Is Donald Trump’s Health a Concern for Political Betting Markets?

For months now, I’ve been covering US politics – in anticipation of the 2020 presidential election shattering political betting records. I’ve studied the candidates and where they draw their support, stayed abreast of up-to-date polling, and analyzed other crucial issues/variables that will inevitably determine the next President of the United States.

But what I may have underestimated in handicapping the next election cycle is the role health will play in the elections. It’s been a prominent concern when analyzing the Democratic Primaries – with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders both in their late seventies — but I’m now seeing that this will be an issue worth tracking through the 2020 general elections.

In mid-November, Donald Trump made a surprise visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

It wasn’t on the President’s schedule for the day, which led many – myself included – to wonder if it was something serious. After all, the White House has doctors and medical facilities right there on the premises. Why would he travel to a full-blown hospital unless there was something more complicated going on?

Kelly O’Donnell, with NBC News, tweeted a video of the President and the White House doctor leaving for the hospital:

Kelly O’Donnell (@KellyO), November 17, 2019
“POTUS health. WH says Saturday trip to hospital was “routine” & he’s “fine” despite break from past practices. Here is glimpse of Pres Trump and what appears to be WH physician Sean Conley getting into motorcade. Watch. (h/t @WinstonNBC)

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News, “He’s healthy as can be,” continuing “He has more energy than anybody in the White House. That man works from 6 a.m. until very, very late at night.”

Well, his tweeting schedule would surely confirm that he keeps long hours. Though, if he’s on Twitter at 3 AM half the time, that’s not leaving much time for sleep before that 6 AM wake-up call comes. Is that how Presidents do it – do they have wake-up calls? There’s no way they’re setting regular alarm clocks, right?

Anyway…if Donald Trump is the most energetic person in the White House, what’s with the random trip to Walter Reed?

“Anticipating a very busy 2020, the President is taking advantage of a free weekend here in Washington, DC, to begin portions of his routine annual physical exam at Walter Reed,” Grisham explained further, adding “The President also stopped by to say hello to the medical staff of Walter Reed, to share his thanks for all the outstanding care they provide to our Wounded Warriors and wish them an early happy Thanksgiving.”

On Sunday morning, President Trump addressed the visit for himself, Tweeting:

“Visited a great family of a young man under major surgery at the amazing Walter Reed Medical Center. Those are truly some of the best doctors anywhere in the world. Also began phase one of my yearly physical. Everything very good (great!). Will complete next year.”

So, the President of the United States decided to make an unplanned visit to Walter Reed to do half of a physical – which is something I’ve never heard of anyone doing in the history of physicals – and then meet with some Wounded Warriors to wish them “Happy Thanksgiving.”

Look, I’m not someone who reflexively takes the “anti-Trump” stance 100% of the time – though I don’t find myself agreeing with him often — but I’m also not buying the official story. Assuming we’ll never get the truth, this whole ordeal still reminded me of a genuine variable worth considering when betting on the 2020 election: health.

Donald Trump to Win the US Presidential Election (+130)

When handicapping the Democratic Primaries, age – and by extension, health – is an obvious concern. Two of the leading candidates, based on nationwide polling, are Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, who are 78 and 77-years-old respectively. Hell, Senator Sanders has already suffered a heart attack this year, and the former Vice President’s eye randomly started bleeding in the middle of a debate!

By comparison, Trump has always seemed weirdly young. That could be a function of his apparent immaturity when communicating at times – or maybe, he looks extra “peppy” from all the Sudafed the President is rumored to be popping . It could just be that the orange skin cream has been doing its job after all!

But at 73, he’s not much younger than the DNC guys — plus, he’s in much worse shape. Throw in a stressful impeachment investigation and the rigors of a re-election campaign, and you have to start thinking about how heavily to weigh the President’s health when handicapping the 2020 election .

Media platforms that favor Democrats have been discussing Donald Trump’s unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits for a few years now. A 2017 article from CNBC shared a list of health-related concerns shared by Greg Valliere, a chief global strategist at Horizon Investments:

  • Trump is “at least 50 pounds overweight,” an estimate that may be a bit of an overshot. During a taping with Dr. Oz during the 2016 campaign, Trump was found to be 6 feet 3 inches tall and weigh 236 pounds, which would put him right on the border of “obese,” with a body mass index of 29.5, meaning he would need to lose 36 pounds to get to a “normal” BMI.
  • He “loathes exercise,” uses a cart for golf, and struggled to walk up a hill during the last G-10 meeting.
  • A Secret Service agent source of Valliere’s professed that “he has never seen anyone with worse dietary habits” and “never saw him eat a piece of fruit.”
  • Trump’s food choices tend to well-done steaks, cheeseburgers, and french fries.
  • The President only sleeps four hours a night, is “angry most of the time,” and “profanely berates aides.”

Thinking back to the unscheduled visit to Walter Reed, it’s weird that the President would start another physical so soon after having his last one as recently as February. Now, he’s going back – with nothing about the procedure announced ahead of time – for only half a physical? In all of the articles I’ve read, none of the authors have ever heard of a President splitting up their exam into multiple checkups.

So, how much consideration do we give his health when handicapping Donald Trump’s re-election odds? At +130, the President is still the favorite to win the 2020 election – though he’s lost ground since being priced at –300 a little over a year ago.

For now, I’m going to exercise caution and consider the possibility that the coverage of this strange trip to the hospital was overblown.

Maybe the President just needed a private place to meet someone while keeping the media off the scent – the way Junior Soprano and Tony used to meet from time-to-time. Trump does have an inquiry investigation going on, after all.

That’s just conjuncture, though. Nobody outside of the White House knows what this trip to Walter Reed was about – which makes it tough. Some have hypothesized that the President is laying the breadcrumbs for an eventual resignation – saying that faced with impeachment, Trump will prefer to step down, blaming his health, than risk being removed by the Senate.

Nothing I’ve seen in the post-impeachment-hearings national poll numbers suggests that he has anything to worry about on that front, however. Almost no Republicans had their minds changed by the witness testimonies, and the majority of independents polled don’t want the President impeached – there’s no way 20 GOP Senators would risk crossing the aisle with re-election campaigns of their own looming.

When Trump dropped in on Walter Reed Hospital unexpectedly, the inquiries were still ongoing. Perhaps now that he’s essentially in the clear, Donald Trump will experience considerably less stress.

That said, I’m still looking at health as a more significant factor for the Democrats than the President. I’ll be keeping a close eye on any new red flags regarding Donald’s availability in 2020, but I’m more concerned for Bernie and Joe Biden for the time being.

Donald Trump is still getting on stage in front of thousands of supporters and unleashing stream-of-consciousness rants for ninety minutes or more. He may be overweight, full of crappy food, and hopped up on Sudafed, but there’s just something inevitable about the big orange maniac.

I still see tons of value in betting on Donald Trump to win the presidency once again in 2020.

Betting Lines to Watch if Trump’s Health is a Problem

While I’m anticipating Donald Trump being available to complete his run for re-election in 2020, it’s worth taking a little extra time to identify betting lines that could payoff – just in case. Being President is the most stressful job on the planet, by all accounts, and he’ll have to perform his duties while simultaneously campaigning for this last 25% of his term.

Assuming Trump’s daily habits are as unhealthy as reported (or on the other side of the coin, if he’s not actually the “ healthiest president ever “), there’s still a possibility that another GOP candidate will need to take his place. Who will make the best choice could be a matter of timing.

Nikki Haley (+1000) or Mitt Romney (+2000) – To Win Republican Nomination

The sooner the Republicans need a replacement for Donald Trump, the more likely I believe they are to run a candidate other than Mike Pence. Two GOP hopefuls with betting lines currently posted at Bovada are Nikki Haley and Mitt Romney – each of which, I’d expect to fare better against any of the DNC hopefuls than Mike Pence.

Haley would be the strongest pick if the President were to resign before January-or-so. As the former United Nations Ambassador, she is one of the few members of Trump’s cabinet to have exited on good terms with the White House. That could give the former South Carolina governor a massive boost among Donald’s most passionate supporters. Plus, I think Republicans would be downright giddy over stealing the honor of being the party to elect the first female President in US history out from under the DNC.

Romney is another reliable choice, though I think he should be priced closer to +3000. Mitt is a well-connected, establishment politician who could raise funds and launch a campaign in a hurry if necessary. If he covers for Trump during any future impeachment votes, that will garner him much-needed support from Donald’s new wing of the Republican Party, should worst come to worst.

Mike Pence – To Win Republican Nomination (+900)

The most realistic replacement for Donald Trump if the President’s health doesn’t allow him to continue his re-election campaign is Vice President Mike Pence. He’s the logical choice as a member of the current administration, and – depending on the circumstances of Trump resigning – could win the nomination on a wave of support from the President’s passionate supporters.

It’s not hard to imagine an aggressive “do it for Donald” online campaign working for the side that’s already used social media and meme magic to perfection these past four years. That’s why Mike Pence at +900 betting odds is the safest pick to make – based on Trump’s health making him unavailable.

I’m assuming it’s doubtful that the President steps down within the next two months – after which, GOP officials would prefer the security of a member of the current administration over a newcomer. I wouldn’t put much money on Pence to win the nomination, but as a deep sleeper, his current line has decent value.

Mike Pence – To Win US Presidential Election (+5500)

Where things get really interesting, with regards to President Trump stepping down for health reasons, is in the general elections. Assuming that Pence coasts to the Republican nomination due to timing and his current role as VP – I don’t see much of a path forward for the GOP in the 2020 presidential election.

As a Vice President, Mike Pence is the perfect counter-balance to the more unorthodox, over-the-top communication style of Donald Trump. They needed someone with traditional political experience – which the former governor of Indiana and member of the House of Representatives has – and steady to offset the President’s volatility. If one half of the ticket is “grabbing ‘em by the…,” you want the other half to be a guy who refuses to be alone in a room with any woman other than his wife.

However, on his own, Mike Pence doesn’t give voters much to be excited about. While I could see Trump’s endorsement and the emotional reaction to his sudden resignation being enough to mobilize his staunchest right-wing supporters to rally around the Vice President through the primaries, it’s hard to see that enthusiasm carrying over to the general election.

Betting on a Trump-less Election – Final Thoughts

From what I’ve observed, the main difference in the 2016 election (if we’re just talking about campaign strategies and not conspiracy theories about foreign interference), was that the Republican Party eventually gave in to the populist movement building within their ranks. They understandably resisted seeing Trump as a legitimate candidate at first, but as his support built, the GOP reluctantly accepted reality and got behind their guy.

On the other side of the equation, the Democratic National Committee fought off a similar groundswell of populist support for Bernie Sanders. DNC loyalists colluded to steal the nomination from the Vermont Senator (and got caught doing it!), leaving a considerable portion of their voter base disenchanted with the party and searching for another “outsider” candidate – many settled on Trump.

In 2020, there’s an excellent chance that an identical story will play out – as long as Donald Trump stays physically and mentally (I know, I know – you already don’t think he is) fit to run for office. However, if he’s lost from the ticket, I don’t think the Republicans can capture that same populist enthusiasm. The “working man” doesn’t relate to Mike Pence the way they do the President – despite his privileged upbringing.

That’s why the only 2020 presidential election betting lines I’m considering in case Donald Trump’s health becomes a problem is: Mike Pence at +900 odds to win the Republican nomination.
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Will Cormier / Author

Will Cormier is a sports and political betting writer living in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. When he’s not wandering around the streets of the Arts District aimlessly, a lifetime of pessimism and paranoia has made Will perfectly suited for handicapping politics. Cormier tries to analyze current events as objectively as possible – a strategy that often enrages loyalists on both the right and the left. When he’s not covering major upcoming elections, Will enjoys writing about basketball, football, and MMA from a betting perspective. He also loves dogs, ice cream sundaes, the movie “Stomp the Yard,” and long walks on the beach.