What are primaries and how do they work?
Presidential primaries are the electoral process to determine the candidates representing the main parties. Starting on February 3 and lasting several months, registered Democrats and would-be supporters in each state will vote for their preferred candidate.
The winners and prominent performers in each race are duly awarded delegates. Each race in each state is a betting heat in its own right. Each race is live a betting heat in its own right. Betfair markets will stay open until all the votes are counted, with the often odds fluctuating wildly as results emerge, district by district.
Those delegates then move forward to the party convention in July, where they are duty bound to support the chosen candidate in the first round of voting. In total, 3,979 delegates are awarded. If anyone wins a majority, they will automatically be crowned following the first round of voting at the convention.
However if the leader falls short of 50%, further rounds of voting are needed, where they would need the backing of other candidates or ‘superdelegates’ (prominent Democrats).
In theory, the nomination could be contested at this stage but such a scenario is rare. More on that later.
BERNIE SANDERS 1.75
JOE BIDEN 3.85
PETE BUTTIGIEG 10.5
ELIZABETH WARREN 14.5
AMY KLOBUCHAR 55.0
NEW HAMPSHIRE BETTING
BERNIE SANDERS 1.43
JOE BIDEN 7.2
PETE BUTTIGIEG 9.2
ELIZABETH WARREN 15.5
AMY KLOBUCHAR 70.0
Primary season starts, as usual, at the Iowa Caucuses.
One week later, they move onto the New Hampshire Primary. These two states only provide merely 2% of the total delegates so slow starters can certainly come back. History, however, is against them doing so. The last presidential candidate to lose both IA and NH was Bill Clinton, 28 years ago.
There are two further important races in February: Nevada and South Carolina.
These two states have rather different demographics to IA and NH, so could very well produce a different result. Biden, for example, is clear favourite for the latter because he is polling much better among black voters than his rivals.
Sanders poised to gain early advantage
Whether in polls or betting, Bernie Sanders has the momentum in these opening two races.
He nearly pulled off a massive upset in IA in 2016, before trouncing Hillary Clinton in NH, which neighbours his state of Vermont. He has the best ground game, online machine and key endorsements from the likes of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.
There are, nevertheless, several unknowns. Roughly half of voters are undecided. Latest polls suggest Elizabeth Warren is gaining ground among them. Pete Buttigieg also has upwards potential.
A large bloc of Democrats opposes Sanders, and their behaviour remains unpredictable. There is talk, for instance, of a tactical alignment between Biden and Klobuchar voters in Iowa. This bloc may well be underestimated in polls, given that turnout is likely to increase vastly on 2016, driven by moderates and independents opposed to President Trump.
Here’s how I see these early stages panning out.
I expect Sanders to win the opening three races. Biden – whose status is driven by name recognition and familiarity – will underperform, raising big doubts about his potential to stay the course and denting his superiority in South Carolina.
Warren will stay competitive. Her current odds of are great value. The Democrats’ mid-term victory (their best since Watergate) was powered by women, whether as candidates or voters. Unless Klobuchar improves rapidly, Warren will be the sole woman left in with a chance. Back her now and look to cover later.
Were Biden to hold on in South Carolina, everything opens up. The key date to watch is Super Tuesday – March 3.
More than a third of delegates will be distributed across 15 races. California and Texas will be pivotal as combined, they provide 16% of the entire total. The next month is all about positioning and building momentum for that day.
Therefore a candidate who makes Super Tuesday their main focus – see Mike Bloomberg – could potentially usurp the early front-runners. The former Republican and Independent Mayor of NYC – a staunch opponent of Trump – is blanketing these states with ads, and gaining some traction in polls.