The US election is upon us. I’ve been following the betting odds daily and it’s been quite a roller coaster since my last article.
By far the single biggest factor affecting the Presidential odds in the last month was the FBI Director James Comey revealing they were reopening an investigation into emails after having found some possibly related to Clinton on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. I was at my computer when this information was released and was watching the betting odds. It was surprising how much they moved.
What Are The Odds?
Odds on Trump were +560 just prior to that announcement. This is equal to an implied probability of 15%. Three hours later Trump was +290 which is a likelihood of 26%. This was the change in only a three-hour span on that Friday.
When people follow the polls, there’s a time delay between when the information is released and when it can be determined to have had an impact. Plus, there’s a lot more *noise*, statistically speaking.
Polls don’t give you as much precision as betting markets do. When well-informed people are willing to put their money on the line on a bet, you get instant and accurate feedback. This information release was a doozy, sending the betting markets into a frenzy.
As cable news decided to run with this email story, in their own kind of frenzy, Trump’s odds increased and increased. It seemed like every moment the word “email” was uttered, Trump improved. As of November 4, Trump was +235 on BetFair giving him a 30% chance to win!
Comey’s release of information with eleven days to go in the election was clearly politically motivated. He had no significant news about Mrs. Clinton. He was advised not to by his bosses at the Justice Department. He knew that the implication of wrongdoing was just as effective as the evidence thereof. And the cable news sources were complicit, blowing the story up to superhuman proportions.
This is the America that we live in these days. The media customizes our information to maximize ratings. Thus, what we learn about the world is sensationalized and heavily edited to produce maximum shock or pain or outrage. The news agencies have foregone their obligations and responsibilities as journalists and instead worship at the feet of the almighty dollar. Ratings means advertisers. Trump has been ratings gold.
Is that the proper criteria for selecting a President? The most outrageous? The best for ratings on cable news? The one that can give you great sound bites? Negative or positive makes no difference. In my book a steady hand, a sharp intellect, a person experienced in public policy, with a lifelong demonstration of ability to deal with adversity is what we want. Not a real-life Fred Flintstone.
What Is The Answer?
The answer if you look at the betting odds, however, is that substance is overrated. The Presidential election has become your high school government election on the kind of steroids that of which Alex Rodriquez could have only dreamed. It’s a popularity contest and popularity doesn’t have to mean they like you. If they know who you are, you’re ahead of the game.
What I enjoy about looking at the betting odds versus the polls and pundits is twofold. One is the immediate feedback, in real time. The other is that it’s the naked truth. You can fool the polls. You can fool the pundits, but you can’t fool the odds. They’re unrelenting and unforgiving.
There’s another betting market that has reacted to the FBI news and that would be the stock market. The S&P has been down nine days in a row, it’s longest day-after-day decline in 35 years. This is likely in response to Trump’s increased chances of winning the election. I follow betting markets, not stock markets, but have been following the news voraciously. I heard a fascinating interview with how during the final debate, the international markets would very clearly tick up when Clinton landed a damaging blow or Trump said something boneheaded.
The markets want Clinton because they see much more certainty in her policy than they see in Trump’s. Having said that, if Trump wins, the markets will take a dive and it sounds like a good time to buy to me. They should rebound.
Another Piece Of The Puzzle
There’s another piece to the Comey puzzle that isn’t being discussed as much. People talk about the impending odds of Clinton versus Trump but they don’t discuss such things as control of the Senate or House with the same fervor. Control of the Senate just isn’t as sexy of a talking point as the Presidential election, but Comey’s actions could absolutely have effects on that.
If Clinton were to win, and she is still favored, then people might want to say no harm no foul, but what about Senate races? A weakened Clinton can lead to reduced Democratic turnout and while she may yet survive that, the Senate candidates counting on those voters may not. Clinton as President would be able to have more success for her platform with a Democratic Senate, yet the odds of that flipping have diminished significantly because of Comey’s behavior.
Another factor is that a potential landslide and mandate may have been averted by Comey’s actions. If Clinton were to win “bigly” then she would have more of a mandate with which to enter her Presidency. She’d have less talk of impeachment from her enemies in Congress because she would have shown that most the country is behind her. If she’s limping to the finish line, then she’ll be starting from a position of weakness and will have more difficulty in making her case for her policies.
The Numbers Mean Everything
This is all in the numbers. I have added some opinion because I’m a writer and that’s what I do, but the numbers mean everything. One percentage point in terms of probability can have astounding effects. If one state like North Carolina goes one way or another it can roll through the election like a tsunami. If one Senate race that would have gone Dem goes GOP, then the Senate will have a much differing stance to the White House that will have massive effects throughout the Presidential term.
If Clinton is 70% versus 85% then swing states, down ticket races, and a personal mandate all become either jeopardized or strengthened. And yes, the Presidential race itself becomes more uncertain.
This morning as I look, Trump is up to +350 which is a 22% chance to win. It appears that the email story has worked its way through the news cycle and Clinton is rebounding. But even then, her victory is in no way assured.