Paul Krishnamurty looks forward to the final round of primaries, after which Hillary Clinton is widely expected to be confirmed as the Democrat nominee to face Donald Trump...
"One would expect the threat of a President Trump to focus minds. Sanders is diametrically opposed to Trump on pretty much everything, and will not want to be regarded as an enabler of his victory."
Next Tuesday, arguably the most memorable primary season in the history of US politics will draw to a conclusion. Whereas the term 'Super Tuesday' is normally associated with the slew of key races at the beginning of March that, historically, have proved a decisive moment, the term has been repeatedly used during this cycle and is no less apt for these final six races.
For months it seemed that June 7th would be a decisive moment in the Republican race, as the #NeverTrump movement sought to keep Donald Trump short of the 1237 delegates required for victory. However that race ended a month ago when his rivals withdrew and the magic number has already been passed.
Moreover, any lingering possibility of an establishment plot to stop him at the convention disappeared this week, with the belated endorsement of Speaker Paul Ryan - once backed below 20.019/1 in expectation of a brokered convention. Now the GOP will hope to unite, and that voters will forget the insults and character assassinations of their anarchic race.
All of those markets regarding the Republicans and the prospect of a brokered convention are now effectively done, awaiting settlement during the convention. Instead, focus has shifted to identifying Trump's Vice Presidential pick. Here, former Speaker Newt Gingrich is strong favourite, rated 33% likely at 3.02/1.
Trump, meanwhile, remains the weakest presidential candidate since the advent of Betfair. Despite an improved polling position, Trump is still rated only 23% likely to be the Next President at odds of 4.3.
However while the GOP candidate remains weak, his opponents are doing their best to endanger their strong position. In a bizarre turnaround, it is now the Democrat convention that threatens to generate damaging headlines and sow division, at precisely the moment the party needs to unite ahead of the General Election.
Whether measured on pledged delegates, super delegates or betting market perception, Hillary Clinton is in an overwhelmingly strong position. The former First Lady is rated 94% likely to be the nominee at 1.061/18, and 1.422/5 (70%) to become president. Her victory, however, has been anything but convincing, losing 11 of the 18 contests.
On Tuesday she is strong favourite to win the three most important primaries, in which 731 delegates are up for grabs - New Mexico, New Jersey and, most importantly California - the most delegate rich state in the country.
In line with the rest of the contest, Sanders is massive favourite to win the other three, yet pick up many fewer delegates. By contrast, a total of just 75 delegates will be won in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
Mathematically, Sanders needs a miracle. Going into Tuesday, he is already 268 pledged delegates down and 498 behind in superdelegates - who will prove decisive assuming Clinton falls short of the 614 she needs for a majority.
Nevertheless, with so many results going his way and the email controversy continuing to dog Clinton, there has been no incentive for him to quit the race, in the same way Ted Cruz was forced to reluctantly bow out on the GOP side.
Sanders has repeatedly spoken of taking his fight all the way to the convention - to try and convince these superdelegates to switch sides. This seems a highly implausible plan and the market agrees, rating him only 5% likely to be nominee at 21.020/1. In fact Vice President Joe Biden is only rated slightly less likely to emerge at the convention at 3%, despite not being in the race.
Without the GOP dream of a Clinton indictment, a convention coup is extremely unlikely and, after Tuesday, one would expect the threat of a President Trump to focus minds. Sanders is diametrically opposed to Trump on pretty much everything, and will not want to be regarded as an enabler of his victory. Just as Republicans put differences aside in the name of unity, so surely will Democrats.
Victory in California is essential for Clinton to developing that narrative, and would allow her to make a magnanimous gesture, recognising that she cannot afford to alienate Sanders supporters.
Having led in every poll, by an average of 4.7%, 1.444/9 (69%) about Clinton seems like a pretty generous price. While polls on the Democrat side have been particularly varied and unreliable, California's demographics look friendly for her. She has fared better among Hispanics - a key Democrat voting bloc in the Golden State - and a further boost arrived last week with the endorsement of popular Governor Jerry Brown.
One school of thought is that the vice presidential nomination offers a means towards achieving that unity. There has even been some money on Sanders getting her pick, with her rival backed down to just 8.07/1.
However before buying into that theory, note how former rivals have often been under-rated in these VP markets before. For example, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio were all backed at fairly short odds during the early stages of the Republican market, only to fall away dramatically since.
On the other hand, the last two Democrat presidential running mates had previously lost the nomination race - Biden in 2008 and John Edwards in 2004.
Alternatively, Clinton could offer warm words to Sanders but pick someone else from his progressive movement. Another popular VP bet right now is Elizabeth Warren, who is trading around 6.0 (17%). The Massachusetts Senator would certainly appeal to the alienated Left, but she isn't the only such candidate by any means. Like the Republicans, expect this Democrat VP market to liven up after Tuesday.
Follow me on Twitter @paulmotty and at my website Political Gambler
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