Archive for the 'US Politics' Category


Richard Nabavi on the US Senate elections

Friday, September 14th, 2018

On the 6th November, 33 of the 100 seats in the US Senate come up for election. The Democrats currently hold 47 seats and two independents caucus with them, so they need a net gain of two for them to get control1. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the starting position is rather difficult; of the 35 seats up for election, only 9 are Republican-held, and of those 4 are solid and 3 are fairly safe. On the other side, of the 26 seats the Democrats are defending, several are potential Republican gains.

The table shows the 13 main battlegrounds, approximately in increasing order of difficulty for the Democrats. Not shown in the table are the 41 Democrat-caucus seats, and the 46 Republican seats, which are either not up for election, or are considered safe. The second column shows the number of seats the Democrats would have (including the two independents who caucus with them) if they won that seat and every one above it in the table (plus their safe seats). The third column shows the probability of a Democrat win as calculated by Nate Silver’s ‘Classic’ model2 – this is broadly compatible with the qualitative assessments of Larry Sabato and the Cook Report. The last two columns show the best odds3 available at time of writing from Ladbrokes or Betfair Sportsbook on the two parties.

State Cumulative count 538 Dem prob. Cook Sabato Best odds Dem Best odds Rep
New Jersey 42 92.9% Likely D Likely D 1.2 6
Minnesota (Special) 43 91.9% Lean D Likely D
Montana 44 90.3% Likely D Lean D 1.36 9.5
West Virginia 45 88.8% Tossup Lean D 1.36 4.0
Indiana 46 76.7% Tossup Tossup 1.66 2.1
Missouri 47 71.3% Tossup Tossup 1.66 2.1
Arizona 48 66.6% Tossup Tossup 1.53 2.8
North Dakota 49 60.1% Tossup Tossup 2.5 1.9
Nevada 50 59.4% Tossup Tossup 1.5 2.5
Florida 51 55.8% Tossup Tossup 2.0 2.2
Texas 52 34.8% Lean R Lean R 3.75 1.44
Tennessee 53 30.3% Tossup Lean R 3.1 1.44
Mississippi (Special) 54 17.2% Likely R Likely R

As you can see, the Democrats are favourites in 10 of these contests, according to the 538 model. If they win all of those, they will just make the 51 seats needed, down to and including FL. However, that assumes they don’t mislay any along the way, which is very far from certain – Florida, Nevada, North Dakota and Arizona could each easily go either way, and it won’t be much of a surprise if the Republicans win Missouri and/or Indiana.

If national sentiment moves firmly towards the Democrats between now and the election, that might be sufficient to carry them over the line. However, Senate elections are subject to significant state-specific and candidate-specific variation. As things stand, to win control, the Dems need to stay lucky in all of the first 10 listed states, or perhaps stay lucky in 9 and pull off a surprise in Texas or Tennessee.

Note that a Democratic majority as defined by the Betfair market, where the two independents who caucus with the Democrats aren’t counted, corresponds to 53 seats or more in the table. That means winning at least 12 of the 13 contests shown – a very tough challenge.

My betting strategy on this is to take advantage of the uncertainty by betting on the Democrats in individual states where the odds look (relatively) favourable, but betting against them winning 53 seats or more (including the two independents) by laying Dem majority in the Betfair market, currently at around 8.0. That way, I hope to make some money on individual contests, but also on them tripping up in at least one or two.

Richard Nabavi

1. If it’s a dead heat, the Vice President has the casting vote, so the Republicans retain control.
2. As at Sept 13th
3. You might get better odds on the Betfair exchange, subject to charges


If Ted Cruz is running ads like this then I’m concluding his campaign is in trouble

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

After watching that video above I had one overwhelming thought, Ted Cruz knows he is in trouble in his campaign to hold his Senate seat in Texas.

Now why is he in trouble? In 2012 Cruz won Texas by nearly 16% but as we can see from the RCP table, his lead is nowhere near his 2012 performance.

Now as we can see in this poll below Trump’s ratings are pretty dire and that might impact on GOP candidates in November. One thing we’ve learned in recent years is that the supplementary questions are probably a better indicator of election results than standard VI questions. That poll below indicates an absolute shellacking for the GOP if November is seen as a referendum on Trump.

Paddy Power are offering 9/4 on the Dems taking Texas, which I’ve had a nibble on, Ladbrokes are offering 6/4. Long term Texas is trending back to the Dems but I won’t be surprised if Cruz loses this time.



Warren makes first move for a possible 2020 White House bid

Friday, March 9th, 2018

At a dinner in Washington on Wednesday high profile Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren, made what is being seen as the start of her bid to win the 2020 White House race.

She announced that she is donating $5,000 to all 50 state Democratic parties in the US. She is also giving $15,000 to the national party. According to Politico:-

“Warren also began laying out a national political argument, calling for the party to pick fights on consumer rights, guns, immigration and investigating and punishing “this president, his Cabinet, and his family.”

“Folks are hurting, and they’re scared, and they’re angry, and they’re desperate for someone to put up a fight on their behalf. And it sure isn’t going to be Donald Trump and the Republicans,” Warren said, adding later, “I don’t want us to settle for being the party that takes the right side when it comes to the fights facing ordinary Americans. I want us to be the party that picks fights on their behalf.”

In terms of name recognition Warren is probably at the top of the list at the moment of current Democratic contenders apart from Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. The last two who are 75 and 76 years old respectively are surely too old and runs could be portrayed as vanity trips.

I would have liked Warren as the candidate in 2016 but Clinton had so tied up the Democratic machine that it was hard for anybody else to get any traction.

But I’m not convinced that Warren is worth a punt at her current odds of about 7/1 for the nomination. There is an awful long way to go and there are several other youngster contenders who could mount serious challenges.

Mike Smithson


Huge variation opens up in the polling for November’s US MidTerms

Thursday, March 1st, 2018


The US phone-online survey divide

By far the biggest elections that we know are taking place this year are the November US midterms when the whole of the House of Representatives is up for election and about a third of the Senate.

The main national picture in the polling is seen in the data in the RealClear Politics data above – the 2018 Generic Congressional Vote where we have seen two almost totally contradictory polls in the past couple of days. A CNN phone poll had the Democrats opening up a 16 point margin while a YouGov US online for the Economist has the gap down to just two.

I’m am very wary of making judgements on the online-phone polling debate because of experience of recent UK elections.

It is reckoned that the Democrats need a national margin of about 8 points to be on course to take control of the House. This is because the boundaries currently very much favour the Republicans. The latest Betfair betting has punters rating the party’s chances at 57%. Because of the Senate races that are up this year Betfair has the Republicans with a 60% chance of retaining a majority with a 26% chance of it being tied.

Generally speaking first term Presidents, like Trump, have poor midterm elections which come exactly two years after their election. If Trump was to come out of the election with his party still holding both houses it would be a great achievement and a good pointer to 2020 when he is up for re-election.

Mike Smithson


With the Alabama polls showing the Farage-backed Moore 3.8% ahead the betting makes him an 83% chance

Monday, December 11th, 2017

The big political event this week is tomorrow’s special election in Alabama to choose the next senator. This is critically important because currently the split in the Senate is 52 Republican to 48 Democrat. If the controversial, Moore who has been accused of having sex with girls as young a 14,loses then that would become 51-49 making it harder for controversial moves to get through.

During the primary Nigel Farage spoke at a meeting in the state on behalf of Moore who is facing a huge campaign from the Democratic Party who sense the possibility of a victory.

Whichever ever way it goes it is being argued that the outcome would be bad for the Republicans. This is from from Dan Balz in the Washington Post

“For Republicans, there likely can be no truly good outcome. If Moore wins, the party will have preserved the seat but will be saddled with a new senator under a cloud of allegations, including assaulting a teenager many years ago as well as a pattern of pursuing teenagers half his age when he was in his 30s. If he wins and is sworn in, he probably will face an ethics investigation that will keep the controversy alive until his fate is resolved and perhaps much longer than that. For the Republicans, it’s a hot mess.

If Moore loses, the GOP would be spared his presence in the Senate. But the result will have inflamed the anti-establishment forces led by former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, deepening antagonisms that continue to roil the party. A Jones victory also would tarnish the president, who has enthusiastically endorsed Moore and campaigned near the Alabama border Friday night in a display of that support. Additionally, a Jones victory would put the Republican majority at greater risk in 2018…”

Alabama is traditionally a very strong Republican state and it is only because Moore is the candidate that this could be in doubt. All but a couple of the most recent polls have him ahead what are the current polling average gives him a 3.8% lead.

Everything is dependent on turnout and whether the Republicans can get their voters out in an election so near to Christmas for someone so controversial.

The election is currently the most active political market on Betfair with Moore at the moment (0640 GMT) rated as an 83% chance.

Mike Smithson


Moore remains odds-on favourite in Alabama even though the Dems are spending nearly ten times as much on TV ads like these

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Will the big spending Dems campaign produce a sensation?

The biggest current political betting markets in the UK are not about British politics at all. They were about the US with Trump’s survival being number one and the Alabama senate race, which takes place next Tuesday, number two.

The latter has the advantage of being settled very soon. Punters have only a few days to wait until they know whether their gamble has paid off or not.

At the moment on Betfair the Republicans, with their controversial candidate, is rated as an 80% chance with the Democratic man on 20%.

The polling has this very tight with most showing a small GOP lead though some have Moore behind.

In normal times with a normal candidate the GOP would be an absolute certainty. This is very strong territory for the party and it is only the allegations of sexual transgressions by several women that have given the Democratic Party any hope.

Everything is going to depend on turn out next Tuesday and here it is hard for pollsters to get this right.

My sense is that the Democratic campaign with ads like the ones above are designed to impede turnout amongst Republican voters and persuade Democratic ones that their man had a chance.

My view is that at current odds that the betting value is with the Democratic party who are worth a punt.

Mike Smithson


Fox News poll: Trump’s Republicans facing big set-backs in 2018 mid-terms

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

By far the biggest elections next year look set be the US midterms in November when Donald Trump will face his first major electoral test.

Currently his Republican Party has majorities in both the Senate and the House and his ability to act could be impeded if one or both of these are lost.

New polling for Fox News finds generic Democrats have a lead of 15 points over the Republicans 50 to 35. A year ago the Democrats and Republicans were tied on 45 points each.

The Fox survey Democratic party lead is the second highest there’s been from any pollster. Earlier in the month CNN had a 16 point margin.

Other recent polls such as YouGov have it much closer with the lead at 7 points.

So far there are betting markets on both the Senate and the House on Betfair but almost no liquidity yet. That will change.

Mike Smithson


New leader ratings in 3 state key to Trump’s 2016 victory have him with big favourability deficits

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Those of us who stayed up all night for the White House election last November will recall the huge focus on Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan – states won by Obama in 2012 which went to the Republican last year.

These were won by the tightest of margins down to 1.23% in Wisconsin, 0.64% in Pennsylvania and 0.23% in Michigan and were central to Trump’s shock victory.

Now the latest Mairist/NBC News polling in these three states finds that Trump has a huge net ratings deficit. Given the well recorded linkage between favourability rating polls and electoral outcomes this does not look good for Trump if he is considering going for a second term.

They also send a sharp message out to his party that he could be en electoral liability which could impact on other elections. If he is to go early then senior Republican figures have to be the ones to pull the trigger.

In the betting Trump’s is now odds-on not to complete a full first term. Latest price have that at 55%.

Mike Smithson