Archive for the 'America' Category


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


The armed, Trump-backed, lockdown protestors who are helping build the profile of possible Biden VP pick, Gretchen Whitmer

Friday, May 1st, 2020
Some of the armed protestors who burst into Michigan’s state Capitol building objecting to the Governor’s request to extend emergency powers to combat COVID-19

The efforts to combat COVID-19 have divided America and overnight saw extraordinary scenes when hundreds of protesters, many of them armed, burst into Michigan’s state capitol to object to plans to extend the state of emergency in the state. The State’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, has incurred the wrath of Trump for not being appreciative enough of his efforts.

The idea that anybody armed to the hilt could enter a parliament building while it was in session is quite extraordinary and has inevitably focussed attention on Governor Whitmer’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus in the state with the third biggest death toll.

All this has helped build her national profile and she is currently rated as the fourth favourite on Betfair to be the Democratic party’s vice presidential nominee.

Biden has narrowed the field of speculation by making it clear that he wants a woman alongside him on the ticket and Whitmer is probably emerging as the best-known Democrat politician who is not in the US senate.

Giving how the pandemic is totally dominating everything then Whitmer, who has had one relatively good TV appearance after another in recent days makes a lot of sense.

Another issue that might sway it to Whitmer in the eyes of Biden is that Michigan is an absolute must win state for the Democrats and was taken by Trump by the most minuscule of margins in 2016.

Mike Smithson


How Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has become the central WH2020 issue

Friday, April 17th, 2020


Kamala Harris still clear betting favourite to be Biden’s running mate

Friday, April 17th, 2020

If it hadn’t been for CO-19 we would be just three weeks away from the local elections including the big one for Mayor or London. Those, of course, got postponed and there will be an even bigger range of elections taking place in May 2021.

In previous years the London Mayoral race has been a big betting event and the incument, Sadiq Khan, was the tight odds on favourite. My guess is that it will be the same in a year’s time

With the WH2020 nominee now looking almost certain for Biden one of the main active betting markets is on who will be on who he chooses as his running mate.

What we do know is that it will be a woman because Biden has made that commitment. California Senataor and former favourite for the nomination, Kamala Harris, heads the betting because Biden has mentioned her specicially.

I think there’s quite a case for Gretchen Whitmer – the Governor of Michgan who has had high profile arguments with Trump and is also in an absolutely must win state for the Democrats.

Another thought is Elizabeth Warren who might appeal more to former Bernie Sanders supporters 13% of whom at the moment say are not backing Biden.

Mike Smithson


With six and a half months to go till WH2020 Trump is still in negative approval territory

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

Unlike in the UK where for less importance is attached to leader ratings the approval numbers for an incumbent US president are generally seen as a good indicator of how the next election is going to shape out.

YouGov, which is now very well established in the US, just put out its latest chart showing the trend since just after Trump became president in early 2017 till the present day. What can be seen is that he has had much wider approval gaps and although there has been a slight narrowing the fact remains that he is still has a double-digit deficit..

The current coronavirus epidemic continues to dominate the American news cycle and extraordinaryily Trump has a sought to brag about the size of the TV audiences for his recent daily briefings.

Following the decision by Bernie Sanders to formally quit the race everything is all set for 77 year old Joe Biden to take on 74 year-old incumbent in November.

The Democratic flag carrier is not without his own troubles with some recent revelations about what he is alleged to have done with a woman aide 27 years ago. What the truth is we don’t know but the New York Times has come under some fire for the way it has downplayed the story. This has the potential to explode again at any time.

In the betting Trump is rated on Betfair as a 50% chance with Biden at 40%.

Mike Smithson


In a State: Assessing WH2020

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Why Trump approval ratings are a better pointer than state polls

I do have some fairly strong views on the election. In particular, I would advise you to cast aside state polling on Biden vs Trump and look instead at Trump’s favourability on a state-by-state basis.

Why? Because US pollsters use very strict turnout filters. Didn’t vote in Election 2016… well, they largely assume that you won’t vote in 2020. This matters, especially as President Trump didn’t win 2016, Hillary lost it.

Let me explain. Mitt Romney. Nice chap. He once sat on the table next to me at a restaurant on the slopes in Deer Valley. Generally considered to be a weak candidate.

But here’s the thing. Mr Romney got a greater share of the US electorate to vote for him than President Trump. In 2012 there were 235,248,000 eligible voters in the US. Mr Romney got 25.9% of them. In 2016, there were 250,056,000 eligible voters and President Trump got 25.1% of them,

In some states, despite populations that had grown since 2012, President Trump got fewer votes than Mitt Romney.

Here’s one – Wisconsin.

Traditionally Democratic. Nice place. Big on cheese, I believe.

In 2012, Mitt got 1,407,966 votes there and lost by quite a large margin. Four years later, President Trump got 1,405,284 votes and won the state by a whisker. The issue for Ms Clinton is that she was a voter repellant. Democrats simply didn’t turn out for her.

In 2018, two years after President Trump scooped Wisconsin, there was a Senate race in the state. The Democrats, fools that they are, put up a lesbian candidate. As everyone on here knows, neither women nor homosexuals go down well in the rust belt, and she was roundly defeated.

Oh wait,

No she wasn’t. She won.

And she won with more votes than President Trump got in 2016. I want you to think about that for a second. A Senatorial candidate, in a midterms year, got more votes than the winning Presidential candidate got two years earlier. If anyone can find another example of that, I will send along a 20 pound Amazon voucher. I expect I’ll keep my money.

The point of this meandering is a simple one. In a whole bunch of states, it was not President Trump who brought massive numbers of Republicans to the ballot box, it was Ms Clinton who scared Democratic ones away.

Which brings us back to why you shouldn’t trust state opinion polls too much. A voter who chose Obama in 2008 and 2012, and who stayed home in 2016, doesn’t get counted. And there are a lot of voters like that in states like Wisconsin and Michigan.

To see who’s going to win, look instead at President Trump’s approval ratings. These are surveys of all voters, whether they trekked to the ballot box in 2016 or not. In Wisconsin, the President is on -10. That’s actually worse than the -9 he was registering on the eve of the Republicans getting smacked there in 2018.

The best place to see month-by-month, state-by-state approval ratings is Morning Consult: They show Trump in trouble in Michigan and Wisconsin (both -10), but holding on in Arizona (+1). Iowa looks dicey for the President (-5), while Minnesota and Virginia (both -5) are both sufficiently close that they might go from Democrat to Republican.

If anyone wants a wager, I would reckon that the approval numbers will prove significantly more predictive of individual state results than opinion polls – does anyone fancy being on the other side?

Robert Smithson


Biden moves to a 92% chance on Betfair following the Sanders pull-out & Harris remains VP favourite

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

Following last night’s Wisconsin primary the big WH2020 news today has been the widely expected withdrawal from the race by Bernie Sanders. This means that Biden now has a clear run into to what would have been the convention in three and a half months.

That clearly remains very much in doubt because of the epidemic and the party will be looking at other ways of staging the convention which would give the nominee a big publicity boost.

One feature of the Sanders pull-out is that not all his supporters will now back Biden and one poll today had 13% of them supporting Trump. CNN is reporting that there have been a number of conversations between Sanders and Obama and it might be that the ex-President has played a big part in persuading Sanders to make his decision.

This is a better situation though than with Hillary at WH2016 when the Sanders campaign continued right to the convention. There is still a lot of blame being attached to Sanders for his action four years ago being a major help to Trump.

The main betting interest is now on the VP.

Mike Smithson


How Trump and his media acolytes got the coronavirus wrong

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

Might be problematical in election year

The above compilation of clips, mostly from Fox News, shows how leading media supporters of the President and Trump himself were viewing the epidemic only a few weeks ago. Since then the US has become the nation most affected and Trump has changed his tune. His latest is blaming the World Health Organisation.

The initial stance from the White House was reflected in the polling. In mid-March Ipsos found that 63% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans said they considered the coronavirus to be a personal threat. Now the political split is getting much smaller as concern has increased across the board.

All this produces a massive challenge for Trump who turns 74 in a few week. It is hard to see the epidemic not being an issue when the nation votes in the first week of November.

Mike Smithson