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Will it be Biden or Trump?

Get all the latest from the Betfair markets as the race to win the 2020 Presidential Election reaches its climax

"Anticipation for the interview, to be aired on Sunday night, is now heightened. Will they play the uncut version? Could the footage be ruinous for the president?"


Trump storms out of interview

Love or hate him, the one thing about which everyone can agree is that Trump news is never boring. Even the most dedicated chroniclers of this era cannot keep up.

Top of the news cycle, I think, is Trump's walkout from an interview with 'Sixty Minutes'. The details remain unclear but we know there was a huge bust-up and Trump immediately went after veteran presenter Lesley Stahl on Twitter.

Whatever actually happened in that situation, it must be doubtful many will believe Trump was offended by any lack of mask-wearing, given that he frequently mocks others for wearing them.

Anticipation for the interview, to be aired on Sunday night, is now heightened. Speculation will inevitably be rife. Will they play the uncut version? Could the footage be ruinous for the president? Will it vindicate his attacks on the media?

Will Trump release his version? He has form in this respect, walking out of a BBC interview, then releasing an edited version.

Ensuring there is never a dull moment, the New York Times released another bombshell story last night. This involves their investigation into Trump's taxes. They've discovered a secret bank account in China and, embarrassingly, higher taxes paid there than in the USA.

In any normal era, these two stories would be seen as dramatic gamechangers. The market would be rocked. I doubt anyone believes they will. This is normal nowadays. Who can remember last week's headlines? The Woodward Tapes? Russian bounties on US troops? Impeachment? Mueller?

Opinion has been entrenched for years. They've long decided whether they care about these Trump scandals or not. Americans are voting in record numbers already and are unlikely to be swayed either way. Nevertheless, the entertainment value never falls short.

Tuesday's polls round-up

Numbers from pollsters rated B or better by Fivethirtyeight

NATIONAL

NYT/SIENA (A+): BIDEN +9
IBD/TIPP (A/B): BIDEN +3
YOUGOV: (B): BIDEN +11

GEORGIA

NYT/SIENA (A+): TIED

FLORIDA

NORTH FLORIDA UNIVERSITY (A/B): BIDEN +1

NORTH CAROLINA

ABC/WAPO (A+): BIDEN +2

ARIZONA

DATA ORBITAL (A/B): BIDEN +5

KENTUCKY

MASON-DIXON (A/B): TRUMP +17


Pennsylvania ruling a big boost for Biden

A critical ruling involving the single most important important state has gone the Democrat's way. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court had granted an extension to count mail-in votes due to this year's unprecedented demand. Republicans asked the US Supreme Court to intervene and pause it, thus potentially meaning vast numbers of votes would be left uncounted.

The extension ensures all votes post-marked before election day and received within three days will be counted. Pausing it would have disadvantaged Democrats, whose voters are much likelier to vote by mail this time.

The Court was split 4-4, with Chief Justice Roberts (a Conservative) voting alongside the Liberals. It wasn't the first time - Roberts also opposed the Trump administration on other important recent rulings.

The importance of Pennsylvania's 20 electoral college votes cannot be overstated. Without them, Trump's path to victory is unbelievably narrow. In the state betting, Biden remains hot favourite at 4/91.45.


Biden odds falling fast

After eight straight days of the market moving towards Trump, Joe Biden bounced back today. From 59% this morning, his implied chance is up to 63%.

Considering how far the market had moved previously, this may just be a correction, or even a temporary surge. A lot of the pro-Trump money has come overnight and he's still a long way short of the earlier 70% peak.

Alternatively, it might reflect doubts that the Hunter Biden allegations are credible, or move the needle. I do think that hype influenced the Trump gamble over the weekend.

There have been very few high-grade surveys in recent days and I'm told it will be a quiet week, until after Thursday night's debate.

The PRRI numbers listed below caused quite a stir though! Whilst one should regard an 18% Biden lead as a massive outlier, there have been several in the low teens. Anything in that range amounts to an electoral massacre.

For all the talk from Trump backers about polls wrongly understating him, they could just as easily be understating Biden.

Monday's polls round-up

Numbers from pollsters rated B or better by Fivethirtyeight

NATIONAL

IBD/TIPP (A/B): BIDEN +6
PRRI: (A/B): BIDEN +18


Obama to join the campaign trail

The dramatic, counter-intuitive betting trends continued overnight. Joe Biden is now out to 5/71.69 - an implied 59% chance. That rating has fallen 12% in eight days, and 3% since yesterday.

The weekend was very quiet on the polling front so we can probably expect a spate of them over the next 48 hours, from which we can gauge whether anything has actually changed in the race. There have been no signals, or hints from experts pouring over internal data.

However if there are worries in the Biden camp, they will be delighted to learn that their number one surrogate is hitting the campaign trail this week on his behalf. Barack Obama will start in Philadephia on Wednesday, trying to help get out the vote.

Obama remains hugely respected. He left office with a high approval rating and has been repeatedly voted America's most respected man. His wife Michelle, also expected to campaign, often wins the female version.

When the former President excoriated Trump at the Democrat Convention, the news cycle paused to hear his words. He outshone Kamala Harris in her acceptance speech. Watch here.

Furthermore, turnout in Philadelphia may determine the result. I spent a lot of time there in 2016 and was told repeatedly that the Democrat operation was weak under Clinton, compared to Obama's campaigns. She lost the state of Pennsylvania by merely 22K votes. They will be ultra-determined to avoid making the same mistakes.


Trump's surge in the betting continues

Donald Trump is backing trading where he was the day after the first presidential debate as an extraordinary gamble gathers pace. One week ago, Biden's odds hit a new low at 2/51.41. Today they're at 4/61.65. Trump's odds are into 8/52.58.

I've never seen a market like this, certainly in politics. Biden is 10% up in the polls and way ahead in the states he needs. More so than any recent predecessor. Here's how all the US elections since Betfair's inception stood at the 16-day stage.

2016: Hillary Clinton was 6% up in the polls, trading at 1/51.21.
2012: Barack Obama was 2% up, trading at 1/21.5
2008: Barack Obama was 6% up, trading at 2/131.15
2004: George W Bush was 3% up, trading at 5/71.71.

Even if one distrusts the polls, with every day they pass without meaningful indication of a Trump comeback, Biden's odd should logically shorten or at least stay the same. Instead his implied chance of winning has fallen from 70% to 60%.

What's the explanation? I reckon a combination of his particular celebrity factor, the excitement his rallies generate among supporters and the Hunter Biden scandal. See below for more on that.


Saturday's polls round-up

Numbers from pollsters rated B or better by Fivethirtyeight

NATIONAL

IBD/TIPP (A/B): BIDEN +7


Will 'Lock Them Up' work second time around?

It has been clear from Trump rallies and his debate performances that his strategy is a 'greatest hits' campaign. Obamagate, Crooked Hillary, Mexico paying for the wall, the 'rigged system' and 'Deep State' are all staples.

Following the Hunter Biden allegations, another 2016 favourite is back.

For the record, 'Lock Her Up' was originally concocted by Trump's former manager Paul Manafort, in the 2010 Ukraine election on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych. (They did actually lock Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko up).

Evidently it has proven a winning strategy and the bettors driving Trump's odds down to 9/52.78 in recent hours believe it will work again. This is the 'October Surprise'. Or at least one of them.

One word of warning. As explained earlier this year in my Masterclass series on political betting, re-fighting the last election tends to prove a bad strategy. No two electoral situations are ever exactly the same and it is hard to pull off the exact same trick twice.


The Trump gamble gathers further steam

The last 24 hours have seen a further swing in the betting towards parity. At 4/71.58, Joe Biden is still rated 63% likely to win the election but that is down from 70% last Sunday and from 66% since yesterday.

What is going on? There is no real poll evidence that the race is even tightening, let alone close.

There are two obvious drivers. First as Max Liu reported yesterday, the move has coincided with his first week of rallies after leaving hospital.

The second driver, I suspect, is a reaction to the Hunter Biden claims. The New York Post are running a spate of exclusives, claiming to be based on the younger Biden's e-mails and text messages. Among other things, they allege corruption and drug abuse.

I will discuss this further later in this blog, but note that most respectable media aren't touching the story. The claims are denied and it seems the information was hacked.

Remember, Trump was impeached after blackmailing the Ukranian government over military aid, whilst his allies sought to dig dirt on Biden's son.

It is 2016 all over again and I wonder how much this will change the agenda over the final weeks? Transferring scrutiny and scandal to Hillary Clinton probably had a decisive impact.


Friday's polls round-up

Numbers from pollsters rated B or better by Fivethirtyeight

NATIONAL

IBD/TIPP (A/B): BIDEN +6

ALASKA

NYT/SIENA (A+): TRUMP +6


Town Hall takeaways unlikely to help Trump

Last night was supposed to be the second debate, in a Town Hall style event. Instead we got two separate Town Hall events, on different networks, coinciding with one another.

First to say I only saw the final half hour or so of the Biden event, so something really dramatic may have happened before that. If so, it also escaped my attention on social media.

I will be amazed if that event cut through at all. It was a conventional event with a conventional candidate, pushing conventional messages. Biden is a pro and conducted himself well in that environment again. Politeness, empathy with the audience being the key.

That can't compete for eyeballs with a president who totally dominates the questioner, whether moderator or audience. Predictably, Trump spent the evening boasting about the brilliance of his administration, pushing conspiracy theories and arguing with the moderator.

Given that he told Bob Woodward in February that he understood the Covid threat, one audience member asked, why didn't you put more measures in place? We did an amazing job, said Trump, unlike Biden. He claimed twice that 85% of mask-wearers catch Covid.

Asked about Qanon, Trump refused to disavow the conspiracy cult labelled a domestic terror threat by the FBI, saying he didn't know much about them other than they were against paedophiles. This is a talking point to watch in the closing weeks.

At the end, Trump received plenty of applause from the audience. One woman called him 'handsome'. His fans will have loved it. His opponents were doubtless tearing their hair out. It was just another madcap and yet predictable night of the Trump presidency. Unlikely to move any voters from their entrenched positions.

Therein lies the insanity in Trump scheduling that event at the last minute. He needs a gamechanger. The best chance of that happening was Biden stumbling in the limelight of his own event.

Instead Trump overshadowed him. The only way that strategy would make sense were if he used the opportunity to pivot. To try and convert some opponents as polls say he urgently needs to do, in sizeable numbers. Instead, he doubled down and and that usually has the effect of entrenching opinion, which is majority negative about him.


Thurday's polls round-up

Numbers from pollsters rated B or better by Fivethirtyeight

NATIONAL

MARIST (A+): BIDEN +11
NBC/WSJ (A-): BIDEN +11
IBD/TIPP (A/B): BIDEN +8
LOWELL (A/B): BIDEN +10
YOUGOV (B): BIDEN +10

ARIZONA

MONMOUTH (A+): BIDEN +6

SOUTH CAROLINA

SIENA (A+): TRUMP +8


How will tonight's TV events play out?

Tonight was supposed to be the second TV debate. That head-to-head event was cancelled when Trump contracted Covid and rejected the option of a virtual debate. We will, however, get a chance to watch both candidates on TV tonight although it will require two screens.

Rather than go head-to-head, Biden and Trump will appear simultaneously on different TV networks at different Town Hall events. Biden is on ABC, from Philadephia. Trump on NBC, from Miami. The latter network came in for much criticism after announcing theirs at the last minute and thus depriving all but the most engaged of voters the chance to compare both candidates.

We discussed whom a third debate might favour in the latest episode of our Politics...Only Bettor podcast. The general consensus is that Biden has more to lose, given his lead, and that certainly applies if they do appear head-to-head on the 22nd October. I'm sceptical tonight will change anything though.

With this bizarre decision to show the events simultaneously, surely America's two polarised tribes will largely tune in to see their favourite. Rather than illuminating the choice before voters, this set-up smacks of a confirmation bias festival.

Unless one of them makes a major gaffe, I can't see either event being prominent in the news cycle for more than a few hours. Last week's VP debate didn't cut through beyond the engaged minority and, apart from general derision of the chaos, few are still discussing the first debate, which was actually very consequential and significantly moved the odds.

Another problem for viewers is that unlike the first debate, these Town Halls won't be syndicated across rival networks. The combined audience share is unlikely to be anywhere near that 73M figure.

UK viewers will certainly be able to watch online via ABC News Live or NBC News Live. According to the current schedule on Sky Digital, neither event is covered on TV but I suspect that will change. CNBC (Channel 504) are covering the Trump event in the States while Sky News are owned by the same company as NBC.

Check our daily Twitter thread on the @BetfairExchange feed for updates on this schedule, and I'll be live-tweeting during at least one of the events.

For what its worth, I'm confident Biden is much better suited to this format. He did well engaging directly with voters at a CNN Town Hall last month, a day or so after Trump had drawn criticism for his tone deaf responses to direct questions about Covid.


Wednesday's polls round-up

Numbers from pollsters rated B or better by Fivethirtyeight

NATIONAL

IBD/TIPP (A/B): BIDEN +8
YOUGOV (B): BIDEN +10

MICHIGAN

EPIC-MRA (B+): BIDEN +9

NORTH CAROLINA

NYT/SIENA (A+): BIDEN +4

GEORGIA

SURVEY USA (A): BIDEN +2
QUINNIPIAC (B+): BIDEN +7

OHIO

QUINNIPIAC (B+): BIDEN +1

NEW HAMPSHIRE

SUFFOLK (A): BIDEN +10


Blow for Trump as Obamagate proves a dud

One argument for backing a Trump comeback has been expectation that he would produce an 'October Surprise' to damage Joe Biden and change the electoral weather. A 2020 equivalent of the 'Podesta e-mails' that undermined Hillary Clinton and, critically, altered the late news cycle in 2016.

For years, Trump has been railing about 'Obamagate' - the claim that the former administration illegally spied on his campaign in 2016, to engineer what the President likes to call the 'Russia hoax'. He raised it as recently as the last week and said yet again that Hillary Clinton should be jailed.

Attorney General Bill Barr ordered an investigation into the 'unmasking' of members of Trump's campaign, whose names were redacted in intelligence documents. Most notably Trump's initial pick for National Security Advisor Michael Flynn - who resigned over his Russia ties and has since been convicted on unregistered foreign agent charges.

There was serious speculation - from both supporters and staunch critics - of major arrests of political opponents before the election. Trump surrogates had claimed they had the damning documents signed by Biden himself.

This investigation appears to have imploded in quite humiliating fashion. Attorney John Bash failed to produce any criminal charges and there won't even be a public report. It seems that, in fact, any such report would exonerate Obama administration officials and has thus been buried.

Does this move votes? No. I doubt a single one. The significance lies in what it fails to achieve, at a time when Trump urgently needs a gamechanger. Its another reminder that this isn't a re-run of 2016. Attempts since to generate dirt on his opponents have achieved nothing beyond his own impeachment. The same tricks don't work second time around.


Tuesday's polls round-up

From tonight, we're going to add this round-up of all the day's most significant polls. The rating in brackets, eg (B+) applies to their rating from fivethirtyeight.com, based on past performance. Firms without a rating, or rated 'B-' or lower, are excluded.

NATIONAL

IBD/TIPP (A-): BIDEN +9
YOUGOV (B): BIDEN +8

NORTH CAROLINA

MONMOUTH (A+): BIDEN +3


Was it merely Trump's rally that moved the market?

The sudden market move for Donald Trump lasted overnight. He's still trading around 2/13.05, from 3.45 on Sunday afternoon.

We've had a few hours to find an explanation or to see whether it was a signal of impending news. Nothing dramatic has materialised on the polling front.

On reflection, my conclusion is that the dynamic is purely psychological. Indeed, I think that explains the betting trends of this unique election cycle.

In every previous election, not just the USA, the betting was primarily driven by polls. Not to the letter by any means - markets are more forward-thinking - but polls were the most credible and important indicator.

The polls have been consistently terrible for Trump. He's trailed Biden for five years in head-to-heads by substantial margins. Yet his implied chance on Betfair has always been much lower than even the most conservative prediction model estimates.

The most common explanation is that bettors fear a repeat of 2016. That may explain reluctance to steam into Biden at odds-on, but not the two recent, massive gambles on Trump. The first came during and after the Republican Convention and then last night, just as he was about to stage his first rally since getting Covid-19.

Is this simply an effect of Trump supporters feeling pumped up at specific moments of the campaign? This makes more sense than other explanations.

Anecdotally, I sense a much greater psychological dimension than usual. Trump supporters are bullish, ultra-confident, dismissive of 'fake' polls and media. Trump opponents are terrified that either history will repeat itself, or that he will rig the election.

If that is the case, it is bound to affect the betting.


Big market move for Trump tonight

Ahead of tonight's rally, a substantial gamble on Trump in developing. In shortening from 12/53.35 to 2/13.05 today, he's reversed all of Joe Biden's gain on our Next President market from yesterday - which in itself was one of the biggest moves all year.

What lies behind it? Perhaps something significant is about to break but as it stands, I'm at a loss. If that something is a poll, it would need to be a real outlier. Today's numbers were predictably grim for the President, in line with recent trends.

See below - each pollster's rating from Fivethirtyeight is in brackets.

NATIONAL DAILY TRACKERS

IBD/TIPP (A/B): BIDEN +10
USC/DORNSIFE (B/C): BIDEN +13

PENNSYLVANIA

IPSOS (B-): BIDEN +7

WISCONSIN

SIENA (A+): BIDEN +10
IPSOS (B-): BIDEN +7

MICHIGAN

SIENA (A+): BIDEN +8


Trump returns to campaign trail in Florida

Around midnight, President Trump will host his first campaign rally since being infected with Covid-19. He will address supporters at Orlando Sanford Airport in the ultimate swing state of Florida.

The rally comes after his doctor Sean Conley signed off a memo saying he was 'no longer a Covid transmission risk'. The White House still refuses to say when he last tested negative but Trump told supporters in an audio message that he's 'tested totally negative', suggested he has 'immunity' and therefore 'can't get it'. Twitter, however, ruled the below a breach of their rules.

Regardless of whether this rally is a smart, or responsible, move, the choice of venue is no surprise. No serious analyst believe he can win the electoral college without Florida but the polls look grim. Biden leads by an average 4.5% and by 11% in one respected survey last week.

More specifically the airport is in Seminole County and part of the famous I-4 corridor. Regarded as the key to winning the state, this is a 'bellwether' region - proven a reliable indicator of the national picture in previous elections - and home to precisely the sort of soft-Biden/undecided voters he needs to convert.

2020 US Presidential Election: USA - Presidential Election 2020 (Next President)

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Tuesday 3 November, 11.00am

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