As Donald Trump continues to dominate the race to be the Republican Nominee, another billionaire from New York is making headlines with rumours of an independent bid that would have unpredictable ramifications for both main parties.
"Nobody is quite sure which side would be most damaged…Bloomberg's support for immigration and gun control seem likelier to cut into the Democrat vote. However CNN's Jake Tapper claimed his source said a Trump or Cruz-led Republican Party came out worse than a Sanders-led Democrat ticket in the polls."
After another dramatic week on Betfair's US Election markets, punters holding long-term positions about Donald Trump and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg have plenty to celebrate.
With voting for the Iowa Caucus just a week away, opinion polls and markets have flip-flopped in favour of Trump, at the expense of long-time favourite Ted Cruz. From being a 1.251/4 chance, rated around 80% likely to win Iowa a fortnight ago, Cruz's market estimate has fallen to just 32% at odds of 3.052/1.
Trump is now heavily odds-on at 1.538/15 or 65%. The billionaire continues to shorten in the main markets, down to 2.35/4 (43%) for the Republican Nomination, 5.59/2 (18%) to be Next President.
These market moves are clearly poll-driven, as the last four Iowa surveys recorded Trump ahead by between five and 11%. The likeliest explanations are a concerted anti-Cruz move, headed by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, and Trump's endorsement by Sarah Palin - a huge boost analysed in detail here last week.
Nevertheless, as we've seen before in primaries, much can change in the final days. Caucus polls are notoriously unreliable and there are further potential gamechangers. At the weekend, Cruz unveiled his own star endorsement from the Conservative movement in Glenn Beck, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry today followed suit.
Marco Rubio - Trump's nearest rival in the nomination betting and favourite amongst the party's so-called 'mainstream' wing - also got a big endorsement at the weekend from the state's biggest newspaper, the Des Moines Register. He could yet interrupt the Trump/Cruz dual and is well positioned for the race ahead.
Thursday's Fox News debate will be pivotal, and the hostile exchanges between this trio of front-runners is must-see TV.
The other big betting development is a monster gamble for Bloomberg to be Next President, after it was reported that he is now seriously considering a third-party run. Matched earlier at the maximum odds of 1000, Bloomberg is now rated seventh likeliest presidential candidate, trading around 40.039/1, having been matched down to 30.029/1.
His candidacy is by no means certain, and thought to depend upon who the nominees are. If the options are Trump or Cruz on the Right and Bernie Sanders on the Left, he would sense an opening to represent centre-ground voters feeling abandoned by these ideological shifts. With fewer Americans than ever identifying with the main two parties, there is plenty of appetite for a third option.
Regardless of whether Bloomberg actually runs or holds a serious chance of winning, the mere hint of a bid is significant. The last serious third-party bid - from Ross Perot in the 1990s - had profound implications and affected the future course of US politics, splitting the Right and arguably laying the ground for the Tea Party Movement. Likewise, Ralph Nader may have only earned 2.75% in 2000, but cost Al Gore's Democrats the White House.
Nobody is quite sure which side would be most damaged. Despite governing as a Republican in New York, Bloomberg's support for immigration and gun control seem likelier to cut into the Democrat vote. However CNN's Jake Tapper claimed his source said a Trump or Cruz-led Republican Party came out worse than a Sanders-led Democrat ticket in the polls commissioned by Bloomberg.
Source: internal polling suggests Bloomberg theoretically takes away more GOP votes from Trump/Cruz than Dem votes from Sanders as of now? Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 23, 2016
Either way, Bloomberg is now a factor for partisans on both sides to consider. Dare they risk a divisive or ideological candidate? On the GOP side, that will certainly be the warning from mainstream types like Rubio. Clinton and pro-business, centre-ground Democrats will doubtless say the same.
Follow me on Twitter @paulmotty and at www.politicalgambler.com
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