It’s safe to say the 2020 U.S. presidential election is now in full swing. There is no shortage of Democratic candidates vying to unseat president Donald Trump, and 20 of them were on stage in Miami earlier this week for two nights of debates. 10 candidates went toe-to-toe on each night, and there were plenty of fireworks along the way.
We’re still extremely early in the process, of course. The Iowa caucus isn’t until early February of 2020, so most of the candidates are still getting their feet wet and trying to find their identity. Some candidates have gotten into the race with a major focus on a single issue, while others have already tried to establish well-founded plans with an eye on improving the lives of everyday Americans.
There’s no telling how the field will shake out over the coming months, but the debates gave us our first real look at the candidates squaring off on the same stage. Narratives and storylines will come and go over the course of the lengthy campaign, but the debates did cause a notable shift in the betting odds.
BetOnline has fresh odds posted regarding which candidate will be the eventual nominee for the Democratic party. Some saw their odds improve thanks to their performance, while others may have seen their stock take a hit. Below are the updated odds to be the Democratic nominee alongside how said odds have shifted from where they were pre-debates:
There are obviously more candidates in the field, but those listed above are the ones that can either be considered frontrunners or saw decent line movement. Interestingly enough, the odds tell us that we have a new favorite. Kamala Harris, who had been listed at +550 to be the Democratic nominee, has surpassed Joe Biden. Harris is now at +250, whereas Biden has dropped slightly from +200 to +325.
The former vice president is still in good position, but Harris did effectively call Biden’s track record into question during Thursday’s debate. Harris, whose father is Jamaican and whose mother is Tamil Indian, seized on a recent comment Biden made regarding how he was willing to reach across the aisle and work with pro-segregation Senators back in the 1970s. Biden was trying to prove that he is able to work with people he may not agree with ideologically, but he did struggle to come up with an effective response to Harris’ jab.
Most analysts seem to agree that Harris was one of the more impressive candidates on the stage Thursday night, and her back-and-forth with Biden was among the highlights. Not only did she call the former Delaware Senator’s track record on race into question, but the move also made it fair to wonder whether the progressive-trending Democratic party may have passed by the 76-year-old.
Regardless, CNBC reports Biden will retain a strong base of support that has been there for years. Many said Biden whiffed on a chance to run for president back in 2016, so he already had a readymade group of supporters behind him when he decided to throw his hat into the ring this time around. One wobbly night likely won’t hurt him too much in the polls, so he’s still a very viable bet to win the nomination at +325. If anything, the way the odds have shifted have made him an even more alluring betting option from a value perspective.
Harris wasn’t the only candidate to see a positive shift in odds following the debates. Julian Castro and Cory Booker, who have been recognizable faces within the Democratic party for years, both received good marks for their respective showings during the first debate on Wednesday night.
Like Harris with Biden, Castro clearly had a target in his crosshairs. That target was none other than fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke. Despite the fact that Castro had campaigned in support of O’Rourke when the latter was running for Senate last year, the ex-San Antonio mayor was not shy about trying to expose O’Rourke for a potential lack of preparation.
Castro challenged O’Rourke’s opposition to a proposal that would make illegal border crossings a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Castro went so far as to tell O’Rourke, “I think that you should do your homework on the issue.” Not coincidentally, Castro reportedly saw his biggest fundraising day ever one day later. The former HUD secretary reportedly raised three times more than he had on any other single day following his showing in Miami.
Booker is another candidate that has lagged in polls, but he delivered a number of compelling lines on Wednesday night, and he showed that he can be an effective speaker without getting too bogged down in the nitty gritty of policy. He was authoritative in speaking about gun laws, healthcare, immigration, and other topics.
Booker was the candidate that got the most love from Google during the first night of the debates as well. According to Google Trends, which keeps track of how often a certain term is entered into the search engine, his name caused massive spikes in searches while he was speaking. Tulsi Gabbard, whose odds actually dipped to +5000 from +3000, was the second-most searched candidate:
Considering both Booker and Castro are still long shots at +2500 apiece to secure the nomination, I don’t mind taking a flier on either of them. There’s no telling how their respective campaigns will fare moving forward, but the fact that both made headlines is at least a step in the right direction. If forced to choose which I think makes for a better bet, I’d lean slightly in Booker’s direction. Morning Consult reported that Booker’s “favorability rating” jumped by 7.7% after the debate, which was third-most among participants.
As you may expect, Biden and O’Rourke were each among the candidates whose odds took a bit of a hit. Biden is still among the frontrunners, while Beto’s star seems to have fallen quite a bit. The former Texas congressman entered the race with a ton of fanfare as one of the favorites, but he has been steadily slipping ever since. A questionable showing at the debate saw him move from +1800 to secure the nomination to +4000.
+4000 is obviously appealing value as a long shot, but it’s hard to imagine O’Rourke gaining enough ground at this point. He has plenty of time left, but it remains to be seen just how much stomach he has for the fight. The upside is there in those odds, but it’s not a particularly likely bet to actually pay off at this point.
Elizabeth Warren was the frontrunner among those candidates debating Wednesday night. She has similar ideas to Bernie Sanders, and her appeal as a female candidate speaks for itself. Her odds remain unchanged after her showing at the debate, which is better than can be said about some candidates. +450 makes her a strong option as a value bet.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders have also seen their odds dip. Buttigieg is in the midst of a controversy in his hometown surrounding an officer-involved shooting that left an unarmed African-American man dead. The subject was broached on the debate stage, but the 37-year-old still seemed to fare decently in general on the night as a whole.
Sanders is the same guy we saw shaking things up during the ‘16 campaign. Some of the platforms he stood for back then have now become mainstream Democratic policy, so Sanders isn’t quite as edgy a candidate as he was three years ago. With others touting similar ideas, the 78-year-old may find that setting himself apart may be a more difficult task this time around.
I think both Mayor Pete and Bernie are viable betting options at +800 apiece. I’d give the slight edge to Sanders at this point, considering he has consistently ranked near Biden among polling frontrunners. Buttigieg has seen a surge in popularity himself, but Sanders has to be considered a more serious candidate at this point.
Betting on politics is difficult considering how many things can change with each passing day, especially in this day and age. That said, the debates have given us at least a glimpse into how the campaign may ultimately play out.
We’ll see if any of these candidates has what it takes to go head-to-head against President Trump, but for now, it feels as though Kamala Harris is once again gaining serious steam. The +250 odds obviously aren’t as favorable as her previous +550 odds, but there is still pretty good profit potential there. Harris is a very strong bet at this point.
I also think Biden remains a good play at +325. Some Democrats will insist that Barack Obama’s former vice president is the best option when it comes to defeating Trump, which is a theme we will hear more and more about as we get closer to the primaries early next year.
Like Biden, Warren is someone that people felt should’ve run in 2016. She may not have as favorable odds this year, with how many more candidates are populating the field on the Democratic side, but I do think she stands a strong chance of earning the nomination. Connecting with prospective voters is something that Trump was able to do well in 2016, and Warren has shown a similar ability, albeit with vastly different rhetoric. +450 is a strong value for a candidate that many believe is a top-tier frontrunner.
I slightly prefer Sanders to Buttigieg as a betting option at the same +800 odds. If you’re looking for a long shot, Booker at +2500 stands out. He’s being undervalued at this point, and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see his stock rise as the campaigns move forward.
These bets obviously won’t pay off for a while, but the debates do give us a potential preview of what we can expect over the next year and a half.
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