved. I’ll reveal more soon!
Some believed that Joe Biden’s appearance on the new Stephen Colbert show would be the launchpad for a Presidential run, that would transform the race to be Democrat Nominee. As it turned out, the VP confirmed what was already in the public domain – that he’s struggling to commit to such a life-changing decision, in light of the tragic death of his son.
As far as is humanly possible, my approach to gambling is to avoid getting involved in amateur psychology and second-guessing the minds of people I don’t know. Better to deal with hard data than speculation. For that reason, I’m sitting out the Democrat race until we know for sure.
Biden’s candidacy would be a gamechanger. If the race boils down to a Hillary Clinton v Bernie Sanders match-up, while the latter may surprise a few pundits in specific races – New Hampshire for example – I’ll be shocked were she to lose nationally.
With Biden in the race, though, such calculations would be transformed. For my money, he’s the Democrat’s most electable candidate. However Sanders would also benefit from the vote being split three ways, making victory possible just by getting a solid, reliable 35 – 40%.
Hillary remains my prediction for the Presidency, but I’m no rush to take a big risk yet!