Normally at this stage of a US Presidential cycle, we would be fully focused on a head-to-head race between the presumptive Republican and Democrat nominees. The former blocked primary challenges to ensure Donald Trump had a clear run. The latter’s primary remains ongoing but the scorecard overwhelmingly favours Joe Biden.
The betting signal, however, less clear-cut. Using Betfair – the biggest, most liquid exchange – as a guide, Trump and Biden’s odds only account for 88% of the book. In other words, there’s a 12% chance that somebody else will become President. A few days ago, that rose to 18%.
This trend is actually not unprecedented and mirrors events of 2016. There was plenty of money around for alternative candidates to Trump and Clinton right up until November. Wild speculation and fake news are now part and parcel of any election campaign. In this year’s particular context, it is inevitable.
Coronavirus adds new layer of uncertainty
Most obviously, coronavirus has placed a cloud over every aspect of world affairs. Leaders are falling prey to the virus. Aged in their seventies, Trump and Biden are theoretically more vulnerable than most. Moreover as the crisis escalates, with casualties rising daily and other countries in lockdown, it isn’t entirely clear how American life will cope with a general election. Ladbrokes are even offering 8/1 that no presidential election takes place in 2020.
Then there’s the nature of the likely candidates. Trump’s uniquely divisive persona has always and probably always will lent itself to speculation that he’ll be removed. Although the Republican-controlled Senate already demonstrated it is unwilling to do so after he was impeached – odds up to 1.14 on him surviving a full-term are still available on Betfair and there is still some money around for alternatives.
Mike Pence is 25/1 (Betfred) to be the Republican Nominee, 50/1 for President (General) whilst Nikki Haley is 47/1 and 149/1 in those respective markets on Betfair. Were such a scenario to unfold, I would much rather back Haley. She is infinitely more electable than Pence and relatively untarnished by association with Trump.
In fact, were Republicans to panic in the face of grim polls – their average deficit in the generic ballot is 8% – Haley could be their saviour. A woman leading the ticket would transform the dynamics and could win back the droves of white women that deserted them to ruinous effect at the mid-terms. Nonetheless, this is a longshot!
Cuomo is the latest anti-Biden gamble
Betting-wise, the Democrat race seems likelier to get interesting. Last time I strongly recommended we ignore the market hype surrounding Hillary Clinton. Since then, a monumental gamble about Andrew Cuomo has gathered steam. In recent week his odds for the Democrat nomination have crashed from 999-1 to a low of 14/1 on Betfair. He’s currently best-priced there at 25/1 and at 35/1 to become president.