The election may feel like a straight fight between Clinton and Trump but, as Paul Krishnamurty explains, long-shot seeking bettors are latching onto an unlikely alternative...
"McMullinmentum is only beginning to build. Millions of Conservatives, especially Mormons, are deeply troubled by their candidate. With Trump looking increasingly like a no-hoper, any incentive to stay loyal to the Republicans is fading fast."
One of many strange features of this unique election cycle has been that, ever since the primary process yielded historically unpopular candidates, there has been constant speculation about finding alternatives to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
First there was months of speculation about Trump being blocked at the Republican Convention - prompting gambles about several alternatives. Most notably Paul Ryan was backed down to [15.0] despite never joining the race.
Then when Clinton fell ill with pneumonia at a 9/11 memorial, all hell broke loose on Betfair's Next President market. Another non-runner, Joe Biden, shortened to just [20.0] Bernie Sanders around [30.0]. Even Michelle Obama attracted some money at huge odds!
Most recently, after the emergence of the infamous #TrumpTapes, Mike Pence was backed down to [40.0] as rumours swirled about Republicans flipping their ticket. Now, with less than three weeks until polling day, a new name is rising. And unlike the others, Evan McMullin is actually on the ballot paper.
McMullin is a lifelong Republican from Utah's Mormon community, running on an independent Conservative ticket in opposition to Trump - who is toxic among that community and is struggling to win this reliably red state.
The 40-year-old is a former Chief Policy Director for House of Representatives Republicans and has worked for both the CIA and UN. As one would expect with a CV like that, he has plenty of allies within his party's establishment. Probably more than Trump - whose enemies still dream of blocking Clinton's route to the White House, then handing the keys to McMullin.
Here's how this improbable plan works. McMullin wins Utah's six electoral college votes. (He is on other ballots, but this is easily his best chance). Then neither Trump or Clinton reaches 270 electoral college votes. In that scenario according to the Twelth Amendment, the (Republican-dominated) House of Representatives gets to pick the President from the three candidates with the most electoral college votes.
This eventuality requires no shortage of hurdles. Most obviously, Trump must somehow turn around big deficits in a swathe of swing states to deny Clinton a majority. As I've argued previously, this is a taller order than even his declining outright odds suggest.
However the first part of the deal is bang on course. In the last three Utah polls, McMullin led one and trailed by 1% in the other two. All contained a substantial number of undecideds. Starting with such a big name recognition disadvantage, he is doing extraordinarily well. I think he'll pull ahead as that improves throughout the final weeks. Utah Republicans will drop Trump like a stone once they realise there's an alternative.
Indeed one gets the feeling that McMullinmentum is only beginning to build. Millions of Conservatives, especially Mormons, are deeply troubled by their candidate. With Trump looking increasingly like a no-hoper, any incentive to stay loyal to the Republicans is fading fast.
McMullin isn't on the ballot everywhere but could seriously alter the state of play in the states where he is. Just as Clinton could theoretically land an unimaginable win in Utah because the other two split the Conservative share of the vote, if he just gets 10% in other states, McMullin could alter the maths. He will certainly do well in Idaho.
If Utah indeed swings towards him - I consider the [2.5] available on our Exchange to be good value - that unlikely bet on him winning the presidency remains live.
The current odds are [700.0] but he has been matched down to [350.0]. It is hard to calculate precisely what the correct odds should be, given Clinton's huge electoral college advantage, but they are bound to shorten if he assumes favouritism in Utah. If you like cheap, back-to-lay trades at huge odds, why not McMullin?