US Politics

US Election: If not Trump versus Biden, then whom?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Andrew Cuomo is third favourite for the presidency

"Were something to happen to Biden - a scandal or illness for example - I would want to be on his VP pick, or the main contenders for that role."

Betfair punters continue to search for alternatives to the two obvious candidates to be Next President. Paul Krishnamurty analyses the chances of a change to the top ticket...

You may think, based on the nomination process, historic precedent and virtually all mainstream media coverage, that November's General Election will be a contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. A significant slither of Betfair punters, however, disagree.

Current odds reflect around an 10% chance that the next president will be somebody else - Trump is available to back at 2.111/10, Biden at 2.3211/8. What is the thinking behind this?

Rumour mill means opportunity to trade

Well, it must first be noted that punters backing alternatives may not necessarily actually believe they will win, or even have a chance. Rather they see an opportunity to make a trading profit. If this election turns out to be anything like the last in 2016, they are likely right.

That cycle was like nothing we've ever seen on Betfair. Rumours, fake news and actual real-world scares kept spooking the markets, driving vast, rapid fluctuations.

Most memorably, Hillary Clinton collapsed with pneumonia at a 9/11 memorial. Social media was awash with conspiracy theories that she was dead, dying or would be forced to withdraw. Sean Hannity even reported hours later on Fox News that he had 'information' that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) were meeting urgently to anoint Biden as her replacement.

Conspiracy sites move markets

Biden and Bernie Sanders' odds kept crashing throughout the rest of the race - right up until election week - in response to that rumour, or the relentless noise coming from since-convicted Trump ally Roger Stone, Julian Assange and Alex Jones via his Infowars conspiracy site.

On the Republican side, alternatives to Trump were also heavily gambled once the Pussygate tapes were released. Mike Pence's odds fell from 1000.0999/1 to 50.049/1, whilst then Speaker Paul Ryan was trading around the same. There was clearly money to be made from trading these swings.

This cycle has been rife with rumours of a Democrat fix for months. That a brokered convention would result in the DNC imposing somebody who hadn't even entered the primaries. Hillary Clinton has been popular throughout and is still only 26.025/1 for the nomination, 70.069/1 for the presidency.

Could Tara Reade scandal derail Biden?

These rumours are gaining traction due to the alleged Tara Reade scandal. This has yet to cut through in mainstream media but Trump media - ever on the lookout for diversions from his disinfectant comments - are all over it.

I'm not going to credit what may well be a predictable smear campaign but it would be folly to deny the story's traction on social media. If Clinton could be derailed by the ridiculous 'Pizzagate' conspiracy theory, alleged sexual harassment certainly has potential in the MeToo era.

Clinton represents atrocious value

I cannot reiterate often enough what a terrible bet Clinton is. They will not pick this most toxic candidate, who has already failed against Trump once. Her weaknesses are now widely accepted and the polling signals that she would fare much worse than Biden or Sanders against Trump were reinforced by the former's much superior performance in the primaries. The DNC won't consider her, even in the unlikely event that a replacement to Biden were needed.

Sanders' odds for the presidency crashed to a bizarre 25.024/1 on Saturday night. My guess is this was a reaction to fake news coming out of Russia (that phenomenon persists) suggesting he'll re-enter the race. Again, don't even consider it. Even if something happened to Biden, the party hierarchy won't pick Bernie. Why would they pick somebody they clearly have never wanted as party leader, when primary voters have rejected him?

Andrew Cuomo, on the other hand, might appeal in this unlikely scenario. Sure, the NY Governor is adamant he isn't interested but few doubt he would be a hot favourite against Trump and more electable than Biden. Nevertheless, odds of 50.049/1 for the presidency make no appeal to me whatsoever.

VP front-runners are the best alternative bets

Were something to happen to Biden - a scandal or illness for example - I would want to be on his VP pick, or the main contenders for that role. The best ones to look to trade, therefore, are Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar - ranging from 170.0169/1 to 350.0349/1.

However I would note here that all are bigger in the Democrat Nominee market than Next President. Given that there are several months left before the former is settled - the DNC Convention is not scheduled until August and might even be delayed further due to coronavirus - this differential makes little sense. An alternative could land a huge odds bet before even having to face off against Trump.

Could GOP get jitters about Trump?

Without expecting it, I reckon there is much greater potential for a change on the Republican side. All polling signals suggest Trump is losing this election and may fare so badly that his party loses the Senate. Last night's tweetstorm will not have calmed nerves.

The president has numerous potential disasters lying ahead. As mentioned last week, May will see the Supreme Court hold public hearings into Trump versus his lawyers and bankers. Unredacted evidence from the Mueller Report is out soon.

The Grand Jury evidence from that investigation could finally emerge and perhaps even an unredacted version of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference. This GOP-controlled committee last week confirmed, in keeping with the rest of the Western intelligence community, that Russia did indeed help Trump get elected.

Trump's campaign may yet end up mired in non-stop scandalous revelations. If so, expect gambles on Pence and alternative Republicans to gather steam. The VP - available to back at 34.033/1 for the nomination and 100.099/1 for the presidency - is the obvious gamble but also keep an eye on Nikki Haley at 100.099/1 and 440.0439/1. She is by far their best replacement.

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

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