The 2016 US presidential election is considered to be amongst the most unpredictable and impactful elections in the history of the US and the whole world. An outsider whose candidacy many considered little more than a joke, or a self-promoting stunt managed to prove all polls and bookmakers wrong and win. That fact aligned itself with the June 2016 United Kingdom referendum on European Union membership and later, the 2017 United Kingdom general elections. To get a better understanding of why this happened and find out more about betting on politics, see our elections betting preview.
The unexpected turn of events in the 2016 election, combined with the opening of gambling markets in certain US states has created a lot of excitement about the upcoming election. If sports betting is unpredictable, betting on politics may even define the term.
As such, a multidimensional analysis including as many factors as possible is necessary to make a valid suggestion. To that end, in this first part of this three-part series, we start by looking at the most likely challenger to the president, Democrat front-runner and former vice president, Joe Biden. In the second part we’ll address the incumbent, President Trump, looking at the circumstances surrounding his campaign, and in the last, address potential wild-card scenarios or issues that could derail the efforts of either.
Biden 2020 preview
Despite the polls suggesting that Biden would probably win in a general election over Trump, up until recently, his odds were worse than the sitting president’s. George Floyd’s death and the following demonstrations and riots have changed the political environment rapidly.
After a long time, Biden appears to be the favourite to win. His advantage over Trump might be ‘weak’ but it shows how unstable the political climate is and how fast voters’ expectations will change.
Life & political career
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr, has a long history in politics. Originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, he started in politics in 1968, working as a clerk in a law firm in Wilmington, Delaware, headed by a prominent local Republican. He once said that "I thought of myself as a Republican”, so perhaps he has at least that in common with the sitting president.
It wasn’t until the 1972 Senate elections, when Biden ran as an independent for Delaware, that he received support from members and organisations related to the Democratic Party. Biden won office by 3,162 votes, and at the age of 29, became the sixth-youngest senator in history. That was the start of a long Senate career which lasted until 2009, when he accepted President Obama’s invitation to serve as his vice president.
During his 37-year Senate career, Biden was involved in various issues, particularly those related to minorities, foreign relations and taxation, but in this election race his vice-presidency is likely to be the primary focus, in our opinion. As such, we feel little need to go over the minutiae of his Senate track record, but we do note that perhaps his stance on some past issues, for example the Gulf War, could come to bear if decisions he made in the past become relevant to his campaign message.
Economic policies & legacy
The economy is key in every election, and 2020 will be no different. Here, Biden should not be considered anywhere close to the socialist Democrat views held by Bernie Sanders. His agenda is much more moderate and it resembles that of Hillary Clinton in 2016 more than Bernie’s. In a way, his platform is a continuation of many Obama policies, in which, unsurprisingly, Biden was heavily involved.
During the Obama era, Biden had an important role in negotiations with Republicans to pass important legislation, including the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2011. With this in mind, it is reasonable to assume that Team Biden will focus on the economy, as many Americans consider these pieces of legislation to be crucial in helping to resolve the financial crisis of 2007-08. Many, possibly most, Americans consider the financial boom to be a product of Obama’s policies rather than of President Trump’s. That could allow Biden to hit Trump hardest on this, his greatest claim -- the until-now low unemployment and increased growth, diminishing greatly Trump’s electoral agenda.
At a quick glance, that seems to us to be a reasonable strategy. The expected post-Covid19 economic crisis will be trying particularly for the Trump administration, as it already has been. A person involved with dealing with the previous crises could be like the right person to deal with a new one. However, there are hidden traps. Trump is not a traditional economic liberal. He follows a hybrid policy, combining libertarianism with economic nationalism and increased infrastructure spending. His most controversial plan, the border wall with Mexico, requires massive public spending. That makes the two candidates’ economic agendas much more similar on a macro level, so unless handled carefully, an attack on Trump's economic policies could backfire when the issue of public spending is brought to the table.
All in all, time spent discussing the economy on the news will depend on developments over the next few months. Hillary Clinton campaigned in 2016 on the continuation of Obama administration economic policies and lost. If the economy somehow manages to recover relatively quickly, then the Democrats could shift their attention to other matters like foreign policy, or social issues.
Social issues & minorities
Social issues regarding minorities are often at the center of Democrat platforms. That was the case in 2016, and it is expected in 2020 as well.
A repeat of President Obama’s victory in 2008 and re-election 2012 is what the Democrats are trying to recreate in 2020. Obama managed to create a massive coalition of voters, including blue-collar workers, African-Americans, Hispanics, and a large number of other smaller minorities, including the LGBTQ and Muslim communities. They tried to do the same in 2016 but Clinton was perceived as more of an establishment persona than Obama had been, and what should have played in her favour -- her experience -- ended up being her disadvantage.
This is where Biden does much better than Hillary. According to most polls, Biden is more popular than Trump. It is true that in 2016 almost all the polls were ultimately proved wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t of value. As vice president, Biden was fairly popular among most groups of voters, and President Obama’s endorsement should boost his popularity among African Americans. That’s why it is more likely that Biden could win the swing states that Hillary lost. It would be very hard for Sanders to attract the neutral voters and much harder for Bloomberg or Warren.
Unfortunately for Biden, if one digs into his past -- as the Trump campaign is sure to do -- there are skeletons in his closet. Starting from the turbulent 1970s and the Civil Rights movement, Biden opposed legislation against segregation in school buses.
His arguments were mainly that this wasn’t the right bill to solve the issue and that one should be very careful when changing such policies. Elsewhere, while the LGBTQ community is important to Biden’s campaign and he is expected to get the vast majority of their votes, in 1993 Biden voted in favor of 10 U.S.C. §654 which banned homosexuals from the US military, and in 1996 voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, prohibitng the federal government from recognizing any same-sex marriage, barring individuals in such marriages from equal protection under federal law, and allowing states to do the same.
We can expect Team Trump to bring these issues up in an effort to damage Biden’s credibility. How his team will respond to such attacks could be the difference between success or failure. It remains to be seen if Pete Buttigieg’s endorsement, the first openly gay person to launch a major presidential campaign, will really help him.
Before placing your bet, read our Betting Politics strategy guide to be ahead of the bookies
Lessons from the recent past
A lot can be said about the 2016 elections and how we got there. How an experienced politician supported by the majority of the mainstream media, celebrities, and the very popular former president lost to an outsider that had a lot of problems within his own party. As with all elections, it was not just one factor that led there: Hillary’s damaged reputation, her email scandal and a clear desire for something different and anti-establishment. What most people agree on, on both the right and the left, is that it wasn’t so much that Trump won the election but that Hillary lost it.
One could argue that the Democrats were too confident, thinking that one way or another victory was assured; that they failed to take Trump’s challenge seriously and thus that one of their biggest mistakes was not to approach swing states voters. In contrast, Trump decided to practically ignore states like California which he knew would vote blue and focused most of his energy on those states that were needed to get the electoral college votes to secure the presidency. Trump took the swing states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- while Clinton didn’t even campaign in some of them -- and in so doing won himself 101 electoral college votes.
Michigan used to be a Democratic stronghold back when blue collar voters were a party base -- Bill Clinton based his election on them. Hillary’s shift to identity politics resulted in increased popularity among minorities, which are often concentrated around big cities. The problem is that most big US cities like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles would vote blue anyway.
If Joe Biden, who is significantly more popular among blue collar voters than Hiliary was, focuses on these states and manages to win voters back, it should greatly enhance his chances of defeating Donald Trump. It remains to be seen if he will learn from the mistakes of the past, or indeed if these voters have not been fully alienated from the Democratic Party.
It is evident that Joe Biden is far from flawless, but neither is the incumbent. As with all career politicians, Biden has been involved in hundreds of decisions both for the state of Delaware and at the federal level - and it's inevitable that some decisions eventually play out better than others. If the public focuses on the successes of the Obama administration and the errors of the Trump administration, it seems that “Ridin with Biden” should stand a good chance of winning.
As the recent changes to our US Election odds illustrate, the political environment is very unstable as we speak. It would be unlikely to have more similar demonstrations and riots in the next six months but it wouldn’t be unlikely that something else shifts the voters’ attention elsewhere.
A week ago everyone would believe that the most discussed issue in the upcoming debates would be Covid-19 and the global pandemic. Now it seems that identity politics will also have their fair share and more issues will emerge. With that being said, the recent surge suggests it’s not the best time to bet on Biden at 1.98 as two days ago his odds were 2.07.