US Election Betting - the Wildcards
The 59th presidential election is now less than six months away, but given the unstable environment, that's an awfully long time. We identify six issues that could be game-changers for either side in the final outcome.
In politics, perception is everything. Any event can be seen in a very different way depending on which side of the political aisle one sits. As a result, it may not be clear if certain events or decisions constitute a victory or a win for either side. It’s important to try to obtain the majority’s point of view on these issues to have a better chance of betting the right way - and there are plenty of issues in play.
It won’t be just the two candidates competing in November, but the Republican Party against the Democratic Party. Both candidates will be carrying the legacy of their parties with all the pros and cons that that entails. How will Republican-held states perform compared to Democrat-held states? Where is better to live - Florida or California?
This might seem evident, but due to the nature of US presidential elections, the focus is on the candidate rather than the party. The 1-on-1 debates create the impression that the parties aren’t so important - but that is definitely not the case for the American voter.
During Obama’s presidency, the Republican Party managed to deal with its own internal crisis after the 2008 election defeat fairly well. In the 2010 special elections the Republicans won 7 seats in the Senate bringing it under their control. Even though Obama won the 2012 election relatively easily, the Republican-controlled Senate greatly affected his plans, limiting his options. Similarly, in the 2018 midterm elections the Democrats regained the House of Representatives, enabling them to limit the president’s powers, but with the Republicans keeping the Senate.
After the devastating 2016 loss, the Democratic Party is still trying to decide how it should redefine itself. In a similar way that the Republicans had to decide how best to defeat Obama, the Democrat focus seems to be more on their adversary rather than on their own candidates. Such strategies can have short-term gains but in the long-run are not enough to gather the wider support necessary for winning an election.
President Trump managed in a bizarre way to unite the Republican voters that originally didn’t support him and attract many disappointed ex-Democrats. Will Biden manage to do the same with the Democrats who are in desperate need of a new leader?
What are the odds of Joe Biden winning the US Election? Read a full review here.
ObamaGate is what President Trump has called the potential scandal related to the Russian collusion investigation. In brief, the current administration accuses the former, including President Obama and Vice-President Biden, of requesting the FBI to conduct a politically motivated investigation into the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Essentially, it is claimed that the accusation of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians was based on phoney claims and its purpose was simply to defame Trump and his team prior to the election, but also in case they won, rather than having real information to suggest collusion. It’s a potential scandal that emerged very recently; there is limited information about it and other minor scandals are included, like the unmasking of General Flynn.
It is impossible to know what the truth is and most likely no decisions will be made before the election. Is this another ‘Obama was born in Kenya’ story? It might be, but Biden is already facing problems over it. That doesn’t mean there has been an abuse of power, but it doesn’t make Biden look good either. In general, the way the former administration handled the issue wasn’t the most appropriate. We can expect Team Trump to focus more and more on this issue in an effort to debunk Obama’s reputation, which if successful, most likely will be the end of the Biden campaign. Considering how voters reacted to all the scandals which were brought up back in 2016, it is also very possible that they will choose to ignore it. Arguably though, emerging scandals can prove stains which Biden may well fail to remove.
There have been moments when Bernie Sanders appeared to be the favourite for the Democratic ticket. Once again he failed to secure it, and once again attacks - similar to those of the 2016 campaign - took place against him. Despite Hillary Clinton’s attempts to re-approach Bernie Sanders’ supporters, it proved that they were too alienated from the Democratic Party. A large share of them didn’t vote for Hillary, and in some cases even voted for Trump. Considering that Hillary won the popular vote, if she had managed to simply retain a fairly reasonable number of Bernie voters, most likely she could have won the electoral college as well.
Luckily for Biden, Sanders endorsed him and currently there aren’t solid signs that the socialist-democrats won’t support Biden. His choice for the vice-president’s ticket could assist him in earning their support. It was rumoured that Stacey Abrams would be picked, but they were proven wrong. Could it be Bernie himself? That might be just what Biden needs to win the election. Will he be able, though, to offer what Sanders may ask in return? What if the answer is yes, but eventually Sanders drives away the more moderate Democrat voters? No clear signs exist, but it is evident how fast the political environment can change.
Cloudbet’s winning party odds for November’s election.
Recent elections and signs
Since the 2016 election, both parties have been talking about the anticipated electoral wave, whether that is blue or red, implying that either Trump's victory or the Democrats’ wrongdoings will result in mass voting from the supporters of one party or the other. Taking into consideration the 2016 election and in general the increased level of division in US society, the possibility of such a scenario appears low, in our view. A landslide victory for one party or the other seems more likely.
With this in mind, the 2020 special elections which took place a few weeks ago are the most recent indicator, with the 2018 midterms next, that we have for the upcoming election. As noted earlier, in 2018 the Democrats managed to regain the House, which was definitely a success. However, not regaining it would have been a disaster as it would have meant that the Republicans had maintained the federal trifecta established two years earlier. In addition to that, it’s common in US politics for the party to win the presidency to lose the next election. The same happened to Obama in 2010 while the 2002 midterm election is one of the rare occasions where the party in power won. The circumstances were very different of course as 9/11 changed everything in American society.
The results of the 2020 special elections are more surprising. Three seats were decided in California, Maryland and Wisconsin. The Democrat Kweisi Mfume won in Maryland, but the other two seats turned red. Republican Mike Garcia won in California and Republican Tom Tiffany won in Wisconsin. These results become more important considering Wisconsin is an important swing state, while California has been a Democrat stronghold for decades. Electing Republicans there might just be the voters’ way of expressing their disapproval over certain policies and it wouldn’t be surprising to us if the same districts vote blue in six months. It remains to be seen if the Democrats can earn their trust again. The most recent developments, including Vernon Jones leaving the Democratic party to endorse Trump, don’t suggest so.
The coronavirus outbreak will be one of the most discussed issues: How the government reacted to it, what measures were taken to prepare the country, how these compare to other countries, what future steps will be, how will it be made certain the same doesn’t happen again, and how did the Democrats deal with a similar situation?
Few countries were prepared for the issue in time. The earliest information was not clear when it came to how dangerous the virus is, or how easily it is transmitted. Despite his original reassurances that the country would suffer very little from the outbreak as Europe was heavily hit, President Trump was forced to impose strict restrictions on travel and despite that, and the existing lockdown in many states, at the moment there are almost 100,000 deaths from Covid 19 in the country.
Even though the US isn’t the country hit the hardest when it comes to the number of deaths or cases per capita, from a PR perspective it has been a disaster. Team Biden understands that, and that is why Biden has made so few public appearances. The plan is to let Trump take all the damage, and it seems to be working so far. It becomes more complicated once the issue of re-opening the economy comes to the table. It is obvious that even if a country manages to surpass Covid-19 with few fatalities, the aftermath of an economic meltdown can be worse. 100,000 deaths may sound like a large number but considering the size of the US (approximately 350 million inhabitants) and the number of people dying under normal circumstances, it isn’t that high. Having in mind countries who suffered similar economic meltdowns, it is hard to really calculate the cost as it will affect literally everything; education, healthcare, social services, transportation, security and every aspect of life.
Team Biden is expected to make the argument of how the US dealt with the Western African Ebola virus epidemic in 2013, or the 2009 swine flu pandemic, but the effectiveness of this will likely be limited. As of 29 June, there have been 10,258,151 cases and 504,613 deaths from Covid-19, with 5,563,040 cases recovering (Source: Worldometers). On the other hand, there have been less than 30,000 cases of Ebola, with the vast majority being in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Comparing the Ebola outbreak with the Covid-19 outbreak would be an exaggeration. Similarly, the number of confirmed deaths globally from H1N1 is 18,449 which also isn’t comparable. This argument should be used to counter Trump’s attacks rather than be promoted as a great success.
If there are any signs of a continuing economic crisis, President Trump will have a problem in dealing with the criticism. He might be used to hostile journalists, and many times he acts as if he enjoys it, but watching his recent press conferences, it isn’t untrue to say that it has taken its toll on him. What comes next though?
While the president is constantly talking about reopening the country, most Republican governors are following his lead, but the same can’t be said about their Democratic counterparts who argue that it is essential for public health to remain careful until a vaccine is available. As anticipated, the majority of the population isn’t very happy about this. Famous Californians like Joe Rogan and Elon Musk have openly expressed their dissatisfaction with these measures and that they are considering relocating their business to Republican-controlled states. Naturally, neither Joe nor Elon represent the average American voter, but nevertheless it has to be acknowledged that we aren’t used to celebrities openly criticising Democrats; on the contrary. If one combines this with the ongoing trend of US citizens moving from Democratic controlled states to Republican controlled states, it might not be just the opinion of two celebrities but a general disapproval of policies dating from the Obama era reinforced by the lockdown. If this is the case, the Democrats might face a bigger problem than just losing the 2020 election. If this is the case, the Democratic party will have to completely shift its agenda from what it has been for over a decade.
As this article is written, information is still unfolding regarding the origins of the virus. New information surfaces daily and therefore what is considered true today might not be tomorrow. In such an emotional issue as the Covid-19 pandemic, public sentiment can change unexpectedly.
It has been a hell of a year. From the assassination of Qassem Soleimani and fears of a new war in the Middle East, to the coronavirus outbreak and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests and subsequent unrest. Following the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man at the knee of arresting officer Derek Chauvin, mass demonstrations began across the US and other Western nations against institutional racism and police brutality, in many cases turning violent. Despite the initial event happening in Minneapolis, a Democratic state, it wasn’t long before the public's anger turned towards President Trump.
Had the size of the demonstrations not been so big, this could have been neglected or forgotten, like the Charlottesville protests, but this will undoubtedly be an election issue. President Trump will try to appeal to African-American voters in every way possible and bring up Biden’s ambiguous past. Biden’s team is expected to pursue a similar strategy to the present one, accusing the president of being racist and of supporting alt-right groups. One way or another, there is unlikely to be a major shift in the African-American vote, in our view - voters may not adore Biden, but are likely to prefer him over Trump, as they did Hillary Clinton.
Nonetheless, in 2016 Trump won despite being clearly beaten by Clinton in the African-American vote. He did better than Mitt Romney, but the difference was still substantial. With that in mind, it is reasonable to assume that Floyd’s murder and the subsequent protests, while polarising, likely won’t make a big difference in the final outcome.
What are the odds of Donald Trump winning the US Election? Read a full review here.
In 2016, the odds on Hillary Clinton becoming the 45th president of the United States and the first female president were at 80%. Many Republicans believed so too. The result proved almost everyone wrong. That must serve as a constant reminder to anyone believing to be sure of who will win in November. A single wrong answer can be the end of a candidate’s campaign.
A good example of this was in the 1988 presidential election between Republican nominee George H. W. Bush from Texas and Democrat Michael Dukakis from Massachusetts. For months Dukakis was considered favourite to win by many analysts. After eight years of Republicans in power it felt as if the people were tired. However, Dukakis made two big mistakes - irrelevant to the main points of his agenda - that cost him the presidency. Over a period, he was attacked for being soft on crime and not being a leadership figure; what he needed he had to do was come out and support the death penalty for hardened criminals and rapists.
Remaining true to his values and pursuing a more scientifically based policy approach, Dukakis refused. In addition to that, to try to present himself as a wartime leader in the same way that ex-Director of the CIA, Bush, could be, Dukakis starred in a badly shot ad driving a tank. Many found this a ridiculous sight and the result was a clear Republican victory. Dukakis was ready for the job, educated and competent, but to be president one needs to walk a very thin line. If Biden makes another gaffe, or Trump decides to inject glue, the political status quo could change completely.
Prior to making any suggestion, it must be stressed that this analysis is based on the assumption that Trump hasn’t been alienated from his original 2016 voters. One reason for this is because the criticism he is facing comes mostly from those that opposed him originally. Another, is that he kept, to an extent, his pre-election promises and, up until the lockdown, his rallies were packed with more people than in 2016. These are signals, but no guarantees.
Another point worth making is related to identity politics. Democrats have been reaching out to minority groups for many years now, managing to bring the majority of their members to vote for them in the last election. That was the case in 2016, but despite all the accusations of racism and xenophobia, Trump performed better among these minority groups than did his predecessors like Romney, who was rarely accused of racism. Moreover, Republicans have been including in their ballots more candidates originating from minorities, Hispanic and African-Americans in particular. Managing to increase their share among Hispanic and African-Americans could help secure swing states like Florida. If this happens on a significant scale, it’s hard to see how the Republicans will lose.
It is evident that betting on politics is very different from betting on sports, and the potential factors that may or may not affect the result are too many - while it’s nearly impossible to understand how these affect people from very different backgrounds.
Taking into account lessons learned from the past, the state of the Democratic Party during the Trump administration, the state of the Republican Party, how the US has performed under Trump, how strong his opponent is, and what the domestic and global trends are - unless the president decides to suddenly shoulder all responsibility for the Covid-19 outbreak and/or the nation’s institutional racism (which, let’s face it, seems far from likely) - we see no clear reason why voters will upset their incumbent - an act that, they have shown in the past, is not one they seem particularly apt to do, unless necessary, especially when the alternative is so weak.