Archive for the 'US Politics' Category

h1

Looking ahead to the 2016 US Presidential Election

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

The Republican Party Nominee

My strategy has been to lay Chris Christie, even before his bridge problems. Some in the Republican Party have never forgiven him for his hug of President Obama during Hurricane Sandy and that’s influenced my thinking.

But on who to back, I followed Mike’s tip to back Rand Paul at 50/1, he is now trading as low as 7/1 which makes this tip very profitable for anyone who followed it.

The favourite is Marco Rubio, as the Senator for the crucial state of Florida, “The presidential candidate who won Florida has won the general election in 12 of the last 13 presidential elections (the sole exception to this rule over the 48 years from 1964 to 2012 was 1992, when Bill Clinton lost the state but won the presidency.)” That might be the reason he ends up winning the nomination, it makes winning Florida in 2016 a lot easier.

The name Jeb Bush is being mentioned more and more.  I’m not going to rehearse the arguments of why his surname is a bar to him being the nominee/President. I do think his current price at 10/1 does have the potential to be a good trading bet, I can understand why people may prefer to lay him straight away. He is a former two term Governor of Florida, which as noted with Marco Rubio makes his nomination useful in trying to win Florida in 2016.

The link to the markets on Republican Party Nominee is here.

The Democratic Party Nominee

There’s only one person I can see winning the nomination for Democratic Party and that’s Hillary Clinton. I know a lot of people (including me) said exactly the same about 2008, but she was up against Barack Obama, but looking at the list of other potential candidates, there is no Barack Obama de nos jours. If there’s going to be a stop Hillary Clinton, then perhaps Vice-President Joe Biden at 18/1. Other than that, my strategy is to lay anyone who isn’t Hillary Clinton.

The link to the markets on Democratic Party Nominee is here.

The Winning Party in 2016

On the market on the winning party, I’m not sure there’s any value in backing the Democratic Party candidate. I’m loathe to back the Republicans, for a couple of reasons, the demographics of America are trending against the party, and the in only one of the last six Presidential Elections, has the Republican candidate won the popular vote, that was George W Bush in 2004. Although in the six elections between 1968 and 1988, the Democratic Candidate only won the popular vote in one Presidential Election.

If you’re looking to back Hillary Clinton to win the race for the White House in 2016, you may consider backing the winning gender of the winner as female at 15/8, which is the same price as her winning the Presidency, the gender market gives more scope for a winner than just Hillary.

TSE



h1

My favourite political betting moment of the year

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

When politics and poker met

The worlds of politics and poker have been feeding off each other for many decades, and in the Middle East’s most discussed and highly charged conflict, the two were about to collide in an unexpected fashion.

An army is on the move, rockets detonate with an unrelenting regularity and the civil war in Syria is reaching its most bloody phase. Prime Ministers take to the nearest camera to deliver a solemn hope for peace, and in the world’s most powerful nation, its political capital is charged with a debate over the best way to proceed. Leading the discourse of war and peace, a senator that only five years ago was an election victory away from becoming President, a man that has been a central figure in American foreign policy for forty years. Senator John McCain of Arizona.

In the cavernous chamber of the Senate, McCain was set to make a contribution to the debate that would be replayed on every national news outlet that very evening. McCain was ready to show the American people just how much he cared about getting the right result, about calling your opponent’s bluff, about knowing when the time has come to strike even the most dangerous of rival’s.

As the next senator rose to deliver his impassioned plea for intervention, John focused on his phone and struck with decisive purpose – he went all in on his > iPhone poker App, and his unfortunate and ill-fated last hand was captured by the nearby television camera. John had done his best, but destiny was not smiling on him that day, a realisation that politicians and poker players know only too well. Later that evening he would make a statement to CNN that all hardened poker players can relate to “As much as I like to always listen in constant rapt attention to the remarks of my colleagues over a three-and-a-half-hour period, occasionally I get a little bored, and so I resorted to poker…but the worst thing about it is, I lost thousands of dollars!”.

The history of these two pastimes doesn’t stop there. President Truman indulged in poker on his lengthy boat vacations, the notorious President Nixon played poker with an obsessional hunger during his World War Two service, and it’s even said that he became such a dedicated player that he once turned down a chance to have dinner with Charles Lindbergh when it conflicted with a poker game. It was later rumoured that a great deal of the money he used to finance his first congressional campaign was funded by card game winnings. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knew President Nixon’s nickname, a title that would fit seamlessly into the 21st century’s phenomenon of television poker; ‘Tricky Dicky’.

Two Arenas, Same Skills

It’s no coincidence that poker finds a place in the heart of so many leading politicians, the two share a strikingly similar skill set to master, and even a similar fundamental approach to success. World famous statistician and politics oracle Nate Silver, a man who plays poker regularly, had this to say “politics and poker share the feature of being both very prosaic and very poetic. Meaning paying attention to the small things ‘winning small bets/door to door canvassing’ leads to a moving moment when ‘you win loads/you give an amazing awe inspiring speech’”.

From this basic principle we can get into the skills that will make or break a politician and poker player’s career. Both must be adept at reading people’s ‘tells’, these are the leaks of information from an opponent’s language, posture, habits, even micro-expressions that can inadvertently reveal the strength of their hand. Valuable information whether you find yourself at the poker table with a flush, or the negation table with a trade agreement. The same principle holds true across each challenge, ‘Strong means weak, weak means strong’. A piece of advice from what many consider to be the poker bible, Mike Caro’s Book of Tells. Next time you find yourself slumped in front of the news, look out for these classic politician manoeuvres and see if you can spot his or her tells:

This is how Hopi Sen put it a few months ago:

…..it struck me the other day that there are some pretty obvious political tells that many, many politicians use. Here are four.

1. Strings of Adjectives have the opposite meaning than that stated.

This is an innovative, cogent, well-thought through policy.” This is a clear tell of the reverse. Strong means weak. After all, if it was any of these things, you wouldn’t feel the need to tell me, you’d just show me. The longer the string of adjectives, the more unsure the speaker.

2. Statements of desire and contentment mean the reverse.

“I’m happy to answer that” is the classic, but there’s also “I really want to get into the detail” and ‘I want that debate’. No you don’t.

3. Expressions of clarity disguise obfuscation

Let’s be perfectly clear’, ‘I want to be totally open’ : I am about to say something I know is a bit tricksy.

4. The only message that counts comes after a ‘but’.

Of course, the NHS is our top priority for public spending, but” This is where a politician is aware they’re about to deliver an uncomfortable message, so lards it with blather. Ignore everything before the ‘but’. see also, ‘That said’, ‘However’..

Mike Smithson

Blogging from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble since 2004




h1

Peter the Punter on the US elections

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The Big Picture, Midterms, Hillary

It may seem a little early to focus on the US Elections – the Midterms are still a year away and the Presidentials are not due until November 2016 – but regular political punters will know the importance of reviewing the field early. US Politics have provided us with some of our richest pickings and it has often been the case that great value has been obtained by taking an early position. I should say now is about the right time to start building up your US portfolio, and with that in mind I contacted my favourite mole, a Democrat Party worker in California, and we went over the form together.

It is probably a tribute to the wit and wisdom of PB’s regular US contributors that she had little to say that was novel and on the whole she reinforced what we hear from time to time from our many excellent US posters, such as TimB and Hyufd, but a quick review of the odds and my own thoughts might help some to judge where a little value can be found.

1. The Shutdown

The big current issue is of course the Government shutdown resulting from the debt crisis and – from a betting viewpoint – who won, who lost, and whose odds are now too big?

While the consensus seems to be that the Republican Party [GOP] came off worse than the Democrats, neither came out of it well. Generally speaking, ‘Government’ did badly. Moreover, some leaders who may have been criticised nationally for their role in creating the impasse nevertheless benefited locally from their firm stance. In this sense, the old cliché that all politics is local rings true, so we can expect to see some candidates emerging stronger despite espousing policies that are not necessarily popular nationally. Ted Cruz, junior Senator from Texas, is an obvious example.

There may be some value in identifying such candidates now and backing them ahead of the rush – and Cruz at 16/1 for the Republican nomination looks a sound trading bet to me – but the more cautious may wish to wait until January is out. We are due a rerun of the debt crisis early next year and it may be that the voting public will take a different or harsher view of their representatives next time around. Some senior GOP politicians, such as Rick Santorum, have tried to temper the Party’s more belligerent wing, fearing a public backlash. However, local candidates are often roared on by a vocal Party base which can make such appeals futile. It is hard to predict how this will all play out in electoral terms. My own view is that the GOP is at the greater risk, but the situation is volatile, and I would not commit much money on the likely outcome.

2. The Midterms

There is little of interest to punters here. The consensus seems to be that in terms of votes, the Democrats should do quite well, but the incumbent Party is vulnerable in very few House seats and the Republicans should hold on to their majority comfortably, as the odds of 1/6 suggest.

It’s slightly different in the Senate, where voters are somewhat less likely to cling to Party allegiances. You can have 5/6 either Party. I would be more inclined towards the Dems at those odds, but they hardly set the pulse racing.

Don’t be persuaded either way by the outcome of the imminent election for the Governor of Virginia. Local factors predominate and the contest was described to me as ‘…an asshole versus a train-wreck’. The asshole is likely to win but there is no betting market to speak of and few implications for the national picture.

3. Hillary

Although PB has a network of spies and informants that would make the CIA envious, it has so far been unable to unearth any reliable information on Hillary Clinton’s health and whether it would prevent her from running, or indeed whether she even wants to run. The equation is simple. If she stands for the Democratic Party nomination, she wins. I simply do not see any other candidate with a hope of beating her. Few are likely to try and the nomination process should therefore place little strain on her energies and resources. If you take her health on trust therefore – and I would be inclined to – the 6/4 on offer from William Hill is exceptional value, even allowing for the eighteen months or so you have to wait before you collect.

It follows that the 11/4 (Stan James) for her to be next President would also be good value. All the polling indications are that she wins against even the very best GOP candidate (probably Christie, but possibly Bush, Ryan or Rubio), assuming they pick the best, which on past form is far from certain.

It’s a completely different ball game, however, if she does not run. Don’t rule out Joe Biden. He may seem a little dull and uncharismatic, and he may suffer from foot-in-mouth disease, but rather like George W, he has a folksy charm which appeals to a broad electorate. At 16/1 he’s a good cover bet. Elizabeth Warren, 20/1, would delight the Democrat base, but energise the GOP. She is unlikely to feature unless it looks like the GOP will nominate a whackjob. Similar comments apply to Kirsten Gillibrand at 20/1. I backed her at bigger prices, but realistically she can only be a trading bet now. Cuomo, 16/1, ticks a lot of boxes but is a New Yorker, which seems to be a virtual disqualification these days.

I don’t see any other Democrat likely to beat a half-sensible Republican choice.

You can get evens with Bet365 about a Democrat winner of the Presidency in 2016. That seems pretty fair value to me, since you are probably on Hillary at good odds, with a saver on Biden if she drops out. Similarly, I think the odds of 5/2 (William Hill) on a female winner are good, since there are several plausible female winners in addition to Hillary. You could even be paid out early if the showdown is between, say, Clinton and Martinez. That’s by no means an impossible scenario, but I am digressing now into the Republican side of the equation. It is the more interesting side, in my opinion, with the better betting opportunities, but I’ll cover that in a separate piece.

Peter Smith [Peter the Punter]



h1

Dicing with the Debt Ceiling could diminish Dollar dominance?

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Playing with the reputation of the global reserve currency is a risk

A quick quiz: who is the Chinese president?  If you can do that, name the Chinese prime minister and foreign secretary as well.  Tricky?  Very much so.  I’d be surprised if 5% of the population could correctly answer the first question and astonished if even 1% could get all three.  It’s really quite remarkable how little prominence is given to what is likely to be the world’s biggest economy within a decade, or of the people who lead it.

Part of that’s cultural: the media give prominence to countries that people on both sides of the screen, airwaves or print-room are familiar with or which seem similar.  Another part of it is about prominence: unlike in the days of the USSR, China isn’t so obviously a threat and trends don’t provide copy in the way that incidents do.  It’s not just media and public who aren’t recognising the changing world.

Just before the Federal Shutdown started, Barack Obama stated that the Dollar is “the reserve currency of the world.  We don’t mess with that” – except that messing with that is precisely what is happening: within a week, the US federal government could run out of cash to pay its debts.  Probably a deal will be done as it was in 2011, the last time there was a similar stand-off.  Even so, the brinkmanship involved then caused one ratings firm to downgrade US federal debt, placing the kind of question mark against the Dollar that really shouldn’t exist on the principal reserve currency.

Playing a little fast and loose with the reputation and trustworthiness of anything isn’t to be undertaken lightly but for a long time the raw power of the US economy, combined with its openness made it the only realistic game in town as far as a reserve currency went and that has perhaps bred a little too much complacency in Washington; something which is making itself felt at just the wrong time.

For now, the Dollar remains the prettiest currency in an ugly bunch but it no longer stands so clearly supreme and a default, even on domestic spending, would leave it with still more bruises.  The Eurozone’s travails are well documented but the intensity has gone out of the crisis and – barring further major shocks – it will have come through politically strengthened and geographically widened.  The Eurozone already has a population greater than that of the USA; one which could double if all non-Euro EU members and realistic future members were to join (they won’t all but within a decade, the likelihood is that most of the 2004/7 intake will have, and maybe others).

A more radical additional player is the invisible giant: China.  If it’s punching below its weight politically at the moment, then financially, it’s barely in the arena.  It is, however, heading in that direction, as noted in this article.  There are still plenty of hindrances to the Yuan becoming a global currency but Beijing is slowing dismantling them.  US policy-makers would do well to note that while China doesn’t provide a viable alternative (or additional) reserve currency today, it could well become the third major player within 10-20 years’ time.  Indeed, perhaps the most significant factor preventing the Yuan rising to that status – trustworthiness – is the one those in Washington are currently risking.

The inertia that always exists in international systems will benefit the US for decades to come, though as with Britain in the past, that very inertia will also disguise any decline.  It’s not, however, something that can be taken for granted.  We live in interesting times.

David Herdson

  • p.s. The answers:  the Chinese President is Xi Jinping, the Prime Minister (technically, the Premier of the State Council) is Li Keqiang, and the Foreign Minister is Wang Yi.


  • h1

    David Herdson looks at the US budget crisis and wonders whether Obama is about to be impeached

    Friday, October 4th, 2013

    How far will the US budget/debt ceiling row go?

    At first glance, the lead question seems such an obvious Question To Which The Answer Is No that you’d be forgiven for thinking ‘why’, ‘how’ or even ‘what?!’.  In a sensible world, it would be – but then in a sensible world, the US federal government wouldn’t be the best part of a week into shutdown – and political betting is as much as anything an exercise is scenario planning.

    US politicians are currently playing a very high-stakes game, and at least one side is likely to come off very badly.  That side should be the Republicans in Congress, who’ve driven themselves up a strategic blind alley: the public blames them more than Obama or their Democrat opposite numbers for the shutdown.  If they blink first then they’ve achieved nothing but pain and disruption; if they don’t, they could well be responsible for a far worse crisis when government spending runs up against the debt ceiling.

    At the heart of the stalemate is the depth of the antipathy that some Republican congressmen hold for the Obamacare legislation.  Their desire to repeal the legislation, firstly by refusing to fund it and secondly by tying that issue in with raising the Debt Ceiling – potentially denying the US government further borrowing – is such a part of their political identity it will not be given up easily, if at all.  What next?  If there’s a compromise across the board, or if the Republicans throw in their cards, so ends the crisis.  If not, things really get interesting.

    The media is reporting October 17 as the date by when the Debt Ceiling would have to be raised if a default on US debt is to be avoided.  The timescale may not be quite so set in stone as that but the critical point is very likely to be during this month.  If no agreement can be reached in time, then as discussed in the New York Times here, Obama may have no legal course open to him.  As head of the Executive, he is constitutionally bound to ensure that Congress’ tax and spending plans are executed, except that it will be impossible to do so while simultaneously keeping within their debt limits.  If the game of chicken does go down to (and beyond) the wire, the question is whether he authorises illegal borrowing or refuses to pay those who are entitled to an income from the Federal government – a group which includes international investors.

    Which is where the question of impeachment comes in.  Unlike the UK, where no impeachment has occurred for over two centuries, the procedure is relatively common in the US.  Federal impeachment proceedings have been brought against six officials in the last thirty years: four were carried, one dropped after the judge in question resigned and the case against the other – President Clinton – dismissed.  Given the intensity of the debate now, never mind what it would be if the row goes up to and beyond the point where Obama would have to act outside Congress’ parameters, it seems almost certain that impeachment proceedings would be brought; all the more so if he chose to increase borrowing unilaterally (as the NY Times article concludes he should).

    Since the founding of the USA, impeachment proceedings have been brought against three presidents.  Two – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton – went to trial and the other, Nixon, jumped before he would have been pushed.  Like Clinton, Obama also faces an assertive and ideological Republican-led House.

    I doubt the sense of outrage that the Republican Representatives would feel if Obama was to borrow more anyway (which would nullify the whole concept of a Debt Ceiling and implement his healthcare legislation into the bargain), could result in anything other than their going down the impeachment route.  The Senate would of course throw out the charges and the egg would end on the faces of the Republicans but many a bad decision has been made in a closed environment with the blood up.

    Will it happen?  Probably not, but the longer the stand-off goes on, the more likely it becomes.  After all, most crises are not consciously brought about but result from miscalculation.

    David Herdson



    h1

    A bad day all round, except for the result

    Saturday, August 31st, 2013

    David Herdson wonders if the biggest loser was Obama

    It’s unlikely that many of those involved in Thursday’s debate and vote will look back on their participation with pride.  Quite why parliament was recalled early when it was due to return next Monday anyway remains unclear, particularly given that the UN inspectors’ report should be published at the weekend or shortly after.  The assumption has to be that irreversible steps were planned before next week, probably at the initiative of the US president, whose red line has so clearly been crossed.

    The defeat of the government’s motion is a serious blow to David Cameron and William Hague.  They have lost their policy, they’ve lost face domestically and internationally and their word will be treated with more of a proviso by other governments in future.  That said, other governments have their own parliaments to consider and will be more sympathetic to Cameron’s predicament than some commentators peddling tired analyses based on out-of-date assumptions.

    On the other hand, they gain some credit by putting the case to parliament before the end-game had been reached, by being relatively open with the evidence and advice, and by listening to the outcome of the vote (which, as it happens, reflects public opinion).

    Nick Clegg’s position is no better: with the media coverage being dominated by the Cameron-Miliband spat, he’s been airbrushed from the picture.  Those who noticed will have seen he too was in favour of the defeated government motion, contrary to the views of his party’s voters – but most simply won’t have seen him at all.

    As for Miliband, while nominally the winner of vote, his actions look disreputable and his policy unfathomable.  Is he in favour of action or not?  Did he change his mind after giving assurances about what he’d accept?  If so, why, and by whom?  His comments immediately after the vote, concentrating not on the implications for Syria or Britain’s forces, but on the PM’s political position make him look petty and partisan.

      Perhaps the biggest loser is not even in this country but is the US president.  It was he who set the terms of engagement and now those terms have been met, he’s lost a key ally.  Congress will have taken note of the UK parliament’s role in the process and may well demand a say, leaving him swinging.

    While Obama could proceed anyway, so could Cameron have done in theory; similar dynamics apply, not the least of which is that Obama needs the votes of those senators and congressmen to pass his legislation.  He will have to take their views into account.

    There is without question danger in not doing anything.  There’s a bigger danger still in stating that something will be done, then still doing nothing.  However, it’s often the case that the dangers of doing not enough are worse than those of doing nothing.  Would a limited strike knock out Assad’s chemical capability?  Would it remove his regime?  Would it turn the tide of the civil war and if so, to whose benefit?

    Or would Assad ride it out and claim the victory of survival?  Would he learn that there was indeed a price to pay for using chemical weapons but that it’s one he can afford?  What happens when he decides to act on that learning?  When intervention is unlikely to make things better – and limited air- and missile-strikes wouldn’t – it’s highly probable that they’ll make things worse.

    For all that no-one really emerges with credit from Thursday’s debate, and the defeat of both motions may have been as much down to chance and petulance as design and intent, the right result was reached nonetheless.

    David Herdson



    h1

    David Herdson on the great Hillary #WH2016 guessing game

    Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

    Would this be a contest too far or success at last?

    After twenty years at or near the centre of US political life, and four years of Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton can now finally put her feet up and enjoy retirement. Or she can start seriously planning the presidential campaign everyone’s expecting for 2016. Take your pick.

    In the short term, the two probably amount to much the same thing. After a genuine break, she can spend much of the next two years giving speeches and lectures, writing another book – perhaps the second part of an anticipated trilogy of autobiographies – and making enough TV appearances to remind people that she’s still there, while rationing them sufficiently to make each one count.

      As the front-runner and establishment candidate she has the luxury for the time being that most of her rivals are reported to be waiting to see whether she’ll run before deciding on whether to commit to their own campaign.

      If so, they may be making a mistake; Obama is where he is now because he didn’t wait his turn.

    Indeed, the first Clinton won the White House in no small part because he jumped while others hesitated (including the father of potential 2016 runner Andrew Cuomo). Even if they were to run and lose, a decent campaign would put them up the batting order for 2020.

    When a presidential doesn’t seek re-election, the usual form is for the vice-president to pick up their party’s nomination – Nixon, Humphrey, George HW Bush and Gore all did – but that sequence was broken when Dick Cheney chose not to. Biden, like Cheney, was chosen to add experience to the ticket and though he’s hinted that he might run in 2016, it can’t be ignored that he’d be 74 at the end of Obama’s term. There have been septuagenarian presidential candidates but they’ve all been Republicans; most Democratic candidates in recent years have been in their forties or fifties.

    Therein may lie one of Hillary’s biggest hurdles: she’ll be 69 by the election and have been a fixture at the top of the Democratic party for a quarter of a century. That might simply be too long for too many. After all, the baton has already passed to the next generation once. Not only other candidates but also activists and the general public may feel that her time has been and gone.

    If that is the case, there has to be someone else to fill the gap. Assuming Biden isn’t that person, who then? That’s certainly where the value will lie. The aforementioned Cuomo and Gov Martin O’Malley are, for example, 25/1 to win the White House and 12/1 for the Democratic nomination with Ladbrokes and there would probably have been some value with both there had they not signed same-sex marriage legislation as governors. That is the sort of record on which it becomes difficult to build a national campaign.

    Perhaps the Democrats might be willing to risk such a candidate in some circumstances – after all, Obama has twice won without needing the Bible belt – but why chance it when there’s a quality safety-first option. If she’ll run. The upshot of which is that there’s probably little value on the Blue side of the equation and for once, it’s the Republicans who might throw up a candidate from out of the ordinary. But that’s another article for another day.

    David Herdson



    h1

    Gallup boost for the Obama plan for stronger gun laws as the President prepares to start his second term

    Saturday, January 19th, 2013

    But he’s got a big battle ahead

    Tomorrow morning, in private because it is a Sunday, Barack Obama will be sworn in to start his second term in the White House. The big public ceremony takes place on Monday.

      He’s already made clear that a key early objective is his plan, announced on Wednesday, for new laws designed to reduce gun violence.

    This has become a huge issue in the aftermath of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut eleven days before Christmas.

    The proposals include background checks on those wanting to buy weapons and bans on high-capacity ammunition clips.

    In telephone polling that took place on Thursday Gallup found that 53% want their member of Congress to vote for the set of laws, with 41%, want them to vote against.

    Reaction to the plan is highly partisan and there’s little doubt that Obama has a massive political battle on his hands in the weeks and months ahead.

    Ahead of the White House election in November Gallup was producing the least Obama-friendly numbers so the fact that this is coming from that firm is significant. Voters do divide on party lines. Gallup finds Democrats supporting the plans by 82% to 15% while Republicans oppose by 72% to 22%.

    Mike Smithson

    For the latest polling and political betting news