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The big political betting developments this weekend will not about Brexit – but Iowa

January 31st, 2020
Chart of Betfair exchange from betdata.io

We are almost there. Just 3 days to go before Iowa – the first State to decide on its Democratic party nomination holds its unique selection processes. What makes this important is that the outcome has, historically, had an impact on the other states that follow.

Getting a good outcome here can produce a huge lift off in the rest of the race and the main contenders know it. Although only perhaps 16% of Iowans will actually participate on Monday evening I’m told that just about 100-percent of TV advertising at the moment in the state is all about promoting those runners who think they are in with a shout.

The contender who survived a heart attack late last year, 78 year old Bernie Sanders, is the current polling leader but the way this operates might not necessarily be to his advantage. Although he picks up a lot of first places in our you need to be there with lower choices.

What is not clear is how the bookmakers will settle the market after Monday and when. This is not like a normal election when it is the official election apparatus in the State that handles the voting process and we get an aggregated state count. In Iowa it is is local party officials, the bulk of them volunteers, who are responsible for ensuring the meetings operate properly, then get accurate numbers communicated to the state HQ.

This can cause problems with the potential for errors. Back in the 2012 Republican caucus Mitt Romney was declared the winner on the night by a margin of just a couple of dozen or so. The result however changed to a Santorum victory when the the precincts sent in their outcomes by post and the official result was declared. Many bookies paid out on the overnight declared provisional result rather than the actual one and I know there were a lot of protests and punters complaining.

Another area of complication is how the winner in the state is defined. For one purpose of the caucuses is selecting delegates who then go on to a state convention in the next couple of months at which the delegates for the national Democratic convention are finally decided. So it could be argued that what matters is how many delegates candidates had managed to win rather than the overall state vote share. My guess is that the bookies will stick with what they did last time and place it on vote count.

Mike Smithson