It is tough to think of things that everyone can agree on in politics – never more so than in 2019. I’ve got to try, though – since my job here is to get readers on the same page.
“No, it’s not,” you might say. “Your job at a handicapping blog is to handicap the best bets for the elections in 2020.” Well, sure. But first I’ve got to find some point of agreement with Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike because otherwise, we’re building sandcastles here.
Successful handicapping involves building a logical case for a wager, stone by (Roger) stone. If every stone I try to lay down is contentiously debated by the reader – yelling at the page as if it were cable TV news, so to speak – then we get absolutely nowhere. Readers have to accept the building blocks of the case at least even if opinions will always differ on President Trump and his 2020 reelection campaign.
It doesn’t help that at least 1 side makes being neutral into a crime-against-all. For instance, actress and left-wing activist Susan Sarandon made it clear that she didn’t give a whit who won the 2016 general election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Yet Sarandon has since become a so-called “pro-Trump” pariah among mainstream Democrats. In contrast, the “Ron Paul Republicans” of 2008 and 2012 shrugged when John McCain and Mitt Romney were walloped-in-turn by Barack Obama, yet those voters did not become the nightly scapegoats of Fox News following GOP losses.
Ah, but there’s a test case – did Democrat readers just assume I must be pro-Republican? Not the case. I’m pro gamblers making money. Each major political party has its own set of problems, faults, foibles, and tendencies.
Ignoring those tendencies – or pretending they’re exactly the same on both sides – is a nightmare scenario for speculators, and good news for bookies at political betting sites, who are hoping that a majority of bettors guess wrong in 2020.
Neutral POV: 2020 Election Gamblers Must Find It or Be Blinded
We should all agree that a lot of Twitter and Facebook users are using far-Right fascist tactics on each other when arguing politics, and that goes for strongly “partisan” Republicans and Democrats.
Or, if the definition of lunacy as “far-Right” is offensive to you, then substitute “far-far-Left” such as the Kremlin’s propaganda tactics during USSR’s reign over Europe. Dissenters are made-fun of and cast-out. Opponents are declared crazy, evil, or psychotic. Every new fact is viewed through a media lens – from Breitbart to BBC. Very few said lenses are known never to slant the news 1 way or the other. At least there’s a balance in some sense – they say it’s bad that America is divided, but just think if we were all on the same news-propaganda side all the time. Actually…try not to think of it.
But there isn’t a lot of “balance” in Las Vegas, except (presumably) within each bookmaker’s separate markets. Betting sites typically post somewhat similar odds on current events or big games – it would be rare to find a team’s line-to-win the Super Bowl at (+200) at a sportsbook at (-150) at another. Take a look at the 2020 general-election futures lines at Bovada Sportsbook, MyBookie, and BetOnline, and you’ll find a weird, crazy collection of contradictory betting odds.
Bovada marks Trump as a (+110) wager to win reelection, with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, tied for “2nd place” shortest bets at (+500) each to become the next POTUS.
BetOnline’s action is taking the Orange One to a minus-moneyline to win again at (-110). Both sportsbooks are offering tasty 10-to-1 odds on an upstart named Bernie Sanders…who has been all-but-leading Joe Biden (and Warren) in DNC primary polls as of late summer.
Now flip the browser to MyBookie for the real stunner – in the same simple “to-win-Presidency” market The Donald is as thin as you please (1st time for everything!) with a (-200) futures line to win next November.
Could pure partisan bias be affecting the action, with Democrats flocking to Bovada and GOPers betting at MyBookie? Maybe. But there might be a more profit-driven motive at work.
Political Betting 2020: Believe in Logic, Not Other Gamblers
MyBookie has been clever with some of its “prop-futures” lines on Trump and other politicians running campaigns for 2020. The Costa Rican gambling site has carefully hidden potential outcomes in seemingly-simple odds as it’s any bookmaker’s right to do – bettors must choose carefully when looking at a “binary” decision that really involves more than 2 potential candidates.
But the odds quoted about are from straight-up identical markets at all 3 books. It’s a futures pick on a candidate to win, and they must win the Oval Office to pay off the wager. Why would Trump be 1-to-1 on most of the web but 1-to-2 at MyBookie?
Occam’s Razor would indicate that the sportsbook’s clientele are more skeptical of the mainstream media on-average than the typical bettor at Bovada or BetOnline. There could be a lot of truth in that. Mainstream polls have Joe Biden maintaining a slim Electoral College advantage in a hypothetical 2020 general vote against Trump. Polls that appear to favor Trump in a hypothetical election vs. Biden such as Rasmussen and Zogby are considered “right-wing” and partisan-leaning.
Maybe there’s some impulse betting at work, with clients thinking they must “buy-in” on a market before it shrinks too short or vanishes. Sometimes the thin odds themselves can tempt gamblers to buy-in, thinking that the bookie or the clients at the site know something they don’t. It’s like when you see Minnesota favored at (-200) on the moneyline over Indiana and aren’t sure why, but become more susceptible to the media’s take on the match-up once you’ve seen the Vegas line. That’s why experts prefer to line-forecast before looking at the betting board.
But the “which 2020 polls to believe” conundrum brings up another important point of psychology. Liberal gamblers – or shall we say gamblers who are liberal-leaning in their own private politics – might be hesitant to believe that the polls on CNN and MSNBC are in the slightest way skewed against President Trump, or that the pundits on those networks have any agenda at all except to tell 100% of the truth at all times.
For instance, MSNBC is geared against Trump – and yet in-line with the center-right wing of the DNC – enough that the network is canny enough to align itself against his strangest ally.
Conflict in the Democratic Party Could Help Trump in 2020
Bernie Sanders is coming on strong, tying Warren for 1st place ahead of Joe Biden in a Monmouth Democratic Primary poll released on Monday 8/26. Biden’s collapse in at least half of the polls currently available is just as noteworthy, as is Warren’s staying power at 20%.
But Sanders has risen despite intense push-back from the establishment media. CNN isn’t favoring Bernie. Fox News certainly wouldn’t favor any left-wing progressive apart from a few token hosts and writers. An MSNBC analyst even went so far as to say Sanders was making her “skin crawl” this summer…while offering no hard reason as to why.
It’s true that the “Bernie Bro” movement includes a lot of aimless young bodybuilders looking for an identity. And it’s true that Bernie faces an uphill climb to the nomination of a party establishment which largely overlooks or disdains him. At the same time, the dismissal of the Sanders campaign by mainstream newspapers and TV shows is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. By telling people that a big donor-friendly centrist like Joe Biden or Kamala Harris is more popular, the press is hoping to make that very fact come true – and can influence the outcome of voting to some extent.
The party’s plan to elect a “safe” candidate, tug at Republicans and Trump Democrats in the 2020 election and win the Electoral College is going haywire, though…thanks to Joe Biden’s poor primary campaign waged to-date. Not only is Joe’s subpar performance opening the door for Sanders, Warren, and potentially other insurgent candidates, it could create a dream scenario for Trump headed into the general election.
Perhaps what I’m about to spell out is what so many MyBookie futures bettors have in mind.
A Democratic National Convention in Tatters
Sanders and Trump, while different in personal style and policy positions, are similar Thoroughbreds to handicap in their campaigns. Each holds his greatest strength in inspiring mass turnout. Polls don’t always capture turnout – it can be said of Sanders and Trump that each has a base of supporters which is wider than it is deep. But even if your constituency is relatively narrow, you can win an election in the divided landscape of 2020 – provided you dig-out every nook and cranny of potential voters.
A simple angle for handicapping Trump or Sanders against any election opponent in almost any state – if Bernie or The Donald is tied in the polls with an opponent, he’s winning; if trailing in the polls he’s got a chance, and if he’s ahead in polls then his campaign has got a choke-hold on the race.
With Bernie beginning to tie front-runners in primary polls (read: beginning to win) the establishment wing of the DNC is going to Defcon 2, and it’s not even the Iowa Caucus yet. DNC loyalists like Neera Tanden do not want to see Trump winning another term, but they just as passionately do not want to see Sanders become President. Donny Deutsch, a party loyalist, and MSNBC celebrity said earlier this campaign season that he would vote for Trump over Bernie in a general election.
That’s the sort of intra-party warfare that could cripple the ultimate DNC nominee and Trump 2020 opponent. Imagine a Democratic National Convention in which Bernie and Biden are tied in the delegate count, and the decision goes to the party establishment instead of the state vote tallies. Whoever wins that “nomination” kind of loses it, too, because it’ll be 50,000 college kids and 50,000 geriatrics just about ready to come to blows on the convention floor, and a campaign left in chaos.
To irk the progressives in the party, even more, Biden is now running a campaign that resembles Hillary Clinton’s in 2015 and 2016 – except maybe with the bad, losing tactics exaggerated. Biden’s most recent ad blitz told voters to say his name in polls because he’s – get this – leading in the polls.
New from Iowa: As Jill Biden& his first campaign ad noted,Joe Biden is leading in the polls. But on the ground, there are signs of an enthusiasm gap— & reminders of the risks of a campaign argument that’s closely tied to standing in polls https://t.co/AcBYj4ZMtc
— Katie Glueck (@katieglueck) August 22, 2019
The tactic came back to kick Joe in the Pennsylvania pants almost as soon as he tried it when the polls came out showing Bernie and Liz Warren passing him up. Perhaps the next Biden ad will tout how his poll numbers are falling like a gorgeous shooting star. And all that on top of Joe making gaffe after gaffe on the campaign trail, like getting his own text-number wrong at the debates, or saying “it’s sure pretty here in Vermont” while on the stump in New Hampshire. Ouch.
Bernie’s strength in a primary (and general) may be turnout, but he can’t count on the 60% or 70% of the party’s electorate which is aligned against him. The DNC’s problem is that Biden, Warren, and others are splitting the establishment vote and allowing an insurgent to take over – not to mention the Democratic Party’s leftward lurch which has made Sanders more palatable to typical caucus-goers. It’s not Sanders’ intention to help Trump, and it may not be the mainstream’s intent to help the POTUS. But the more that the 2 sides come into conflict, the more it helps The Donald in 2020.
If a front-runner emerges who Dems can agree on – that Nominee X race vs. Trump would not a 1-to-2 odds race for the incumbent POTUS – far from it, but if the presumptive GOP nominee takes on a badly-wounded Democrat whom half their party would have to hold its nose to vote for? If the DNC turns into Armageddon thanks to a non-interventionist Commander-in-Chief candidate leading in the delegate count, Trump’s team will salivate no matter who the opposition winds up running with.
Other Factors Leading to Trump’s (-200) Reelection Line
Trump bettors might believe that the President has a few other “Trump cards” to play prior to next November. He’d better because at this point 45 does not have the all-important deadlock in hypothetical-election polls or approval rating he desperately needs – not even in most Republican-leaning surveys. The Orange One needs to tick up 2% or 3% overall to become the true 2020 favorite.
He might pull it off if a China trade deal is inked sometime soon. The economy has been in a holding pattern – not too shabby, not amazing – and calling an end to the ongoing trade war might just send American commerce into overdrive.
It’s hard to imagine any incumbent losing with a super-jazzed economy. Bill Clinton had few problems in 1996, and George Carlin’s joke after the 1984 general election was that he had only lost to incumbent Ronald Reagan’s challenger Walter Mondale by 13 electoral votes, and he didn’t even have to run.
Do the constant accusations of Trump-as-a-fascist, Trump-as-womanizer and Trump-as-border-hawk weaken the current incumbent in a way Clinton and Reagan never had to deal with? I don’t know, considering that 2 of those charges were levied against Reagan for 8 years, and all 3 were levied against Bill Clinton for the duration of his 2 terms. A crazy-hot economy “trumps” all.
Trump’s weakness is that he’s had to “sell out” in a weird way – not really for money but for personal acclaim – to a corporate GOP establishment that neither trusts him nor shares most of his agenda. It prevents him from making any dent in far-left wing constituencies who might be persuaded to vote for a populist Republican over Biden the imperialist or Warren, the corporatist. The Donald’s crude personal style and the un-hipness of the Trump PR campaign have seen to that, despite tacks-leftward on a myriad of issues from trade and foreign relations to criminal justice reform at home.
Instead, he’ll have to count on a nearly-100% unified Republican Party…and a potentially-divided opposition party in 2020.
Tip for Betting 2020 Election Futures: Picking the Right Bookmaker
When you see a couple of contradictory betting lines at separate books, it’s like a goal-net stretching from post to post. We know that President Trump’s real chances of reelection are probably somewhere between the 2 “posts” at Bovada Sportsbook (+110) and MyBookie’s short (-200) market.
Of course, given those circumstances, there’s a temptation to simply bet the plus-payoff market. If you’re going to wager on Trump to win next November, by all means, make sure it’s at the political betting site with the best payoff line.
But the real value in the (-200) Trump market is the opportunities it opens up on other candidates.
Suppose you think Joe Biden can run out the clock in the primary and ride an anti-Trump wave of voters to the White House in January 2021. In that case, you want to check out Joe’s current line-to-win the Presidency at MyBookie…a big fat 6-to-1 payoff at (+600).
Bernie Sanders is also a (+1400) wager in the MyBookie market for next-POTUS. Hmm. Bernie’s got a long row to hoe, but he’s on a trajectory for success, with the most dollars-raised and the biggest individual-donor base of anyone not named Trump.
If nominated by an overwhelming college vote (like Obama was) Sanders would have several months to convince mainstream voters that his brand of “socialism” still involves a lot of Red, White and Blue freedoms. It would be a hard sell – but could he do it 1 or 2 times in 14 tries? You bet.
The (-200) line on Donald Trump’s reelection is too short, and that makes other lines tempting…such as (+1400) on a surging progressive candidate.
Just this once, the odds aren’t against Bernie Sanders.