The Odds on the Campaign

With the 2008 election beginning today, a last look Monday at the doesn’t give Republicans, Libertarians, or capitalists much to be optimistic about.

Remember, the site acts as an exchange, not a bookie, so all prices are caused by people actually putting their money on both sides of a bet.

Late Monday afternoon, Barack Obama is trading just under 91 percent to be our next president, after touching an all-time high of 92.6 percent on Monday morning. John McCain is trading about 10.5 percent. In what probably represents the last gasp of hope of conspiracy theorists or those of us who wonder if Barack Obama is actually a “natural born citizen,” Hillary Clinton is still trading nearly1 percent.

As far as swing states go, here are the betting odds for the Republicans to win the following battleground states:

Colorado: 10 percent
Florida: 24 percent
Missouri: 48 percent
Nevada: 13 percent
North Carolina: 35 percent
Ohio: 20 percent
Virginia: 12 percent
Pennsylvania: 9 percent

Even states which would be safe GOP bets have some punters against the GOP this year, with Arizona trading 85 percent to go for the Republicans, Georgia trading only 76 percent, Indiana 62 percent, and Montana 73 percent.

My guess is that there are some decent bets here. I just paid 70 percent for Georgia to go Republican, and I think Ohio and Florida may go for Obama, but McCain’s chances are higher than 20 percent and 24 percent. Still, the betting shows that, despite the occasional poll which shows McCain making progress in recent days, it’s probably too little, too late for him — and maybe therefore for other Republican candidates who would have had a better chance had McCain figured out and stuck to the “Obama will tax you to death” message much sooner.

To consider the electoral vote betting, remember that there are 580 electoral votes possible. George Bush won 286 in 2004 and 271 in 2000, with Bill Clinton winning 379 in 1996 and 370 in 1992.

The betting is structured in terms of the party getting some number of electoral votes or more, not a range, such as with number of seats. So, the number closest to 50 percent among bettors is the bet for over 350 electoral votes, with that one trading around 56 percent. For perspective, over 300 votes is trading over 85 percent and over 370 votes is trading about 27 percent. In other words, they’re predicting something just slightly less than a Clinton-like Democratic landslide.

On the other hand, there’s a very interesting new bet available which hasn’t traded a lot of contracts but which shows a 70 percent chance that the actual difference between McCain’s popular vote received and Obama’s popular vote received will be more than 2.5 percetn better than the RealClearPolitics final polling average (which has Obama up by 7.4 percent Monday afternoon). The bettors believe the polls dramatically overstate Obama’s lead in the popular vote…but not enough for McCain actually to win swing states.

In other political bets, the GOP is trading about 3 percent to regain control of the House of Representatives. (I’m trying to sell it at 5.4 percent, and I’ve sold it previously for an average of 11 percent.) Democrats currently have 235 seats in the House. The distribution of betting on how many House seats the Democrats will have in the next Congress is as follows: 7 percent between 241-250, 33 percent between 251-260, 47 percent between 261-270, and 15 percent for 271 or more. (Keep in mind that the totals can add up to more than 100 because a bettor would have to tie up a lot of money to capture the arbitrage opportunity in selling them all. In other words, if you sold them all and collected more than 100, you’d be guaranteed a profit, but you have to put up so much “margin” to do it that most bettors will stay with the simple straight bets.)

The GOP is trading about 2 percent to regain control of the Senate. (I’m offering at 3.5 percent.) In terms of how many seats the Democrats would have after the election (not counting Bernie Sanders or Joe Lieberman), it’s 13 percent for 51-55, 83 percent for 56-60, and 9 percent for 61-65.

In the individual Senate races which are seen as competitive or interesting:

— Alaska Republican Ted Stevens is trading 8 percent to win re-election.

— Colorado Republican Bob Schaffer is trading 6 percent to beat Democrat Mark Udall.

— Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss is trading 73 percent to win re-election.

— Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell is trading 85 percent to win re-election.

— Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman is barely leading comedian-turned-tax-dodger Al Franken, roughly 51 percent to 48 percent (with 1 percent going to the “field”).

— New Hampshire Republican John Sununu is trading only 12 percent to win re-election,

— And North Carolina Republican Elizabeth getting only a 21 percent chance from bettors to return to the Senate.

In some of the less active bets, bettors are expecting voter turnout to be more than 60 percent but less than 65 percent. They give Bob Barr a 32 percent chance of getting 1 percent or more of the popular vote, but only a 7 percent chance of getting 2 percent. Ralph Nader shows a 27 percent chance of getting 1 percent or more of the popular vote. Believe it or not, Hillary Clinton is trading 20 percent to be the next Secretary of State.

Also, Democrats are trading about 53 percent to win the presidential election in 2012, with Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney all roughly around 20 percent to be the Republican nominee.

Unfortunately, at least from the point of view of most HUMAN EVENTS readers, with the exception of a couple of Senate races (notably McConnell and Chambliss), the odds that bettors are giving Republicans are not just low — they are near the life-of-contract lows. In other words, despite the occasional poll which might give hope to someone supporting the GOP, that’s not translating into where people are betting their money.

If there is any hope to be held for those of us who believe that an Obama presidency will be very damaging to the country, and that much more so if he has 60 votes in the Senate, it is that most participants in these markets have seemed in recent years to be political babes in the woods, having gotten quite a few predictions wrong in 2006 — apparently just betting based on what they read in polls or see in traditional liberal media.

That said, I’m not holding out much hope other than the realization that we recovered from the damage done by FDR, LBJ, and Jimmy Carter, and we shall also survive an Obama presidency. Not without substantial damage, of course, but we are a resilient nation…and we’ll most certainly need to be.