It’s 2020, it’s a leap year, and that means one thing – yes, OK, the Olympics, OK, two things then. As well as the aforementioned, the divisible-by-four-ness of the year also means that this is the year Americans go to the polls to elect a President. The current holder of the office – if you really need reminding – is one Donald Trump, and he is set to be selected unopposed as the Republican candidate for this November’s general election. However, the identity of his opponent is significantly less clear. The Democratic party tonight begins the “primary” process to select its candidate – a campaign which could run until June, and may not even have a result then.
There are eleven candidates still in the race, with another eighteen having announced their candidacies at some point in the last four years and then been convinced, through lack of support, to drop out before the primaries. Of the eleven, perhaps six (at a generous estimate) could be considered viable contenders: former vice-President Joe Biden, firebrand socialist Bernie Sanders, leftish moderate Elizabeth Warren, walking focus group Pete Buttigieg, safe centrist Amy Klobuchar, and wealthy entrepreneur Andrew Yang. These six – and another five – will be present tonight in Iowa for the state’s “caucus” – with the winner gaining a significant number of delegates, whose cumulative total will decide who stands in November.
Iowa set to feel the Bern
In 2016, just three candidates stepped up to contest the Iowa caucus for the Democrats: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, and Sanders. In the end, it was a seriously close contest between two of those names – O’Malley secured just .5% of the vote count, while Clinton and Sanders achieved 49.8 and 49.6% respectively. A surprisingly large tally for Sanders, and a sign that Iowa Democrats lean a bit further to the left than the majority elsewhere – and that’s a very positive factor for Sanders’ 2020 campaign.
Betfair have the Vermont independent as 4/9 favourite to top the poll in this first caucus, with the more centrist Biden further out at 11/4. Given that Biden had led most statewide polls coming into 2020, the fact that he is expected to lose this round does not bode well in this, his third tilt at the Democrat candidacy. If you feel like taking a punt, swerve the former veep and instead look to Massachusetts senator Warren; she’s struggled in the polls recently, but has a solid base of support and could push the male favourites to the wire here. Her odds of 8/1 make her an outsider to take Iowa – but a win here would give the campaign real momentum.
Momentum building for Sanders?
American politics has for some time been viewed as pitching some distance to the right of European countries including the UK; it’s generally believed that if Barack Obama had been a UK politician with the same positions that he held in the UK, he’d be a Conservative. When you note that they elected Trump in 2016, this concept holds firm. However, the Democratic primary might be about to blow that thesis out of the water. If Bernie Sanders wins the nomination, he’ll face Trump for the White House – and poll after poll has shown Sanders winning that showdown by a considerable distance.
The question, then, is whether the favourite for the Iowa caucus should be seen as the presumptive Democratic nominee – and the message from UK bookmakers is that they see him as the credible name to beat. Paddy Power have priced him at 6/4 favourite, ahead of Biden at 9/4. Sanders will only get tighter in the betting markets if he wins tonight and then, as expected, adds New Hampshire and Vermont in the coming weeks. These first few primaries may shake free some of the candidates who have stayed in this long, narrowing the field and rewarding momentum. However, there are strong signs that the bulk of the Democratic establishment do not want Sanders – feeling that he would lose to Trump and that, in any case, his policy platform is too radical. Backing Biden might be the boring choice, but it might also be the winning move here.
Democrats to turn White House Blue in November?
This far out from the Presidential election, it’s hard to say what the smart bet would be in November. It is, as we’ve mentioned, all but certain that Trump will represent the Republican party, so any more in-depth bet is predicated on the Democratic challenger’s chances of beating Trump. However, the fact that we know he will be there has tended to make bookmakers more confident of his, and his party’s, chances of winning. With Betway, the next president being a Republican is priced at 8/11 – a solid odds-on consideration.
The problem with that is that Trump lost the popular vote in 2016, and won the election on the basis of very narrow state wins in Wisconsin, Michigan and a few other states. Put a politician with a campaigning zeal and a solid “ground game” on the stump on the Democratic side, and it is very easy to see those “Flyover” states, which Clinton ignored in 2016, turning back to the “Blue” nominee. That eventuality is 21/20 with Betway, and it’s probably the smart bet right now.
Bets of the Day
Sanders to win Iowa (Betfair, 4/9); Sanders to win Democratic nomination (Paddy Power, 7/4); Democratic party to win Presidential Election (Betway, 21/10)