Archive for the 'America' Category


Never forget that the vast majority of those who voted for Trump are happy with their President

Monday, January 15th, 2018

And the betting continues to point to his survival

Mike Smithson


How Britain should play the Trump card without folding or upping the ante

Friday, January 12th, 2018

A guest slot from Julian Glassford

The vertiginous rise of the new champion of the alt-right in 2016 prompted a palpable blend of bafflement and consternation among the political elite right around the globe. Few dared even imagine that Donald Trump would triumph over his wily, experienced, and altogether far more internationally acceptable rival in the US presidential election. Indeed, most appeared caught almost completely off-guard and, a year on, none have yet managed to figure out quite how to tame the beast (if such a thing is possible).

Before “the Donald” had even taken the oath analysts were mourning the end of the age of Atlanticism, and who can blame them? He has, after all, labelled NATO obsolete, characterised the EU a defunct vehicle for German hegemony, and now added an unedifying Twitter spat with the British Prime Minister to his growing collection of controversies. Other commentators speculated that the reality TV star turned statesman was just posturing during the presidential campaign and would reign in the headline-grabbing stunts once in office. If they were banking on 2017 being a year of relative tranquillity on that basis, well then they miscalculated, bigly.

Resurgent populism and the nationalistic upending of the Washington Consensus has left (neo)liberal internationalists the world over with their heads in a spin. “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind”, and boy has the global political climate become blustery on their watch! Enter brash Trumponomics, rash social policy, and decidedly undiplomatic rhetoric scarcely seen in the West since The War.

Major domestic and international protests sparked by the Trump travel ban saga, followed by calls for the man himself to be barred from visiting countries like the UK – which have only grown following his far-right retweets – place governments in an awkward position. Few leaders can risk appearing to accept socially divisive ‘alternative facts’ or to condone his incendiary politics. Fewer still can afford to turn their backs on the largest and most advanced economic and military power on earth, however. And, given our role as a bastion of ‘soft power’ and human dignity vs. the need to nail‘The Art of the Deal’ with the US ahead of post-Brexit trade talks, this tension applies to the UK in spades.

Public figures have every right to voice their discontent, and relevant politicians and diplomats are of course duty-bound to make appropriate representations to their stateside counterparts. But, at the end of the day, whilst we do not have to respect the views and policies that President Trump espouses we cannot deny anyone’s right to hold or state them. Instead, we must trust in modern democratic institutions, our values, and unity. If we cannot place our faith wholly in these things then surely this says more about the state of our society and fragility of our principles (e.g. free speech) than it does about the vulgarian at the centre of the storm.

Far from deterred, Donald – like many an ‘echo chamber’ dwelling ‘keyboard warrior’ – appears buoyed by his latest fracas, even if most Americans clearly disapprove of his Twitter antics. As it dawns on remonstrators that the egotistical and intransigent showman is, figuratively speaking at least, sat in the Oval Office with his fingers in his ears and his direct line unplugged, many governments will be tempted to disengage completely. The UK must not do so. “Keep Calm and Carry on”, as the saying goes.

Britain can ill afford to sacrifice the special relationship as a knee-jerk reaction to political incorrectness or, indeed, in the name of tokenistic ‘virtue signalling’. Whatever the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel may say about Europe going its own way, Western interests are not well served by marginalising the United States or its capricious commander in chief. The recent announcement regarding the relocation of the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem offers a timely reminder that, left to his own devices, the cocksure neophyte is liable to land us all in a world of trouble.

For all his characteristically provocative and bolshie behaviour on social media, the President is a self-confessed Anglophile with Scottish roots. He shares a close affinity with a number of British public figures, actively seeks their advice, and was of course keen to invite the PM to be the first foreign head of state to visit him in office. Slightly uncomfortable, and recently diminished, though this association has been, the spirit of such acts has value and should not be disregarded.

Rather than cancel the much maligned US state visit outright, as others have pointed out the government can just as well kick it into the long grass. With a little quintessentially British composure and savvy, it should be possible to sustain cordial relations and continue to productively engage with our friends across the pond without compromising on matters moral integrity or social stability.

Strong leadership entails embracing difficulty, acting with level-headed stoicism, and leading by example, and we are in the business of building bridges, not walls. To abandon the current US administration at this juncture would be no more flattering on the UK than the reverse proposition i.e. Blair-Bush style fawning. Instead, we must live up to the long tradition of being America’s faithful, if not uncritical, old friend and ally. This means underscoring shared pluralistic values and being the pragmatic voice of reason: ever ready to administer a helping hand and, where necessary, the odd slap on the wrist.


Brief Bio: Julian Glassford is a UK-based multidisciplinary researcher and social entrepreneur.


First Winfrey – Trump polling has Oprah 10 points ahead

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018


And she’s a favourability rating of 55%

New polling just out this afternoon from the right-leaning pollster Rasmussen has a big boost for TV personality, Oprah Winfrey who has now entered, though not the race, the frame for WH20020. This is from the pollster:

“TV personality Oprah Winfrey is the likely winner over President Trump if the 2020 election were held today, but there are a lot of undecideds.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters would opt for Winfrey, while 38% would choose Trump. But a sizable 14% are undecided.

Winfrey has the support of 76% of Democrats, 22% of Republicans and 44% of voters not affiliated with either major political party. The president earns 66% of the vote from Republicans, 12% of Democrats and 38% of unaffiliateds.

Twelve percent (12%) of both Republicans and Democrats are undecided given this matchup. One-in-five unaffiliated voters (19%) aren’t sure which candidate they would support.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of all voters view Winfrey favorably, including 27% with a Very Favorable view of the longtime media personality and entrepreneur. That’s little changed from 2011 after Winfrey announced she was ending her TV talk show after 25 years on the air. Thirty-four percent (34%) share an unfavorable view of her, with 18% who have a Very Unfavorable one.”

Clearly at this stage there is a novelty element but Oprah, like Trump as WH2016 has high level of name recognition simply because she’s is a high profile TV star.

Whether these sort of numbers would survive an actual run for the nomination and the cut and thrust of a campaign we do not know.

She is second favourite, behind Trump, on Betfair to win WH20120.

Mike Smithson


Suddenly Oprah Winfrey becomes second favourite for next President

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

But does she want it?

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the American presidential election cycle seems to move. Donald Trump has only been in the White House since January last year and now all the talk is of the 2020 contest with a focus on who would be his Democratic opponent should he decide to run again.

Following her widely publicised appearance at The Golden Globes on Sunday night in Los Angeles the talk is all about Oprah Winfrey being the person who could be the Democratic Party flag carrier.

This is how the New York Post is putting it this morning:

“.. In a rhetorically dazzling 14-minute speech that began with Sidney Poitier inspiring her by winning an Oscar in 1963 and ended with her promising that “a new day is on the horizon,” Winfrey delivered exactly the kind of inspirational and aspirational speech Hillary Clinton tried but failed to deliver about 300 times during her deadly bid for the presidency..”

On Betfair in the UK she has now moved to a 12/1 shot which looks ridiculously tight given the timescale and that the fact that she has never held any elected political position. But I have to say that is what everybody said about Donald Trump at this stage ahead of the 2016 contest.

The big question is would she consider running? Certainly there has been a level of ambivalence from her since making her Sunday night speech. This is from CNN:

“…according to two of Winfrey’s close friends who requested anonymity to speak freely, Winfrey is “actively thinking” about running for president in 2020..”

That’s exactly what “friends” of all contenders who are thinking about running are saying at the stage. My guess is that she will test the waters and look at what is actually involved in running for president. But who knows? It could be that in January in two years time we are chewing over a sensational Oprah performance in the Democratic party’s Iowa caucuses – the first state to make its choice in the presidential race.

Mike Smithson


If you are betting on the Trump exit markets be careful to check the precise terms of the bet

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

What happens, for instance, if the President dies in office?

Inevitably the publication of the new book on the Trump White House Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff has led to an enormous amount interest in betting on whether Mr trump Will survive his first term.

This is currently, by a big margin, the busiest current political betting market and I would expect that to continue for some time.

I’d also expect a lot of fluctuations as one new development after another changes perceptions as to whether something will happen or not.

The picture being described by Wolff is so extraordinary and far beyond what anyone, I would suggest, many people had realised. That the man who is almost certainly the most powerful in the entire world should operate in the manner that he does is, surely, something that cannot continue? But it may do and so we are talking about bets on it. Top politicians in difficult situations have a remarkable record of resilience and so far Mr Trump has shown that he can carry on.

The Betfair Exchange, which has a market currently valued at £0.75 million, states explicitly that the death of the President would count with one big exception. Its rules are:-

“When will Donald Trump officially cease to be the President of the United States of America?

This includes, but is not limited to, if Donald Trump leaves office due to death (excluding assassination), incapacity, illness, impeachment or resignation (or anything comparable). ). All [unsettled] bets will be voided if Donald Trump ceases to be President of the United States of America due to an assassination or an assassination attempt.”

Ladbrokes, on the other hand, do not include the possibility of death but state that the specfics cessation of his Presidency. It is defining the bet like this:-

“To Leave Office Via Impeachment Or Resignation”

So if he dies in the declared time frame bets would be losers. For this reason I would argue that the Betfair terms are better if you think that he will go early. There is another contingency included. I’ve used part my Alabama winnings to have a small on him not making it but I’m ready to move in and out should circumstances change.

Mike Smithson


What 2018 could have in store for Trump (and who might he face in 2020)

Monday, January 1st, 2018

On his return from the U.S., Keiran Pedley gives us the rundown on what is happening stateside

Having spent a few weeks in New Jersey, as I usually do this time of year, it will not come as much of a surprise that the news media there is wall to wall Trump. However, as a keen observer of US politics, I do enjoy being over there and watching the political comings and goings ‘live’ – you can often pick up some nuances that you might not when watching from overseas. Here are some observations from my time there over the Christmas break.

Trump faces a tough election cycle in 2018

Unless the ongoing Russia investigation finds a ‘smoking gun’, or war breaks out on the Korean peninsula, the big story of 2018 in Washington is likely to be November’s midterm elections. Here Trump’s Republican Party, which currently holds both houses of Congress, could potentially lose both. Any sense that this prospect was ‘fake news’ was pretty much dispelled by the Democrats taking deep red Alabama in December’s special election (granted under very ‘special’ circumstances given the objectively awful Republican candidate Roy Moore).

The two charts below spell out the difficulties faced by Trump and the GOP in no uncertain terms. The first chart, courtesy of Jennifer Agiesta of CNN, shows President Trump is the least popular president after his first year in office since modern polling began. The second chart, courtesy of FiveThirtyEight shows the Democrats are on average 12 points ahead of the Republicans in the so-called ‘generic ballot’ – polling that measures which party Americans would support for Congress irrespective of who is running locally. The conventional wisdom, reflected here again at FiveThirtyEight, suggests a lead of more than eight points (maybe less) would be enough for the Democrats to win back the House of Representatives.  As it stands, they are favourites to do so.

Table 1: Trump’s approval rating after one year versus other presidents

Table 2: Polling average for the ‘generic ballot’

But it isn’t all bad news for Trump

The race for the House might be going the Democrat’s way but the race for the Senate is much less certain. Whereas the whole House is up for re-election every two years, only a third of the Senate is up each cycle and the 2018 map is not kind for Democrats. At the time of writing, they need a net gain of two seats to win back control of the Senate, yet the Republicans are only defending 8 of the 34 seats up for election (many of these in very ‘red’ states). Furthermore, the Democrats themselves happen to be defending seats in several states that Trump won in 2016 (notably Vice President Pence’s Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, Ohio, Florida and several others in the now infamous ‘blue wall’ that failed so miserably for Hillary Clinton). Put simply, two Democratic gains may not be enough if they fail to hold seats elsewhere.

Table 3: Senate seats up in 2018

So for the Democrats to take the Senate everything would need to go right for them. The prevailing political mood now suggests this might happen. However, Trump will hope to shift this mood if his recently passed tax plan provides a turbo boost to a US economy that is already chugging along quite nicely and the Russia investigation comes to naught (a crisis in North Korea is never far away too). He will hope for a second hearing, if not from Democrats, from Independents that currently give him an approval rating of just 33% with Gallup (57% disapprove).

The risk for Trump is that the 2018 election cycle may not really be about his record at all. It could be a referendum on the man himself as president and in that case there is nothing he can really do to avoid the Democratic wave he faces. Even if he ‘only’ loses the House, his domestic agenda will be severely hampered. If he loses both the House and Senate, it will stall completely.

However, this does not mean impeachment.  The US constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate to vote for impeachment to remove a president from office. Despite many suggesting that the GOP might ‘dump Trump’ if he became a liability, I find that idea highly dubious, unless clear and unambiguous illegality emerges that is explicitly linked to Trump’s own hand. Never say never but I won’t hold my breath.

In a bizarre way, Trump may even find his prospects for re-election boosted to some extent if the Democrats control Congress. He will once again have an enemy to run against in 2020 and nothing motivates the Republican base more than getting one over on the Pelosi’s and Schumer’s of this world. Make no mistake, losing Congress is bad for any president’s agenda, but there could be a silver lining of sorts for Trump – particularly if he manages to boost his credentials as a ‘dealmaker’ by governing with the Democrats (unlikely as that sounds).

Meanwhile the Democrats lack leadership – and that makes 2020 unpredictable

It is too early to make any definitive judgements about who the Democratic nominee will be in 2020. There are large question marks over who will actually run from the early list of front runners. Yet the skeleton of a field is starting to emerge nonetheless. Here are some names that consistently come up in the conversation about 2020 and their odds with Ladbrokes. This list doesn’t include some of the more fanciful names that feature, such as Michelle Obama, Mark Zuckerberg or Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson:

  • Elizabeth Warren (Senator, Massachusetts) 6/1
  • Kamala Harris (Senator, California) 6/1
  • Bernie Sanders (Senator, Vermont) 7/1
  • Cory Booker (Senator, New Jersey) 20/1
  • Joe Biden (fmr. Vice President) 20/1
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (Senator, New York) 25/1

Selection of odds taken from Ladbrokes

What should worry Democrats at this stage is that there is no obvious spokesperson for the party right now. No clear leadership. That suggests that the field for 2020 will be large, much like it was for the GOP in 2016, this makes the contest itself extremely unpredictable.

A number of dynamics will be at play when the Democrats choose their standard bearer in a couple of years’ time. Race and gender will loom large as ever but so too will a generational divide. In ‘normal’ circumstances, 2020 would be a contest between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; yet both will be comfortably in their late 70s come 2020. We cannot be certain if either will actually run. Therefore, the race is on to see who will emerge as the ‘next generation candidate’ to challenge or replace them.

In this context, I think Kirsten Gillibrand is a great value bet. She has made a lot of running in 2017, surprising many by saying President Clinton should have resigned following the Monica Lewinsky scandal and decisively calling for the resignation of Al Franken following accusations of sexual assault. Aged 51, she is seeking to make herself a leader of the #metoo movement and seems to have made the early running better than others that might seek that ‘next generation’ mantle; such as Kamala Harris or Cory Booker.

Of course, it is early days and just because a generational divide exists, it does not necessarily follow that the Democrats ‘have’ to move to the next one. It may well be that Biden and Sanders both run and they dominate the field. However, I think it is highly likely that at least one woman makes a strong bid for the Democratic nomination next time and this makes Gillibrand one to watch.

Nevertheless, for now I am still watching Bernie Sanders closest of all – whether he runs or not. If the 2020 Democratic field is as crowded as it was for the GOP in 2016, it is easy to see how Sanders, with his loyal supporters, racks up primary wins without winning a majority of the vote each time. If he doesn’t run, Elizabeth Warren could take his progressive mantle. Given that she is a woman as well it is not hard to see why Ladbrokes have her as favourite but she probably needs Sanders not to run. A Biden run from the centre has to be taken seriously too – more seriously than 20-1.

For now this is all speculation. In 2018, it will be important to watch Trump’s approval rating as we approach the midterms and keep a keen eye for which Democrats emerge as party leaders with one eye on 2020. It should make for interesting viewing.

Keiran Pedley

Keiran Pedley tweets about politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley


In the absence of divine intervention defeated Alabama Republican Moore launches action to overturn result

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Betfair punters might have to wait even longer

Today was supposed to be the day when the hard fought and controversial special election in Alabama to elect a Senator was due to be formalised,

In the Sensational result 2 weeks ago the Democrats beat the controversial Republican, Roy Moore by 1.5%. Instead of accepting the outcome Moore said on the night “Realise when the vote is this close, that it’s not over” and that he’d “wait on God and let this process play out“.

Most of the conventional bookies paid out on the day but Betfair has been waiting for the result to declared officially.

Moore, who was given vocal backing by Nigel Farage, a former UKIP leader, now claims that there was election fraud on December 15th and that the result should be nullified.

Quite what evidence he has is not clear and the decision is down to Alabama’s Secretary of State.

For me this was my biggest betting event since the general election and I’ve money at stake which is being held by Betfair.

Hopefully we’ll know during the day what is going to happen.

Assuming the Alabama outcome is upheld it changes the balance in the US Senate from 52-48 to 51-49 – a margin so tight it could create huge problems for the Trump administration in getting legislation through.

Mike Smithson


Donald Trump’s exit year remains the most active political betting market

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

But what a tedious unimaginative market

As we move towards the end of the year I plan to run a series of posts looking at the current active betting markets of which there are not a lot.

The top one is, inevitably, Donald Trump and which year he will eventually stop being president. As can be seen from the chart punters rate him as a 53% chance of getting to the end of his first term.

This is a market that can move very quickly in reaction to events particularly the investigations into whether or not Mr Putin had a role in Trump’s shock election victory last year.

There has been a huge amount written on that and no doubt it will continue to dominate the news in one form or another until such time as Trump moves on or else the issue is cleared up.

So far on Betfair alone £1.3m has been wagered and this gets added to at about £20k-£30k per week.

A a punter I find this market totally boring and haven’t been tempted to tie up cash for that long. Compare it with the excellent market on how many days Bill Clinton would survive during his second term when impeachment proceedings were in place. This was a spread betting market which to me is the most superior form a political gambling and, alas, one which the spread betting firms are only tempted to carry out during general elections.

Mike Smithson