US Election: Expect the unexpected on Super Tuesday

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Joe Biden has stormed to favouritism in the Democrat race

Ahead of the biggest night yet in the US Election, Paul Krishnamurty analyses the latest developments and the key races as Joe Biden goes favourite to be the Democratic nominee...

"Do not be surprised by some massive upsets in these state races - they are commonplace in primaries. This night four years ago saw some extraordinary turnarounds in play."

Lay Bernie Sanders to win Massachusetts @ 1.454/9

The eve of the biggest date of primary season could barely have been more dramatic, both in terms of events and their effect on Betfair markets. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have both withdrawn and endorsed Joe Biden.

Biden the new favourite after day of drama

From the Democrat Nominee race being regarded a six-runner race less than a week ago, now it appears between two men in their late seventies. We also have a new favourite. Joe Biden is now favourite at 2.021/1, compared to Bernie Sanders at 2.568/5.

Before getting to Super Tuesday, a quick update on the bet discussed last week. I backed Biden at 15.5 in expectation of a win in South Carolina and subsequent surge. I've now cashed that bet out in full.

Is it now a two-horse race?

The betting, polls and delegate counts certainly point to a duel. Tuesday night's races will be the first time Michael Bloomberg has been on a ballot so, in theory, his saturation of TV ad markets might throw a curve-ball into that narrative.

However, I have never been convinced they would translate into real votes and, now Biden has hoovered up the moderate lane, the billionaire has no real purpose in the race, other than to throw his extraordinary wealth behind the battle to beat Trump.

I expect Bloomberg to vastly under-perform earlier polling and delegate expectations tonight. As this tweet from Nate Silver shows, the evidence behind his strong position was always flaky, even when he his candidacy had a raison d'etre.

Can Warren retain a key role?

If Bloomberg does blow out, that would leave Elizabeth Warren as the only alternative to the front-runners. While it appears that the earlier Kremlin-amplified smear campaign killed her chance, enabling Sanders to eat her lunch, the Massachusetts Senator should pick up some of these defectors from Buttigieg and Klobuchar.

The question is whether that is enough to (a) win any races tonight (b) pass plenty of 15% delegate thresholds and therefore retain a stake in the contest. Earlier I felt she was not only the right candidate, but the unity pick. The only non-Sanders candidate with progressive credentials to match his.

The answer to the first is unlikely. The best chance is her home state, which is one of the most interesting races to watch tonight.

Super Tuesday often throws up massive upsets

Do not be surprised by some massive upsets in these state races - they are commonplace in primaries. This night four years ago saw some extraordinary turnarounds in play. Trump losing Alaska from odds of at most 1.031/33 being the highlight.

In Massachusetts, Sanders is a 1.454/9 chance and in my view, a very risky proposition. He owes that status to poll leads based on him getting around 25%. However Buttigieg and Klobuchar were taking out around 20% and their voters are less likely to transfer to Sanders than to Warren or Biden.

Earlier in the race, the latter pair led this state so both are well capable of pulling off an upset. I'm laying Sanders at 1.454/9.

Another very exciting race is Texas, which Fivethirtyeight have as a virtual dead-heat in the wake of the withdrawals and Biden endorsements. Sanders has drifted to 1.855/6 favourite but I'd be very wary of opposing him here. If his campaign can inspire Latinos to register in similar fashion to Nevada, he could again outperform polls.

Texas strikes me as the sort of race that could be worth trading in-running. A very close contest that swings back and forth as each county declares. Again, this is a common feature of primary betting.

I expect Biden to sweep the rest of the South - North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia, Tennessee. The odds about all of these have crumbled over the last 24 hours though. On the other side of the ledger, Sanders' odds for California, Colorado and Vermont are correctly prohibitive.

Two that could become interesting are Maine and Minnesota. Sanders is 1.222/9 and 1.330/100 respectively but the same dynamics as Massachusetts could apply. In the former his poll lead is based on limited evidence, all gathered before the withdrawals and coalescing around Biden. The latter is Klobuchar's state, which she was projected to win. Her name is still on the ballot, making the race very hard to call.

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

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