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Clinton boost pushes Kerry up in the betting

October 26th, 2004


With three new national polls puting Bush aread, two giving it to Kerry, and one recording a tie the race for the White House is on a knife-edge. The big problem for the Democrats is that one of the polls has an 8% Bush lead while another has it at 5%. The two polls showing Kerry ahead put the margin at 1%.

There’s no doubt that Bill Clinton’s entry into the campaign has been a boost for Kerry and this is reflected in the betting prices. The best UK odds are now down to 13/10 on Kerry. A decline for Kerry on the Iowa “political futures exchange” has been arrested by the news.

The Tradesports betting exchange has moved sharply to Kerry with the challenger 43.5 to Bush’s 56.5.

The electoral vote calculations are swinging to and fro between the two contestants. Both Slate and Electoral-Vote now have the president just ahead.

    We are sticking by our call of last week that any price above 11/10 on Kerry is good value.

For the candidates the stakes could not be higher and in all, both campaigns are spending nearly $40 million on TV ads in the final week of the campaign. This comes on top of the $15om that has already been spent. What’s been fascinating is how each swing state’s electoral arranemgents has come under the microscope. This is from Slate on Iowa.

Perhaps the most unusual electoral feature of Iowa is how absurdly easy it is to cast a ballot here. Want to vote absentee? No problem. Can’t wait for Election Day? Early satellite voting stations have been open since Sept. 23. Can’t be bothered to drop your postage-paid absentee ballot in the mailbox? They’ve got that covered, too. The parties will send state-licensed “couriers” to your living room to pick up the ballot and take it to the county auditor’s office for you.

With all these options, Iowans vote early in large numbers. This year, as many as 35 percent may cast their ballots before Nov. 2. And that can make a huge difference. In 2000, George Bush won the votes actually cast on Election Day. But when the early ballots were added in, Al Gore narrowly took the state. (He won by a little over 4,000 votes, but both campaigns this year motivate their troops by putting it another way: Gore prevailed by just two votes per precinct.) Voting may be a little too easy in Iowa. It takes just a few hundred signatures to force your county to open an early voting station (for what’s oxymoronically called “absentee voting in person”) at your preferred location. These have included churches on Sundays and now union halls, meaning these groups can preach “non-partisanly” to the converted and then show them to the polling booths.

But it’s the courier system that seems most amazing, and potentially alarming, to a jaded outsider. I tagged along with Ann Sokolowski, a volunteer courier for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Des Moines, as she drove around collecting absentee ballots from fellow Democrats. We were welcomed into the kitchen of Ed and Rosa Walker, an older couple who can’t make it to the polls because of health problems. They happily chattered about why they were voting for Kerry, and then handed over their absentee ballots to Sokolowski. She carefully avoided giving them any voting advice, which would be against the law. Then she plopped the ballots in a plastic shopping bag and we moved on.

With only six days remaining £2.9m has been matched on the UK-based Betfair betting exchange. Add this to the conventional bookmakers and the spread betting firms and we estimate that something like £10m will be wagered in the country on this single contest.






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