- Over the past two weeks, the race for the 2020 presidential election has tightened swiftly, according to the top political betting sites.
- Now, Donald Trump is tied with Joe Biden or favored to win at a handful of US election betting websites.
- At the same time, Joe Biden appears to maintain a respectable lead in the polls, causing much disagreement between election analysts and handicappers.
|Political Betting Site||Biden Election Odds||Trump Election Odds|
The schism between how political betting markets see the 2020 presidential election versus national pollsters continues to grow.
In recent weeks, I’ve written that Donald Trump is closing the gap between himself and Joe Biden. As the Republican National Convention dragged on, the polling data showed the President keeping the race tighter in key battleground states in 2020 than he had versus Hillary Clinton on the same date four years prior.
I also covered the rapid line movements that reframed the election as more of a “coin toss” at the top political betting sites than it previously looked. At the same time, the close race displayed by the betting odds has yet to be reflected in newly released poll results.
Now, Donald Trump has done more than merely make the election competitive; he’s regained his status as the favorite at multiple US election betting websites.
Except, the latest round of polling continues to favor Biden.
- Are the political handicappers seeing something the pollsters don’t/can’t/won’t?
- Are the debates (or his health) looming large over Biden’s odds?
- Or, are Trump’s favorable betting lines a massive overreaction to his shocking 2016 victory and the pollsters’ and political “experts'” failure to see it coming?
Because if the polls are accurate, then Donald Trump’s odds are grossly overinflated right now. In which case, there’s an absurd amount of value in betting on Joe Biden!
Polling Averages & Projections
- Biden – 50%
- Trump – 42.7%
- Spread: Biden +7.3
- Biden’s Win Probability – 74%
- Trump’s Win Probability – 26%
- Biden’s Win Probability – 83%
- Trump’s Win Probability – 17%
- Florida – Biden +0.8
- Pennsylvania – Biden +4.3
- Michigan – Biden +3.2
- Wisconsin – Biden +7.0
- North Carolina – Biden +1.5
- Arizona – Biden +5.7
- Nevada – Biden +4.0
- Minnesota – Biden +3.7
Where to Bet on Each Candidate
As you can see above, I compiled the most recent general election odds for both candidates from the highest-rated political betting sites (as determined by our expert reviewers).
- The oddsmakers at BetOnline, SportsBetting.ag, and BetWay all see the race as a toss-up.
- Bovada and 888 Sport have Joe Biden narrowly favored.
- Meanwhile, oddsmakers for MyBookie and Xbet are favoring Donald Trump – and by a wider margin.
Interestingly enough, if you search out the most favorable betting lines for each presidential candidate, you’ll find the same price – just at different online sportsbooks.
Joe Biden (- 105)
If you’re planning to back Joe Biden, the recent shifts across political betting markets towards Trump is a godsend.
It wasn’t that long ago that you had to stake between $160 – 190 for a $100 return.
All of a sudden, you’re getting the former Vice President at almost even money, without much changing regarding Biden’s prospects.
FiveThirtyEight’s election model is giving Joe a 74% chance of winning – up 4 percent from last week. The Real Clear Politics average lists the Democratic challenger as ahead by 7.1 points nationally. These numbers are all remarkably similar to when Biden was a more decisive betting favorite!
Assuming the pollsters don’t expose themselves as completely biased and useless this Fall, the statisticians suggest betting Joe Biden at –105 is one of the all-time great locks.
Donald Trump (-105)
It’s difficult to imagine what political betting will look like when Donald Trump is gone. From blitzkrieg-ing the Republican primaries
to scoring the upset victory over Hillary Clinton, never has a candidate injected so much uncertainty and chaos into wagering on US politics.
Beyond just the elections, the President has been an endless source of prop bets dealing with everything from impeachment odds to social media habits.
Now, he’s got political handicappers warring with pollsters and analytics experts like Nate Silver.
Most of the country woke up on Election Day 2016, sure that Hillary Clinton would be their president-elect by the time they went back to bed. The statistical models all had her probability of winning in the nineties.
The national polls showed a commanding lead for months. And in a way, they were right. Clinton did win nationally – she won the popular vote by roughly 3 million.
Everyone overlooked that Donald Trump’s polling numbers were within the margin of error in crucial battleground states. He only needed a moderate uptick of working-class voter turnout in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida to secure an electoral college victory.
I suspect Trump backers are anticipating a similar scenario for the 2020 presidential election. That, or they’re expecting Joe Biden to implode down the stretch – which is not beyond the realm of possibilities.
Either way, the President has drawn even with his Democratic opponent at most political betting sites. In terms of value, the best time to bet on Trump was from late June to early August. Now, picking the incumbent pays out slightly less than even money.
888 Sport gets an honorable mention for listing Trump at –106 – a negligible difference.
Things to Consider
Much like other articles concerning the tightening presidential race and incongruence between poll numbers and betting odds published recently, I want to look at a few variables worth considering ahead of the election.
Obviously, the pandemic and the country’s economic recovery will be the primary determining factors driving people’s decisions at the ballot box. On any given day, those situations can take a dramatic turn that decides the election (in either direction). However, I don’t want to write about those same topics every time; they’re a given.
Instead, let’s look at the latest developments that may explain why political betting markets are so much more bullish on Trump’s likelihood of reelection than the pollsters, analytic models, and media.
Trump’s Electoral College Advantage
Between the partisanship of US politics and the electoral college, where a candidate receives their support is equally – if not more– important than the volume of votes one receives.
Hillary won the popular vote by roughly 3 million. Yet, the difference-maker for Trump was about 100,000 supporters scattered across the Midwest, where he needed them most. It was just enough to edge out electoral college victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio.
The Democrats can win coastal liberal strongholds like New York and California by as wide a margin as they’d like, and they’ll still receive the same number of electoral college votes as if they won by only 25 ballots.
The 2020 electoral college map is shaping up to be quite similar to last time. Looking at the RCP battleground polling averages above, Trump is within striking distance in all of them.
From August 31st – September 7th, democrats added 4,563 voters,
while Republicans added 13,964 voters.
If you want to re-elect @realDonaldTrump, then I need your help registering new voters.
— #ThePersistence (@ScottPresler) September 8, 2020
It helps that the states Trump needs most are heavily populated by the core of his base: white, working-class, non-college graduates.
They’re the same demographic that fueled the President’s 2020 election effort. They are also receptive to the campaign’s anti-socialist and anti-woke social criticisms, as well as the candidate’s populist rhetoric regarding trade, China, and ending foreign military interventions – and aren’t as offended by Trump’s lack of manners or political correctness.
Minnesota and Wisconsin are battleground states that have been hit heavily by extensive protests, rioting, and looting – which plays into Donald Trump’s campaign strategy.
Many handicappers predict the incumbent’s forceful “law and order” message, and repeated offers to send in federal officers to restore peace will eventually win back suburban voters in these regions. The logic is that regardless of one’s political leanings, once voters are scared for their wellbeing and the safety of their businesses and possessions, they’ll cast a ballot for the candidate who has opposed the demonstrations from the start.
Thus far, the Black Lives Matter movement’s approval ratings have declined across the Midwest, but the change in sentiment hasn’t boosted Donald Trump’s poll numbers in the same key states. That said, the polling could be flawed.
If the Republican is already within a couple of points of Biden, a relatively insignificant number of “law and order” voters is all it will take to swing entire battleground states in Trump’s favor.
Another thing that doesn't make any sense about betting markets is that their state-by-state odds are very close to 538's projections but their national projections are quite different. https://t.co/qpmkmQfImF pic.twitter.com/Yy9OXpC5N5
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) September 5, 2020
Trump Outperforming 2016 with Black and Hispanic Voters
Most alarming for the Biden campaign is the virtual tie in which they find themselves in Florida. The state’s 29 electoral college votes will be crucial in deciding either candidates’ available paths to victory.
A recent Quinnipiac University Poll found the Democrat’s lead reduced to just 3 points – too close to be considered anything but dead even. Real Clear Politics’ Florida polling average has things even tighter, showing the former Vice President “ahead” by only +0.8
This continues a pretty good run of Florida polls for Trump. https://t.co/FEQmFlK0Hg
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) September 8, 2020
Florida has a history of hotly contested races, including Trump’s 1.2% margin over Clinton in 2016, so the competition is no surprise. The alarming trend for the Democrats is how the President is gaining ground.
The pandemic and four years of negative cable news coverage have taken a substantial chunk of Donald Trump’s support among seniors – voters 65 and older. Where the incumbent is exceeding expectations with voters of color.
Among Black Voters:
Biden 66% (-23 vs 2016 results)
Trump 28% (+20)
Among Hispanic Voters:
Biden 56% (-10)
Trump 41% (+13) https://t.co/4JdE2Sp3GY
— Political Polls (@PpollingNumbers) September 1, 2020
In Florida, the Latino vote primarily consists of historically conservative Cuban Americans. They’re particularly sensitive to what are perceived as socialist policies after their families or themselves were forced to flee Fidel Castro.
However, Trump’s improving approval numbers with Hispanic voters aren’t limited to Cuban Americans in Florida. A Quinnipiac survey places the President’s support with Latino likely-voters at 36% — up from the 28% of the demographic’s vote in 2016.
Throughout the Democratic primaries, progressive pundits warned the DNC this would be an issue. Hispanic voters overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has done almost zero outreach in their communities.
If the President can increase his share to 40% (or more) of the Latino vote, he will be tough to defeat.
The ballots cast are almost inconsequential – the election will ultimately be decided by legal decisions, backroom dealings, and foul play. There will be drawn out fights over local officials refusing to certify election results.
The amount of time given to counting mail-in ballots past Election Day will be a significant point of contention.
The Democrats are already preparing their supporters for mayhem. Every other week, a new DNC member warns the public that Trump will never concede and plans to cheat. The President has been accusing them of manipulating the pandemic to harvest ballots for months.
Most likely, Election Night will end with Donald Trump leading by a large margin.
He will begin pressuring individual states to complete their counts, trying to set firm deadlines. They’ll resist, blaming his USPS for any ballots that are delivered late. In some regions, courts will extend the time states have to count – causing outrage on the right.
If deadlines are imposed, Republican operatives will challenge every ballot with the slightest inconsistency during the counting process, just like in 2000. They’ll gum up the system and try to eat up as much of the time possible to protect Trump’s lead.
However, I don’t think Donald Trump can win this type of political contest. Look at the cases his administration has brought to the Supreme Court. They routinely lose judgments due to procedural issues.
Not only does he offer the most betting value, by any conventional measure, the former Vice President also has the entire political establishment on his side.
If the election is devolving into chaos and court judgments anyway, I want the side with all the Washington DC lifers. It doesn’t matter what the polls or betting odds say once the outcome is dependent upon their behind-the-scenes maneuverings.