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The Belmont Opry
So here it is, the third - but really the second - and last instalment of the presidential debate series. The first was a debacle, the second got cancelled, the VPs tried their best.
Can we expect better this time around?
Following judgment of his performance in his October 15 town hall, the Trump campaign wil be hoping to smooth the president’s ruffled feathers after facing a harder time with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie.
Biden’s performance over on ABC, in contrast, was generally credited for being more measured, comprehensive and focused on policy - not a forte of the Trump camp thus far.
Whether or not the president will be able to tame his inner Trump is yet to be seen. He’s already fired shots at the moderator, NBC News’ White House correspondent Kristen Welker.
Hitting the trail
With time waiting for no one, and November 3 drawing ever closer, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the last seven days saw the campaign trail hotting up - and with it some movement in Cloudbet’s Electoral College campaign map.
The Trump campaign seems to have gone at it a little harder - judging by the polls and the betting markets, one assumes out of necessity, though one can’t fully discount the optics of showing a Superman incumbent President Trump bouncing back so quickly and effectively from his coronavirus scare.
In lieu of the cancelled second presidential debate last week, both candidates held town halls on October 15 - Trump in Miami, FL and Biden in Philadelphia, PA - his home state of Pennsylvania, which Trump managed to flip in 2016 and one in which he still sees value in fighting for given the 20 Electoral College votes it carries. Cloudbet markets, however, suggest this may be futile as the most recent data suggest a 73% probability that the state will go Blue.
Even the town halls couldn’t go without outcry or controversy, aimed mostly at NBC’s decision to air it’s town hall with the president at a time that clashed with ABC’s sit-down with his rival. Ratings-wise - read into this what you will - Biden comfortably beat Trump too.
The president’s pretty hectic schedule over the past seven days - it has to be said, by anyone’s standards - took him first to the closest contested state of North Carolina, down to Florida and Georgia, before swinging North to Michigan and Wisconsin, then West to Nevada and Arizona, before heading back to Pennsylvania, with finally, plans to return to North Carolina today.
In contrast, Biden has been taking it relatively easy, employing his larger war chest to fill the airwaves and TV screens. But no doubt he’s been in Florida and North Carolina in an effort to shore up his support in two key states.
The outright winner market
At Cloudbet, our position on the election and its outcome is neutral and impartial.
At the time of writing, odds on Biden to win are 1.57 - having widened slightly from 1.47 at the time of our last update - which puts his implied chance of victory at 63.7% (from 68%).
President Trump’s odds are currently 2.52 - having narrowed from 2.86 - putting his implied chance of victory at 39.7% (from 35%).
(Remember, these total more than 100% because the surplus reflects the bookmaker’s margin embedded in their odds.)
Of course, it’s important to recognise that the odds are fluid, so please ensure you check Cloudbet for the latest iteration.
Just as we thought the direction in Cloudbet’s betting markets were showing a clear trend, perhaps Trump Dad-danced his way to better odds, seeing a pretty decent shift in the incumbent’s odds in the outright winner market on October 19, although the gap remained sizeable.
Turning to the states
We now turn our attention from the outright market line to the states.
Despite having been hotly contested throughout the period Cloudbet has been tracing the betting markets, Florida had leaned towards the Biden camp, albeit by the narrowest of margins.
However, on October 20 the Sunshine State - and its crucially important 29 Electoral College (EC) seats - lurched into Red territory for the first time, having consolidated to a more blue position at the time of our last update.
However, by the morning of October 21, it was back on a knife’s edge, yet even tighter than in the first week of our election commentary. The party winner market a the time of writing sits at 2.03 for the Democrats and 1.73 for the GOP.
Cloudbet implied probability of win
Knife-edge - Blue
Knife-edge - Red
Compared to the polls tracked by FiveThirtyEight, Cloudbet’s markets are tighter than the suggested 3.6 point gap, with Biden at 48.9% and Trump at 45.3%.
North Carolina’s 15 EC votes remain up for grabs, and both candidates have campaigned hard in the Tar Heel state. On October 20, Cloudbet’s betting markets saw a sharp, near-2% drop in the probability of the Democrats taking it - moving the state from Blue on our map into undecided territory. However, by the morning of October 21 that move had recovered, and built upon slightly - taking Carolina back into the Blue. The party winning market at the time of writing is the same as it is for Florida, just the other way around - at 1.73 for the Democrats and 2.03 for the Republicans.
Cloudbet implied probability of win
Polling data collated and adjusted by FiveThirtyEight puts the contest at an even tighter 49.3% Biden, 46.1% Trump (from 46.2% a week earlier).
Big, beautiful red wave - or a red mirage?
While addressing a rally in Greenville, NC on October 15 the president urged his supporters to get out to vote, then proudly told them to look out for a “big, beautiful, red wave” on election day (while continuing his anti mail-in ballot mantra).
While the hype may prove popular with the already converted, the president may well be right - but this also comes with a serious caveat.
An Opinium Research/Guardian poll suggests that some 55% of in-person voters intend to vote for Trump while 42% intend to vote for Biden. On the day, we may indeed see that red wave building... But the same poll suggests that when it comes to mail-in voters, 75% intend to vote for Biden and only 22% intend to vote for Trump.
This, some warn, may result in a “red mirage” that dissipates as all ballots are counted with the potential to swing tight states blue after the big day.
Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin
Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are all considered must-win states, with a collective 46 EC seats. In 2016, Clinton’s failure to secure these states lost her the election. Or more importantly, gave Trump his big surprise win.
According to Cloudbet’s Electoral College map, all three states are in the Blue camp. Over our tracking period so far, Pennsylvania (20 EC votes) has hovered at near, or over, a 70% probability - currently at 73% with a party winner market of 1.29 Democrats / 3.38 Republicans.
Michigan (16 votes) tells a similar story, although by not quite so comfortable a margin now. Over our tracking period the probability of a Blue win peaked at 78.2%, but today this sits at 68.6%. The current party winner line is 1.36 Democrats / 2.98 Republican.
Wisconsin (10 votes) sat at a solid 71.5% probability of a Blue win on October 19, before dipping to 67.3% on October 20, and then strengthening back to 74% currently. The party winner market sits at 1.30 Democrats / 3.33 Republicans.
Iowa, Georgia, Ohio - the 60/40 battlegrounds - joined by Arizona
The other key battleground states of Iowa (6 votes), Georgia (16) and Ohio (18) have been joined by Arizona in the latest data - a surprise standout looking at October 20 data.
Here we see a diversion between the numbers suggested by the Cloudbet map and the polls.
According to the betting markets, the Republicans still have an edge in Iowa (64.1% probability), Georgia (60.2%) and Ohio (63.7%), but the polls paint a much tighter picture.
FiveThirtyEight has the Iowa race absolutely neck and neck, with Biden at 47.3% and Trump 47.2%; in Georgia, Biden has a little more breathing space, at 47.3% versus Trump’s 46.6%; but in Ohio it’s Trump ahead by not even a nose at 47.1% versus Biden’s 46.9%.
Into this, we can now add Arizona (11 votes), identified earlier as a potential swing state but up until recently, a member of the Blue camp. The margin of difference between the two parties in Arizona has slowly eroded since our coverage began, such that on October 20 it slipped into undecided territory - albeit only briefly as it edged its way out again on October 21.
Cloudbet implied probability of win
Where the money is
In our last Blog post we noted the interesting observation that the betting positions seen at Cloudbet were thus far at odds with the odds.
While the market prices strongly favour a Democratic win overall, 86% of all the positions taken by Cloudbet since October 7 through October 12 were placed on Trump and/or the GOP.
This trend seems to have continued in the time since, such that on a Biden/Trump two-way bet, 85% of the money is on Trump retaining the presidency.
We postured the idea at the time, when the outright market line had widened for Trump that maybe this was because if 2020 has taught us anything so far it’s to expect the unexpected - that unpredictability is now the only predictable thing, and that the odds offered on Trump may have been wide enough to attract a wager on the outside.
Since then, we’ve seen that market narrow again so perhaps the betting public is possibly more right-leaning, and therefore more likely to be in Trump’s base.
Another very real thought is one that is firmly in line with the premise upon which all our efforts in covering this election rests - which we explain in our first Election 2020 post - that the polls have not been great at predicting election outcomes in recent major voting events.
People still remember 2016 and don't believe the polls. At the time, the odds reached 1.14 for Hillary, while one book offered up to 7.00 on Trump.
He defied the odds then - so can he do it again?