Betting Markets, Post-Debate, Catch Up with Our Pre-Debate 2020 Odds

June 30, 2019

Prior to Debates PredictIt Had Set Biden Up Top & Harris a Distant Fourth

Now They Have Harris In First & Sanders Fourth

By Al Giordano

Three months ago people who bet actual money on who will win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 were bullish on their then-frontrunner, Bernie Sanders. In late April, the money started moving heavily toward Joe Biden. In early June, for the first time, Elizabeth Warren beat out Kamala Harris for third place, on June 12th she surpassed Sanders to emerge as the second choice for those putting their money down. (Meanwhile, the day before the debates, a rising Pete Buttigieg had tied Harris for fourth place, but that upward slope was stopped cold by the debates.)

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s debates radically shifted where gamblers (who because real dollars are at stake pay very close attention to the campaign) are willing to put their money now. Harris, Biden and Warren are in a three way scrum up top in the low to mid twenties and Sanders is is stuck in the mid-teens.

The surge by Harris – overnight – and Warren – steadily in recent weeks – is especially impressive because these betting markets tend to give more advantage to male candidates (gamblers as a demographic group skew male and online bettors skew toward young men, and some game the system to generate false momentum for their guy, which might explain Andrew Yang’s stronger-than-his-polling-support in these betting markets). It is possible that the latest shift in these markets is underestimating just how good these debates were for Harris’ and Warren’s chances.

Today in the PredictIt Market, those kinds of bettors are willing to pay 24 cents to bet on Harris, 22 cents on Biden, 21 cents on Warren and 15 cents on Sanders.

That’s pretty close to where we at Organize & Win had set our own odds prior to the debates, back on June 16, the last time we updated each’s chances: Harris, Biden and Warren each with a 19 percent chance at the nomination and Sanders with an 11 percent shot.

We’ll adjust our own odds sometime next week after we’ve seen enough post-debate polling, the results of our own straw poll here (which because its participants are highly representative of the grassroots volunteers, political organizers and small donors who determine the Democratic nomination each cycle we put a lot of stock in what they tell us), and the June 30 FEC filing reports for this past quarter which ends at midnight tonight.

Based on those three pieces of information plus our own knowledge of how the nomination process really works, the demographics of Democratic primary voters, the influence of early voting states on voter behaviors in later ones, and my own experience working in or reporting on every contested Democratic presidential campaign since 1976 and other organizing and journalism lessons, we’ll adjust our own odds sometime next week. But not until we see those three key pieces of information.

It’s not only the polls that guide us – which is why we have had Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren as two of the frontrunners, along with Biden, since late last year – but also historic knowledge of what kinds of candidates and messages are effective in uniting enough of the diverse Democratic base constituencies to patch together a convention majority. It simply cannot be done without a wide coalition. Harris, Warren & Biden have from the start been the three we have seen as having the best potential to sew that patchwork.

We’ll also be looking very closely, for example, at whether there is movement among African-American voters (prior to the debates Biden was winning them handily) after Harris and he tangled over school busing history and Biden’s statements about segregationist senators.

For example, did Harris’ rise in the betting markets and in the small amount of polling data we’ve been able to study already (the Morning Consult/538 joint polling project) flow in a direct line from Biden to her? Or is she also taking voters previously favorable to Warren? And if the latter is true, then from where is Warren making up the difference to remain at her pre-debate support levels? We think our own straw poll results may answer some of those questions for us.

It’s possible that Harris’ critique on Biden drew from a large sector of Democratic voters who will decide to vote for whichever of the leading women candidates seems strongest at the moment of their primary (our own straw poll in the past had Harris in the lead earlier this year and Warren leading last month, and women candidates overall favored by 75 percent of subscribers).

Most of each’s voters – Harris’ and Warren’s – have a favorable view of the other and there is a lot of energy still among voters who feel that the presidency was unfairly robbed from all women (not just Hillary Clinton) by a sexist media, foreign interference, sabotage by supporters of a male Democrat who lost the nomination (many still view Sanders himself as having helped elect Donald Trump, despite his protestations to the contrary), and an Electoral College accident that canceled majority rule in the United States of America in 2016.

In that context Harris may well have taken some voters from Warren with her debate performance Thursday night, and Warren may be remaining steady because she is inheriting voters who left Biden, Sanders, Pete Buttigieg or Beto O’Rourke after their more forgettable debate work on stage; just one percent from each of the four would offset a four percent loss of supporters to Harris. Yes, it’s possible that Harris’ sharp critique of Biden drove some of Biden’s voters to Warren. That’s the risk of attacking in politics. But it also got Harris some of Warren’s voters along with Biden’s to be now where she wanted to be after a rough few months of being stuck in fourth and even fifth place in the polls.

If you’re a reader who feels under-represented by the results of our previous straw polls then do what organizers do to win: get yourself in a position to be heard! If you’re already a subscriber to the Al Giordano’s América newsletter then registering your account here to be able to vote is free. You still have until Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET to register vote in our post-debate straw poll.

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