Archive for the 'America' Category


The betting chances of Minnesota Senator Klobuchar getting the VP nomination plummet following the riots sweeping the US

Saturday, May 30th, 2020

From a 25% chance to a 4% one in a few days

The huge story in the US at the moment are the riots in many leading cities which have been set off by the killing of George Floyd by a policeman. Floyd, an African-American, died in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, when a White Minneapolis police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This was all videoed.

Minnesota is of course where Klobuchar is from and her actions while a legal office after a similar incident 15 years ago have been widely highlighted and don’t show her in a good light.

It is looking now as though Biden would find it difficult to choose a white person for the VP slot and one who is progressing in the betting. Kamala Harris is still a strong favourite. But there’s been a big move to Val Demings. She is is a retired law enforcement officer who has served as the US Representative for a Florida congressional district, since 2017. Previously she had been Chief of the Orlando Police Department, the first woman to hold the position. 

In the current context she seems well placed to get the nomination which is decided by the presumptive presidential nominee. 77 year old Joe Biden. She’s currently 6/1 which appears to offer value.

Mike Smithson


Joe Biden’s VP pick – we’ve now got a date

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

This could be by August 1st – two weeks before the convention

This is how the Hill is reporting statement’s from the campaign:

Former Vice President Joe Biden says he hopes to decide on a running mate by Aug. 1, about two weeks before the Democratic nominating convention in Milwaukee. Speaking at a digital fundraiser hosted by former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Biden said his campaign’s vice presidential committee has already interviewed the contenders on his shortlist.  “We’re in the process of deciding the basic cut — about whether or not they really want it,” Biden said. “Are they comfortable? They’ve asked a lot of questions.” 

The timing is quite a bit earlier than normal. Generally the presumptive nominee makes the announcement three or four days before the party convention.

My guess is that they want a VP choice in place earlier so there’s another campaigning voice focused on beating Trump and perhaps getting more attention and big speaking engagements than is normal. Part of this, I wonder, could be down to Biden’s apparently frail health – he is of course a 77 year old. In one of his few appearances during lockdown we had another of Biden’s famous gaffes which must be a concern for those running his effort.

You can envisage the campaign deciding to limit the possibility of more gaffes by having the VP nominee fronting the campaign a lot more.

There’s little doubt that the Trump campaign’s messaging will all be seeking to raise doubts about Biden’s health and mental capacity by using some of his widely publicised gaffes to underline the point.

Of the top three in the betting for VP nominee my money for now is on Warren who has had close political links with ‘Biden since WH2016 when there was an abortive plan for the two to share a ticket to stop Hillary. Although they are from separate parts of the party they clearly trust each other. Also Biden looks an old 77 while Warren a young 70 year old.

Mike Smithson


WH2020: Punters still not fully convinced that it’ll be Trump v Biden

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Either can be had at longer than evens

The chart shows the latest betting on who will be the next President in Betfair’s now £30m market. The amount that’s been gambled so far is by far a record this far out but the interesting thing is that the uncertainty that still remains over who is going to be heading the ticket for either side.

By contrast the other big market on WH2020 outcome on which will be the winning party has the Democrats and Republicans both trading at evens.

In time terms we are till a long way from the nominations being finally resolved and clearly a lot can happen in the meantime between now and the party conventions in August. One element, of course, is their ages. Trump is just about to celebrate his 74th birthday and Biden is 77 and clearly there is an actuarial risk of one or both of them not making it. On top of that there are all the uncertainties relating to each of them politically.

Probably Biden is seen as being most at risk with the accusation against him and the fact that at time he can appear to be very frail. Trump is Trump with all that entails and he’s now trying to tar the Biden campaign with what he’s calling Obamagate.

My view is that the market are overpricing the risk

Mike Smithson


Vice President nominee betting. A market that it is better to lay than back

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

If there’s one market that I usually avoid it is the Vice Presidential nominee markets, I couldn’t tip more rubbish if you give me a forklift truck and I’m not alone as punters are determined to give the politics team at Ladbrokes a very nice Christmas bonus by pushing the price of Michelle Obama as the Veep pick down to 10/1.

One of the reasons I avoid this market is that there’s a history of the successful candidate coming from nowhere, in recent times Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, and Dick Cheney have come from nowhere to be the nominee, and four years ago it was the same with Mike Pence in this market as we can see in the below tweet. I think this happens because the Presidential nominee doesn’t want someone who will overshadow them at the bottom of the ticket so they go for someone a little bit more obscure.

So my opinion this is one of those markets where the profits come from laying rather than backing, it is what I’m largely doing this time.



Joe Biden’s VP pick – the case for 40/1 Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

This weekend the junior senator for Illinois, Tammy Duckworth, is due to have a meeting with presumptive nominee, Joe Biden, about the possibility of her being on the ticket in November.

What is striking about Duckworth is her extraordinary backstory and the way she’s triumphed over some terrible injuries incurred while serving in the US armed forces. Back in 2004 she was a helicopter pilot in Iraq which got attacked the result of which left her having to have both legs amputated and losing the power of one arm.

Since then she’s managed to recover her mobility while at the same time developing a political career which now sees her sitting in the US Senate as the junior senator from Illinois.

It is that extraordinary background in a country that has high regards for veterans that marks her out compared with with some of the other women who are said to be being considered by Biden.

There’s been quite a fuss about her in the US media this weekend and she could be just the choice for Biden as he tries to differentiate his campaign even more from Donald Trump. The President, it will be recalled, managed to avoid the draft during the Vietnam war because of “bone spurs”.

It is hard not being impressed with Tammy’s background and her fight back from what must have been a terrible experience. Tammy, from my brief checkout on YouTube, seems to be an effective communicator and could be a major addition to Biden as he seeks to unset the president.

At the current betting price she looks great value.

Mike Smithson


From a betting perspective the dangers of “fighting the last war”

Monday, May 11th, 2020

On Boxing Day last year, a fortnight after the Tories won an 80 seat majority, a delighted family friend declared over lunch “I couldn’t believe the result. Politics has been so unpredictable, and no-one thought Boris would win big!

He was wrong, but not completely. Despite double-digit poll leads the media had speculated about hung parliaments a hell of a lot and the betting markets had the Tories as surprisingly modest favourites. Longer than 1/2 on a majority of any size was available on election day itself. The real question is: Why didn’t everyone think Boris would win big?

I suspect this: The memory of 2017 loomed too large. Two years prior Theresa May had lost a huge poll lead over a matter of weeks, and an apparently certain landslide had turned into a hung parliament. Even though that was an exceptional campaign, the media and the punters and my family friend couldn’t remember all the elections where big leads had led to big wins. 

Everything was filtered through the most recent experience, leading many to deny the obvious favourite even though the evidence was right in front of them. The same mistake is being made now in America.

Joe Biden has a national poll lead of several percent over Donald Trump. His lead in swing states is even better judging by recent polling. Trump’s ratings on handling the coronavirus pandemic are moderate at best. Yet polls show most people think Trump will be re-elected, and the betting markets show him as mild favourite. Why? Because Hillary Clinton had these leads and lost.

I would suggest we are blinding ourselves the same way many did in the UK last year. 2016 was an unusual election in the US. Trump won narrowly and was frankly lucky to barely win several key states. Hillary Clinton suffered from some unusual difficulties, not least a whiff of sexism against her and the timing of the Comey letter. There were unusually prominent third party candidates.

In short: 2016 was the exception, not the rule. We should treat it accordingly. Much has been made on Twitter of how Clinton had similar or larger leads in April/May 2016 than Biden has now. But most candidates with her leads go on to win.

Furthermore, Biden’s position is arguably stronger than Clinton’s was at this stage. The race appears far less volatile. Whereas Clinton’s lead over Trump shrank to near zero repeatedly over 2016 Biden’s lead has been much more steady. His favourables are better than hers at the same stage, and views on Trump are much more entrenched now. In 2016 Trump won voters who disliked both candidates by a 17% margin, but they now give Biden a 32% lead.

The race isn’t over. Trump is a strong campaigner, and his supporters are loyal. But he didn’t win in 2016 with only his base. Biden should be considered a solid favourite, not a mild underdog. 2016 is the latest precedent, but we shouldn’t treat it like the only one.

Pip Moss

Pip Moss posts on Political Betting as Quincel. You can follow him on Twitter at @PipsFunFacts


The Other 2020 US Elections – the Democratic party fight to take back control of the Senate

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Yes, all eyes are on the Presidency. But let us not forget that there are other national US elections taking place on November 3: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

I’m not going to dwell on the House, where I think the Republicans will regain some ground, but not enough to take the Chamber back. Instead, let’s talk about the Senate. The current composition is 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 Independents. The two Independents (Bernie Sanders and Angus King) can probably be counted as Democrats, so it means the effective split is 53:47.

For the Democrats to gain control, they need a net gain of three Senate seats (if they win the Presidency), and four if they do not. They also have to defend Alabama.

So, a tough, tough ask for them, yes?

Well, except for one thing. The Republicans are defending quite a few marginal states. So, without further ado, here are my betting recommendations:

Colorado. Republican incumbent facing the former Governor, John Hickenlooper. The polls have been horrible for the incumbent and Colorado moves further to the left with each passing year. Smarkets have the Democrats as massive favourites, and they are correct. This is an easy Democratic pickup.

D + 1

Maine. Susan Collins has held Maine for almost a quarter century. She used to have the highest approval ratings in the Senate. Not any more. The latest Maine polls have her favorability at 37% against 52% who disapprove. Smarkets seems to think she stands a chance. Smarkets is wrong.

D + 2

Alabama. Doug Jones made the incomprehensible decision to vote for President Trump’s impeachment, despite it making no difference at all. Republican pickup. Next.

D + 1

Georgia. Two Republicans are up for election. Only one of them has truly horrendous personal ratings and sold all their shares after receiving a confidential briefing on the Coronavirus’s likely economic impact. I fear Georgia is going to see a pretty awful second CV-19 wave. Smarkets has Loeffler as narrow favourite to retain her Senate seat. I think she’s a goner. Her Republican colleague will probably hang on.

D + 2

Arizona. John McCain’s Senate seat is currently in the hands of appointee Martha McSally. You may remember her as the person who lost badly to Kyrsten Sinema in 2018. Well, this time Ms McSally is facing popular former astronaut Mark Kelly. The Smarkets odds have Kelly as massive favorite. They are probably right.

D + 3. But now it gets harder for the Democrats.

North Carolina. Smarkets have it as practically 50/50. I think the Republicans probably hang on here.

Iowa. You can get 2-1 on the Democrats here. Joni Ernst has seen her popularity plummet, but the odds are probably about right. If you want a bet on the Democrats having a really good night, this might be the one.

Kentucky. Why are we talking about Kentucky? Because Mitch McConnell is not a popular Senator. Still, I wouldn’t waste my money.

Alaska? Possible but unlikely. The recent plunge in oil prices will not have done the state’s finances any good. And there is a case for the Democrat former Governor of Montana, but it would require an unprecedented level of ticket splitting. Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

All in all, I think the Democrats have a comfortably better than 50% chance of getting to 50 seats (including Independents). It’s also possible they have a blow out night, picking up both Georgia seats and Iowa. You can sell 51 or more Republican seats at slightly worse than evens on Smarkets, and get only marginally worse returns with Betfred and Ladbrokes. Take them.

Robert Smithson


No, don’t look to a non-Trump/Biden winner

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

Biden in particular is great odds against ludicrously short Dem alternatives

Unusual things happen. Fringe scenarios occur and outsiders find ways to win races they aren’t even in. Even so, for both Donald Trump and Joe Biden to be odds against to win the 2020 US presidential election when both are their party’s nominee-elect is pretty extraordinary.

True, Trump is only just odds-against on the Betfair exchange, at 2.08 to back but Biden is right out at 2.42 at the time of writing. Those odds are also, as usual, a little longer than you’ll get at fixed-odds prices where Trump is usually just the other side of evens, at 10/11, but then you have to factor in bookies’ margins there. On the exchange, where prices most closely reflects punters’ opinions in heavily-traded markets, the odds imply that there’s about a 9% chance that neither candidate will win the election – which looks ridiculous to me.

Both candidates have weaknesses, to be sure, but to argue against their nomination now is months after the event. Trump sealed his when the Republican senators backed him in the impeachment trial; Biden remains technically short of sealing victory but as he’s forced all other rivals from the field, that’s only a formality.

The only way either man is replaced now is if they withdraw voluntarily, which essentially means either a health issue or a political scandal so large it renders their candidature impossible. We can certainly rule that second option out for Trump, for whom nothing seems unacceptable behaviour to his party, and we can limit it to an extremely low chance for Biden, who’s been in the public eye for decades and for whom you’d assume that if there were some great scandal, it would be known of by now.

Health, on the other hand, is a little bit more of an issue. Both men are well into their seventies – Biden much closer to eighty – and Trump is overweight, and there’s a pandemic swirling that is particularly harsh towards those in that age group. It’s far from impossible to see circumstances in which one or the other might be replaced. That said, for the bet to pay out, not only would that candidate have to be replaced but they’d have to win.

That’d be a tough ask. We can reasonably assume that Pence would step in for Trump, were that the vacancy, not least because if he had to replace him as candidate then he’d very likely have to replace him as president or acting president too – and it’d be very hard for the GOP not to select a sitting president when there’s no clear alternative and there’ve been no primaries. Pence is currently 66/1 with bookies and almost 100/1 on Betfair. Those odds at least make some sense. (Nikki Haley is the next-priced Republican at 250/1 which I wouldn’t be backing even at those odds but you can see the case and the route).

It’s on the other side of the election that I think the market has it badly wrong. For a start, the Democrats as a whole should be favourites to win, rather than neck-and-neck with the GOP. It’s true that first-term incumbents seeking re-election rarely lose – only Ford, Carter and GHW Bush have done so since Hoover in 1932 (and Ford and Carter might be explained as Watergate exceptions: the former both unelected and tainted by his pardon of Nixon, and the latter and unnatural winner against an unusually weak president).

Even so, Trump’s handling of Covid-19 has provided his opponents with gift-wrapped attack material, and the US economy is tanking appallingly. To put it into a British context, the 30 million new jobless claims over the last six weeks is the equivalent of around 6 million people signing on in Britain. That millions per week are still signing on, weeks after the lockdown began, suggests that these redundancies are not a direct reaction to the infection-protection measures but are being forced by businesses that previously chose not to go down that path, presumably under financial duress. Those sort of strains will not release themselves quickly once the government-mandated economic interruption ends.

Given that Trump only just won in 2016, is behind the polls both nationally and in the key states (and behind where he was when he won), has a very hard ceiling to his support, and events are running against him, the fundamentals point to a Democrat win.

That Biden is around 40% longer than his party is absurd. His party has rallied round him and there are only six months to go. Even if there were cause to rethink his nomination, there’s no clear good candidate. Hillary Clinton is second-favourite for the nomination, at 15/1 (all odds quoted here from the Betfair exchange), which is about as bad a bet as I’ve seen. She lost an election she should have won and nearly lost a nomination she should have won. She’s too much scandal and history around her and, as a non-candidate this time, a lack of mandate.

In fact the shortest-priced odds for the nomination for anyone who did run against Biden is Bernie Sanders, at 99/1 – which is probably about right. He might not really be a Democrat and he might well be easy meat for Trump but he does at least have a lot of votes in the bag. That he is behind Michelle Obama (64/1) is testament to the market not being altogether all there.

Sanders is also behind Andrew Cuomo (35/1), which is still mispriced but a little more sensible. If the Democrat convention did need to find an alternative candidate, Cuomo is someone with a high profile whose Covid-19 response stands in marked contrast to Trump’s. Still, his odds look to me to be still the best part of an order of magnitude out.

By contrast, Gretchen Whitmer is among the 999/1 outsiders. That strikes me not only as an extraordinary disparity with Cuomo but actually possessing a degree of value if you do fancy a Hail Mary punt.

But all this skirts around the main point: Biden’s odds are way out of kilter with his party’s, which are themselves long. I reckon he’s a steal at these prices.

David Herdson