US Election Betting: Will Coronavirus derail Trump's re-election bid?

US President Donald Trump
Coronavirus was not part of Trump's re-election plans

The US election betting has moved against Donald Trump in recent days, amidst coronavirus chaos and a stock market crash. Paul Krishnamurty, however, doubts the fundamentals have changed...

"If positive developments didn’t move the needle, why should we assume negative ones will? This is a culture war, based around a personality."

Sport may be cancelled but politics carries on as usual. In fact coronavirus is generating even greater focus on the 2020 US Presidential Election.

Betfair markets souring on Trump re-election

Over the past fortnight, the odds about Donald Trump winning a second term have drifted markedly. From a low of 1.645/8, equivalent to a 61% likelihood, Trump is now trading at 2.1211/10 (47%). Yesterday his odds rose beyond 2.35/4.

There is no one single explanation for the changes and, as ever in the Trump era, opinion is bitterly divided.

Evidently, plenty believe Trump is handling the situation badly. In a matter of days, the President, Fox News and the social media army have flipped from calling the crisis a left-wing hoax to a state of emergency.

Trump talking points imploding by the hour

The administration is clearly way behind the curve and ill-prepared. NPR are quoting sources claiming that the White House knew of the threat back in January, yet delayed it so as to not damage Trump's re-election chances.

One piece of misinformation after another has been exposed. This isn't the place to go through them all but, for example, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown absolutely nailed Trump's lies about who sacked the government's pandemic team.

Many pundits believe this is a disaster which has exposed Trump, and from which he cannot recover. See this piece in The Atlantic entitled "The Trump Presidency is Over".

Little evidence yet of opinion shift

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has read any of my work during the Trump era to learn that I agree with the broad thrust of this NeverTrumper's critique. Where I differ is the writer's confidence that it will finish Trump. That very much remains to be seen.

I remain solidly against his chances of being re-elected and have bet consistently in that direction, but not due to any faith in Trump's supporters 'finding him out'.

Rather my bets are based on a simple calculation. That opinion is virtually fixed, and deeply entrenched, on both sides. And there are many more in the 'strongly against' column, who are better motivated to turn out than ever.

Don't bank on bad news moving the needle

This fundamental dynamic has been evident in pretty much every mid-term or special election, and can be seen in approval polls.

They over-ride everything else. They rendered a strong economy irrelevant. When the Democrats recorded their best mid-term result since Watergate, exit polls showed two-thirds of voters were positive about the economy. It mattered not.

So if positive developments didn't move the needle, why should we assume negative ones will? This is a culture war, based around a personality. Perhaps the most Marmite figure in US political history. Hardly anybody switches on Trump.

Irrespective of my opinion, doubtless a big reason for the loss in confidence behind Trump is the stock market crash and fear of recession. Another is that he might have coronavirus himself. Clearly he's been in close contact with plenty of victims.

Note that the market moves haven't dramatically affected the odds of his opponent. Joe Biden - a 1.132/15 chance to be the Democrat Nominee and, in my view, a certainty - is still available at 2.3211/8 for the general election.

Could Republicans pick a different nominee?

Rather, the Trump move is about him not being the Republican Nominee - he's drifted to 1.132/15. Vice-president Mike Pence has crashed to 21.020/1 and 44.043/1 for the presidency. Nikki Haley - whom I've long said would be the replacement - has come into 170.0169/1 for the latter. Perhaps punters expect the 25th Amendment to be invoked, or ill-health to force a resignation.

I wouldn't place much credence in either theory, but will throw something else into the mix which has been largely forgotten. I remain adamant that Trump's future - as President and as a free man once leaving office - revolves around the public exposure of his relationship with Deutsche Bank.

The Supreme Court is due to rule on an extraordinary case - Trump versus his bankers and lawyers. He is suing to stop them obeying subpoenas to release documents about his financial affairs. David Frum - declaration, he's in my relentlessly critical camp - lays out the case and what it would require to rule in his favour here.

In truth, I've lost faith in America retaining the rule of law following the sham impeachment trial. I do not trust the Republican-dominated Supreme Court to do anything other than protect their man. Nevertheless if other prominent players in the party do want to rid themselves of Trump, this could offer a route.

Betting-wise, I regard Joe Biden outstanding value at 2.3211/8. But I would be saying that regardless, for the wider reasons laid out over many years. Nothing has changed yet. Trump's approvals haven't sunk further and I expect his fanbase to now pivot to the new talking point - blame China.

To answer the question posed by Frum yesterday, I expect Trump average approval to stay between 41% and 44%. Not enough to avert heavy defeat in November, but equally no dramatic shift in the fundamental divide poisoning America. The one accurate statement Trump ever made was that he could shoot people in Fifth Avenue and his supporters would still back him.

Follow Paul on Twitter and check out his website, Political Gambler.

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