America is watching the impeachment trial of Donald Trump but there is no signal whatsoever from Betfair markets that the process is damaging his chances of re-election. No long-term reader of mine will be surprised to learn that I disagree.
Trump odds-on for re-election despite impeachment
Trump is rated 54% likely to win in November at odds of [1.86] - only marginally higher than the low points reached last week. I found that gamble inexplicable and can only think the current market confidence reflects deep scepticism of polls. Here's the latest round of head-to-head numbers from CNN.
There is no suggestion that he'll be removed from office - an outcome you can back at [70.0] on the exchange. Republican Senators will not hold Trump to account - even as he confesses and boasts about his guilt regarding the second article of impeachment, Obstruction of Congress.
All polling signals remain negative
However there is also no evidence that it the impeachment process is helping, or even shifting what seem to be fixed, polarised views. Trump's approval rating remains at 43% - lower than any of the last 12 presidents. 51% want him removed from office (a number that has reached 55% elsewhere).
Those and CNN's numbers fit a wider, long-term picture. He consistently trails his two likeliest opponents - Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders - by margins that would produce a Democrat landslide. Elizabeth Warren leads by slightly less but that may simply be due to voters having a less fixed view about her yet.
The obvious counter-point is that much can change over the course of nine months. Trump was dismissed at this stage in 2016. However given that these trends, whether polls or actual elections, have been grim for Trump ever since he took office, why they would change?
The trial is unlikely to move the needle in his favour or change the conversation. 63% believe Trump has done something illegal, 70% unethical. Numerous polls show around 70% supporting the new witnesses that the Republicans are blocking. The cover-up is transparent and will be unpopular.
Scandals and revelations will persist
There will be no vindication. The plethora of investigations - particularly into the surveillance, intimidation and possible plot to assassinate Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch - will continue.
Attorney General Bill Barr could be impeached. More damning documents will be released from the convictions of Roger Stone and Michael Flynn. The Supreme Court must rule over the release of Trump's Deutsche Bank records and tax returns.
Republicans are in worse position than 2016
Prior to the mid-terms, Trump backers argued the economy would make a mockery of negative polls. Democrats won their best result since Watergate and the polls were spot on. Fivethirtyeight estimate them ahead by 6% on the Congressional ballot - a 3.5% swing since 2016.
These are atrocious psephological signals for Republicans, particularly regarding the presidency. To reiterate a long-made argument, Trump will need to gain extra voters from 2016 to win again.
The shock of the 2016 result and relentless chaos and distraction that ensued, meant far too little focus on the numbers. To lose the popular vote by 2.9M, yet win the electoral college was a geographical, statistical fluke. Achieved by 77K votes spread across three states, where Democrat turnout was suppressed and hurt by third party campaigns, at least in part due to the Kremlin hack and smear campaign detailed in the Mueller Report.
Trump only won 46.1% of the vote, 1.1% lower than Mitt Romney's share, that resulted in an Obama landslide four years earlier. 3% below the party's 49% national average for the House of Representatives on the same day. Rather than an electoral endorsement of Trumpism, it was more a rejection of a deeply damaged opponent and the result of a rare third party breakthrough.
For the record, I must acknowledge my poor position on this market. My average lay of Trump was around [2.8]. I laid again at [2.0] to lower the average at [2.45]. I'm not panicking, or planning to reverse. It is just disappointing to misread the market trend, partly due to hope that a few Republicans might still the value the rule of law.
The 46.1% or 63M votes won't be enough in November. As illustrated in other elections during the Trump era, turnout will rise on the Democrat side. When every indication is worse than 2016 and half the country wants him removed from office, I simply don't see where those votes are coming from.
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