Archive for the 'America' Category


If Betfair punters are right the Republicans are set to hold onto the House in the November midterms

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018


This would be a big victory for Trump

While we are all focused on the Tories and Brexit in the UK the biggest political betting market at the moment continues to be the above one on the US midterm elections and, particularly, whether the Republicans can hold on to the House.

The current RCP polling average has the Democrats 6.4% ahead but that’s not thought to be big enough to see change. In many states the congressional district boundaries very much favour the Republicans.

There is a heavy incumbency advantage but in a normal US electoral cycle the first midterms in a new President’s term tend to go against his party. Holding on would be a huge victory for the White House and would mean there’s less possibility of some of Trump’s controversial moves being impeded.

The Senate looks set to remain in the GOP’s hands because of the seats that are up this year. There are 100 members of the Senate and roughly a third come up for elections every two years.

Mike Smithson


Trump’s big deal: the Supreme Court

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

Wikimedia Commons

November permitting, buying off evangelicals with nominations could change the future of America

Donald Trump regards himself as the great deal-maker. As president, there’s not an awful lot of evidence to support his contention but then he’s never much been one for being overly worried about the evidence. Nearly a year and a half into his term, there’s no wall, nor any realistic prospect of one, his immigration reforms have resulted in concentration camps for children separated from their parents, he’s started trade wars but failed to reach the renegotiated trade deals promised, and Obamacare remains in place. In foreign policy, his most striking intervention – the talks with North Korea’s Kim – has brought that regime out of the cold while getting little but warm words in return. Trump has delivered on tax cuts – but then passing tax cuts for the rich is easy for members of Congress when if you’re not one of them yourself, then your key donors most certainly are.

But there is one area where his administration has been extremely effective: in making appointments to the Federal courts. No president has appointed more federal appellate judges in his first year (12), to which he’s added a further 9 since and has another 13 pending before the Senate.

That’s in eighteen months: Obama only appointed 55 federal appellate judges in eight years. These are, of themselves, highly influential appointments given how few cases progress beyond their courts, and Trump’s nominees have been reliably conservative.

Even so, the Great Prize remains the Supreme Court, which is in many ways the most powerful institution in the United States: it is not accountable to anyone, appointments are for life, and whereas the Supreme Court can overturn or strike down an Act of Congress, Executive Order or lower court decision, nothing short of a constitutional amendment (or later Supreme Court decision), can overturn decisions made the collective apex of the judiciary.*

So far, Trump has only made one Supreme Court nomination, and that courtesy of Senate leader Mitch McConnell who refused to allow the Senate to hear Barack Obama’s nomination for the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia. Scalia, however, was firmly on the conservative wing of the Court, so his replacement by Gorsuch didn’t tip the fine balance between liberals and conservatives (whereas had Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, Merrick Garland, been approved, it would have produced a clear liberal majority).

By contrast, Trump does now have his own opportunity to mould the Court more to his liking – or perhaps more realistically, more to the liking of his electoral coalition. Trump himself would probably like to nominate someone who takes a highly activist view of the scope of Executive authority but there was a reason though why so many evangelicals voted for a man with little interest in either the Bible’s words or its teachings: abortion. Trump was once pro-choice but rare is the opinion with him that runs counter to his interests – and the votes of millions are very much his interests. They backed him because he said he would deliver on upholding a pro-life position (and pro-gun and other related stances, but abortion is the most important). And he is delivering: lots of young judges who will last decades, confirmed against regular opposition (and also overwhelmingly white and male). That is his Big Deal.

Which is where the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy comes in. Unlike Scalia, Kennedy is as close to a swing vote as the Court has. Replacing him with someone reliably conservative would secure a narrow but firmer 5-4 conservative majority.

Replacing him, however, is not quite that simple. The Republicans have only a 51-49 advantage in the Senate and one of those 51 is John McCain who is both seriously ill (and hence often absent), and no friend of the Trump administration. Trying to tip the balance of the Court in such circumstances will be difficult, even with a highly qualified nominee.

That produces a tricky tactical decision. The Republicans are only defending nine of the 33 senate seats up for election and following the uptick in Trump’s rating, might reasonably hope to make gains, particularly if they can take attention away from DC. There’s potentially a good reason to delay the vote and use the Supreme Court nomination and abortion as the kind of practical wedge issue Karl Rove used so effectively for George W Bush – though going easy now in the hope of an easier ride later is a strategy that carries risks.

If the Republicans can retain and even strengthen their grip, that opens up their opportunity to change the country. There may well be two other Supreme Court vacancies coming up before long. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 85 years old and while she has been clear in her intention not to step down any time soon, she’s also had periods of ill health in the past. Similarly, Stephen Breyer turns 80 in August and while he too has given no indication of wanting to retire, 80 is the recent average age at which justices have done so (though Justice Stevens retired in 2010 at the age of 90).

The crucial point, however, is that both Ginsberg and Breyer are on the liberal wing of the Court. If Trump and a GOP-controlled Senate can replace them (and Kennedy) with conservatives, not only will it produce a 7-2 conservative majority but if, as with Gorsuch, relatively young justices are appointed, it would likely mean a conservative majority into at least the 2030s and possibly well beyond: it’s not unreasonable to think that Gorsuch will still be on the Court in 2050.

    Such a court would have a huge impact on America’s politics, not just in civil matters such as potentially outlawing abortion but in curtailing the state’s (or, more accurately, Congress and the president’s) reach and overturning legislation such as Obamacare

.These are, perhaps, the stakes being fought for this autumn – far beyond the ins and outs of office, the soul of a nation is at stake.

If there is irony to be found in such a crucial thing, it’s this: for all the talk of Trump’s court appointments being his legacy, the reality is that he is little more than a willing cipher in it. The legacy is not his; it’s that of the evangelicals who from time to time insert and assert their influence into US politics (as with, say, the Prohibition movement). Nonetheless, irrespective of who is the impetus for these appointments, their impact – if the nominations are sustained at the current rate – will be profound.

David Herdson

* Technically, this isn’t quite true. Congress can alter the size of the court, so it could, in a hard stand-off, approve sufficient new justices of a given slant to render the former court outgunned. There’s also the accountability of impeachment, though only one Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached (in 1804), and he was acquitted. In reality though, neither of these mechanisms is likely to be effective as Franklin Roosevelt found when, at the height of his power in 1937 and with massive Democrat majorities in Congress, he didn’t have the support to expand the Court so as to reverse rulings against New Deal legislation.


June 2018 Local By-Election Summary

Friday, June 29th, 2018

June 2018 Monthly Summary
Conservatives 7,657 votes (40.22% -0.91% on last time) winning 8 seats (-2 seats on last time)
Labour 4,716 votes (24.77% +5.10% on last time) winning 3 seats (+1 seat on last time)
Liberal Democrats 2,998 votes (15.75% +7.59% on last time) winning 4 seats (+3 seats on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 1,291 votes (6.78% -5.69% on last time) winning 0 seats (-2 seats on last time)
Local Independents 1,089 votes (5.72% +0.98% on last time) winning 1 seat (+1 seat on last time)
Independents 836 votes (4.39% -3.97% on last time) winning 1 seat (-1 seat on last time)
Green Party 410 votes (2.15% -3.17% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Others 42 votes (0.22% +0.07% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Conservative lead of 2,941 votes (15.45%) on a swing of 3% from Con to Lab

June 2017 – June 2018
Conservatives 141,644 votes (34.29% +0.76% on last time) winning 108 seats (-24 seats on last time) from 263 candidates (+10 on last time)
Labour 133,343 votes (32.28% +5.70% on last time) winning 92 seats (+9 seats on last time) from 249 candidates (+24 on last time)
Liberal Democrats 66,665 votes (16.14% +6.36% on last time) winning 42 seats (+22 seats on last time) from 213 candidates (+77 on last time)
Green Party 20,867 votes (5.05% -1.99% on last time) winning 4 seats (+4 seats on last time) from 142 candidates (-6 on last time)
Independents 16,278 votes (3.94% -1.75% on last time) winning 11 seats (-4 seats on last time) from at least 64 candidates (at least -10 on last time)
Scottish National Party 14,460 votes (3.50% +1.36% on last time) winning 3 seats (unchanged on last time) from 13 candidates (unchanged on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 8,457 votes (2.05% -10.35% on last time) winning 0 seats (-11 seats on last time) from 79 candidates (-72 on last time)
Local Independents 7,218 votes (1.75% -0.02% on last time) winning 5 seats (+3 seats on last time) from 23 candidates (-4 on last time)
Plaid Cymru 626 votes (0.15% +0.05% on last time) winning 1 seat (unchanged on last time) from 2 candidates (+1 on last time)
Other Parties 3,550 votes (0.86% -0.12% on last time) winning 3 seats (+1 seat on last time) from at least 17 candidates (at least -14 on last time)
Conservative lead of 8,301 votes (2.01%) on a swing of 2.47% from Con to Lab

Westminster General Election Forecast
Conservatives 304, Labour 255, SNP 41, Lib Dem 27, NI Parties 18, Plaid 3, Green 1, Speaker 1 (Con short of an overall majority by 22)
Con + DUP = 314 (short of an overall majority by 7 when allowing for Speaker and Sinn Fein)
Lab + Lib Dem + SNP + Plaid + Green = 327 (overall majority of 14 when allowing for Speaker and Sinn Fein)

Harry Hayfield


Joe Biden raises doubts about whether he’ll run for White House in 2020

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Obama’s Vice President for 8 years, Joe Biden, has been talking about the next White House Race and says he “feels guilty” about not wanting to run.

Ahead of the 2016 election there was considerable speculation over whether he would run against Hillary Clinton for the nomination. This went on and on and in the end he made it clear that he would not put his hat into the ring. This followed the death of his son.

Inevitably , although he is in his mid 70s, he is being questioned about next time and his statements in a recent interview have rather poured cold water on the idea that he would seek to win his party’s nomination.

Currently on Betfair he is in the second favourite slot behind the California senator, Kamala Harris.

Clearly he has high name recognition, is good on TV and continues to make policy speeches and publish articles. He’s become a very strong critic of the incumbent particularly for the way America’s allies are being alienated.

I would expect that speculation will continue for some time and that it will be a long period before he finally rules himself out. But I don’t think he’s going to make a bid.

Mike Smithson


Michael Bloomberg to spend $80m helping the Democrats in key races at the November midterms

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Could this help turn the tide?

For nearly a year the betting markets have made a Democratic party House win in November’s midterm the favourite. These, of course, are the key elections that come up half way through a presidential term when the whole of the House is up for election as well as about a third of the Senate. The Democrats margin has narrowed very sharply on Betfair but the blues are still just ahead. From the betting perspective this is viewed as being very tight.

What could turn out to be highly significant news in US electoral politics is not Trump’s u-turn on separating immigrant children from their parents but that ex-New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg has announced plans that could make a huge difference in the coming elections. These should give a good take on how Trump’s Republicans are doing and whether or not the incumbent might succeed in winning the nomination again and going for a second term.

Also if the Republicans lose control of the House then it could impede Trump’s ability to bring in legislation.

This is how the New York Times is reporting the development:

“..Mr. Bloomberg … has approved a plan to pour at least $80 million into the 2018 election, with the bulk of that money going to support Democratic congressional candidates, advisers to Mr. Bloomberg said.

By siding so emphatically with one party, Mr. Bloomberg has the potential to upend the financial dynamics of the midterm campaign, which have appeared to favor Republicans up to this point. Facing intense opposition to President Trump and conservative policies, Republicans have been counting on a strong economy and heavily funded outside groups to give them a political advantage in key races, especially in affluent suburbs where it is expensive to run television ads.

Mr. Bloomberg’s intervention is likely to undermine that financial advantage by bankrolling advertising on television, online and in the mail for Democratic candidates in a dozen or more congressional districts, chiefly in moderate suburban areas where Mr. Trump is unpopular. Democrats need to gain 23 congressional seats to win a majority..”

Mike Smithson


YouGov have run their very accurate constituency predictor on the House elections in November

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Will the YouGov model be as accurate in America as it was in the UK?

One of the undoubted winners of the last UK general election were YouGov and their MRP model which showed a hung parliament when most other pollsters were showing the Tories were on course for a hefty majority. I recall the near universal derision when YouGov forecast constituencies like Canterbury as a Labour gain, well it was YouGov who had the last laugh.

Well they’ve turned their attentions on the race for the control of the US House of Representatives. For those like me who have been betting on the Democratic Party to take the House comfortably this is alarming, when you factor in the plus and minus margin then a GOP hold of the House is a very realistic outcome.

CBS and YouGov have put up a methodology note that is well worth reading, it can be viewed by clicking here.

Before any of us burn out betting slips on the Dems taking the House we should remember there’s five months until voting day and a lot can happen especially with a such volatile character like Donald Trump in the White House.

Trump’s lawyers are arguing that Trump ‘could not possibly have committed obstruction because he has unfettered authority over all federal investigations’ which could have very interesting implications for the Mueller investigation. Richard Nixon and his legal team would have been interested in the arguments espoused by the Trump legal team.




Why betting on the Republicans in the House mid-terms may be the right strategy

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Ian Whittaker on his betting plan

The consensual view on the November mid-terms has been that the Democrats are favourites to win back the House in November.It is almost a given that a party that holds the White House loses seats – Clinton and Bush picked up a few seats in 1998 and 2002 but under unusual circumstances (pushback against Impeachment for Clinton, the aftermath of 9/11 for Bush). Trump disgust is seen as a powerful force for Democrats to turn out and independents to switch sides. The Mueller probe casts a shadow over the Presidency. Moreover, the Maths seem to favour the Democrats. Democrats have to win 23 seats, fewer than the Democrats won in 2006 and 2008 and the Republicans in 2010. There are 23 seats where Clinton won in 2016 but where there are Republican House members. Pennsylvania’s court ruling helps the Democrats in several seats. Special elections in Arizona and Pennsylvania (Conor Lamb) show a swing to the Dems.

However, I think the value is more in the Republicans winning the House, which you can get for 5/4 at Ladbrokes.

First, the Democrats lead in the Generic polls is shrinking. As Mike said, it is down to 3.4% and on a downward trend. The quite frequent double-digit Democrat poll leads have disappeared (the last one was in late April) and there is a question whether the Democrats are suffering from Labour’s problem over here in that it is building up huge but useless majorities in safe seats, which could exaggerate their position.

Second, the economy is improving and Trump is getting the credit. According to CBS, 64% rate the economy as doing well or very well and, importantly, 68% credit Trump’s policies, either strongly or somewhat, with that strength. GDP growth, jobs growth, wage growth all point to a buoyant US economy and Trump’s ratings are improving, 44% on average think he is doing a good job, not great but not disastrous.

Third, the Republicans are far ahead of the Democrats on fundraising,. Up to and including April, they had raised c. $185m and plan to spend $250m on the election. Republican turnout in primaries is up substantially (61% up in West Virginia, 43% in Indiana and 48% in Ohio) and the ground machine looks well prepared and slick. Democrats do have their strengths and, while the national party is in debt, local candidates have been well funded. However, that is a problem because it makes it far easier for the Republicans to shift resources to well needed.

Fourth is impeachment. While Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi states impeachment of Trump is not on the table, that message is constantly undermined by activities and other influential Democrats such as Maxime Waters who says a Democrat-controlled House will push for it. That is a problem, it fires up Republicans to turn out and it alienates swing voters. The more talk of impeachment, the more likely swing voters will stick with the lesser of two evils, essentially in a strong economy.

Finally, I think there will be a “wild card”
and that is the Mueller investigation but not in the way you may think. The increasing narrative on the Republican side is that, yes, there is a scandal bigger than Watergate but that scandal is the Obama Administration deliberately placed spies in the Trump campaign in 2016 to spy on his campaign (FWIW, the fact both the NY Times and Washington Post are quoting sources saying, yes, there was a source inputted but it was for the good of Trump etc suggests there is something that is about to come out). The narrative is already firing up Republicans, and if anything fishy comes out, is likely to impact swing voters.

If you do not want to take the risk on the House, then the 4/7 on the Republicans with more than 50 Senate seats on Ladbrokes looks a very safe bet. Ticket splitting is getting rarer and Trump has delivered to the conservatives on judicial appointments. With a fair chance, there could be at least one Supreme Court justice retiring, that gives an incentives to turn out. The Republicans have learnt from the Moore fiasco in Alabama and gone for sensible choices in WV, OH and ID. The Dems only hopes are Nevada and Arizona, and the latter seems too much of a push. The Republicans, on the other hand, would seem to have a very good chance in Indiana, West Virginia (depending on the losing Republican primary candidate getting on the ballot), Montana and North Dakota, with Missouri another good option. I have not seen individual state Senate bets but I would go for Rick Scott in Florida, which I think will be another Republican pick-up and Ohio might also be worth a look.

PS for matters of disclosure on whether to listen to me, I won on Brexit and the US Presidentials but did horribly on the 2017 GE ex-TSE’s great tip on Scottish Tories 🙂

Ian Whittaker


November’s US midterms are looking a lot tighter than a month or so ago

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

The polling average narrows

The Betfair betting exchange get tighter


For the past year or so many people have been predicting that the US midterms, the elections that take place exactly 2 years after a presidential election, would not be very good for Mr Trump.

In particular the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by the Republicans, looked set to flip and that would frustrate enormously legislative objectives of the presidency.

The Senate comma though, is a different matter. About a third of the 100 members are up for election and the ones that will be contested this year looks pretty promising for the Republicans with a few chances for the Democrats. This is despite the fact that the current split in the Senate is 51 to 49 to the Republicans.

The generic congressional polling question, featured in the top chart above, shows how the gap has been narrowing and because of the way that congressional boundaries are worked out then the Republicans could still hold on even if they are a few percentage points behind on the overall national vote. This is called, as we all know, gerrymandering and happens because congressional District boundaries are determined at a state level where the Republicans have been doing pretty well in recent years and control most state legislatures.

So it is entirely possible that on the first Tuesday in November that Mr Trump see that he can finish off his first term with his party still in control of both houses. That would be something of an achievement.

I’m expecting that in the the coming months the betting on this to be quite extensive and certainly will be the biggest political betting markets of 2018.

Mike Smithson