The 2020 US Presidential election race is starting to take shape. While the first primary votes won’t be cast until Feb. 3, 2020 at the Iowa Caucus, election betting markets at sportsbooks like bet365 and betway are already pricing favorites.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump currently faces no challengers. He’s around even odds or better on all legal online betting sites. He is the prohibitive favorite to be re-elected.
On the Democratic side, 20+ hopefuls have emerged, with some already rapidly rising and falling and re-positioning (Beto O’Rourke) and others coming out of nowhere to establish themselves as a legit challenger (Pete Buttigieg).
A lot can and will change during an election cycle. The last two elected Presidents were longshots this early on during their campaigns. Donald Trump started at 500/1 (+50000) when he first announced his candidacy. Barack Obama trailed clear front-runner Hilary Clinton before primary season began (albeit at not-so-long 7/2 odds a full year before the election).
With that in mind, here’s a look the odds and how to bet US Presidential elections.
Presidential election odds 2020 (Updated 8/15)
Over the past two months, there’s already been significant movement on some candidates.
Donald Trump has gone from around +100 to -120 on betway. He’s now the odds-on favorite.
On the Democratic side, the polling favorites, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, are priced between +500 and +700. Kamala Harris emerged as a frontrunner, priced between +650 and +700, before dropping to +1100 or +1200 after the July debates. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders improved his odds after the July debates, pricing at +900/+1100. Tulsi Gabbard is the biggest riser from the debates, now just behind Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang at +3300. She was listed at +6600 in June.
|Donald Trump (R)||-110||-120|
|Joe Biden (D)||+550||+600|
|Elizabeth Warren (D)||+600||+500|
|Bernie Sanders (D)||+1100||+900|
|Kamala Harris (D)||+1100||+1200|
|Pete Buttigieg (D)||+2500||+2000|
|Andrew Yang (D)||+2800||+2000|
|Tulsi Gabbard (D)||+4000||+3300|
|Cory Booker (D)||+5000||+4000|
|Beto O'Rourke (D)||+6600||+4000|
|Mike Pence (R)||+10000||+4000|
|Amy Klobuchar (D)||+10000||+4000|
|Julian Castro (D)||+12500||+10000|
|Kirsten Gillibrand (D)||+15000||+5000|
Election betting explained
You’ll hear election betting sometimes referred to as “futures.” A futures bet is as it sounds: it’s a wager on some future event, like “Who will win the Super Bowl?” or “Who will be elected the next President of the United States?”
Most election wagers are moneyline bets, otherwise known as a straight bet. The moneyline wager is straight forward: it simply means that you’re picking a candidate to win. There’s no spread involved.
Consider the following example from 2015:
Donald Trump Odds to Win 2016 Presidency: 500/1
When Donald Trump declared for President, he was priced at 500/1, or +50000 on betting sites. This means that the implied odds gave Trump a 0.2% chance of winning the presidency.
So, if you saw Donald Trump listed as 500/1, a moneyline wager of $1 winning would return $500. If you see it priced at +50000, then a $100 bet would return $50,000 profit.
For the 2020 Presidential election, Donald Trump is the “odds-on” favorite on some sports betting sites, where he’s priced at 1/1 or +100.
Donald Trump Odds to Win 2020 Presidency: -120
Donald Trump opened at even odds of +100, or even money. This means you would need to wager $100 to win $100. Since the Democratic debates have begun, Trump’s odds have improved to -120. This means you would need to wager $120 to win $100.
What to monitor: polling data
Polling data is fluid and changes over the course of an election period. In the early stages like now (May 2019), candidates with the most name recognition tend to poll the strongest. That’s why on the Democratic side former VP Joe Biden and 2016 candidate Bernie Sanders are polling the front-runners.
As lower tier candidates who have difficulty fund-raising drop out of the race, and TV debates start crystallizing (or galvanizing) voter opinion, the numbers begin to consolidate around one-to-two front-runners heading into the primaries.
For simplicity purposes, monitor two well-respected polling aggregators:
- Real Clear Politics: Consolidates and links to the most respected polls.
- FiveThirtyEight Polls: Does the same but presents the information in a different way.
What to monitor: endorsements
A traditional indicator of a candidate’s future success is their endorsement tally.
Until Trump’s election, endorsements have been a key indicator of who will be the eventual nominee. Trump turned that one on its head.
The reason party endorsements matter is simple: the elected officials who are endorsing a candidate can help mobilize voters in those states / cities / counties during their primary.
For monitoring endorsements, look no further than FiveThirtyEight’s 2020 Endorsement Primary. It’s updated frequently and covers every key endorsement. Part of Harris’ rise as betting front-runner is due to her increased endorsements.
Top 2020 US Presidential Contenders
Until further notice, President Donald Trump is the only Republican running. It’s uncommon for incumbents to face any challenger from within his party (and it’s almost unheard of if the economy is growing and unemployment is low). Even in poor economic times, it’s highly unusual for an incumbent—even one as divisive as Trump– to face more than two challengers.
A staggering 20+ individuals are being tracked in major Democratic primary polls. Here are the current front-runners:
- Kamala Harris: The Senator from California continues to poll well. And she’s now among the betting favorites on the Democratic side. She’s relatively young (54) in comparison to her front-running peers. Her biggest fault may simply be that she is from California. That state is going Blue all day, every day. She is now a clear second in endorsements as of August 2019. This may be partly why her odds have improved. In May of this year, all but one of those endorsements was from California. Her geographic endorsement spread has dramatically increased.
- Elizabeth Warren: The Senator from Massachusetts has street cred with the anti-Trumpers and party officials. She’s strong. She’s a female candidate running for President after a mid-term election where female candidates won many new seats. She’s old (68) but not Bernie Sanders old. Keep on eye on Warren. She was the clear Alpha on the July 30th debate.
- Joe Biden: The ex-VP was well ahead of everyone in May 2019, doubling his closest competitor in polling data. The polls have shrunk his lead though. In betting markets, he’s even with Warren and behind Harris. Biden ran for President in 1988, but had to drop out over plagiarism claims. How quaint! If only that was the worst allegations floating around about this President. Anyway, despite allegations of getting handsy and/or too close to females, Biden is very well-liked among his peers. He’s popular within the party. He’s leading all candidates in endorsements. He’s an old white man. Checks a lot of boxes. But he’s trending in the wrong direction, and will likely continue to do so.
- Bernie Sanders: Part of Sanders’ 2016 appeal was his ability to connect with young people. He’s 77 years old now. Can he still connect with the younger generation now that Pete Buttigieg has knocked him from that corner? Sanders would be the oldest elected President ever if he won. Ronald Reagan was 73 when he won his second term.
- Pete Buttigieg: Mayor Pete has done well enough in the debates. He hasn’t seen a second surge though and has leveled off in the polls. Since the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana came out of nowhere and completely stole Beto O’Rourke’s thunder, he hasn’t taken the next leap yet. Buttigieg is still crystallizing his policies and views—but he’s galvanized millennial voters and is a definitive antidote to Trump in a state that could swing the election. Don’t count him out yet.
- Beto O’Rourke: Among the early front-runners, Beto is like one of the “The” bands for the early 2000s. He was hipster underground cool. Influencers sung his praises. He gained popularity. Then there was almost immediate backlash. And he’s suddenly less relevant. After the summer debates, Beto is toast. This campaign is over before it ever really began. It’ll be interesting to see where his followers go to when he inevitably drops out.
- Cory Booker: Current polling has him behind or even with Beto, but he came out the gate strong with endorsements, third only to Biden and Harris. He’s charismatic and will shine in debates. Polling in the 2% range is never good, but he’s one that could upswing once in front of a broader audience during debates and town halls. The biggest problem for Booker is Harris. Unless Harris stumbles, Booker may not gain the momentum he needs to advance.
- Andrew Yang: The entrepreneur has a “Steve Forbes flat tax” one issue feel to him. However, he’s getting noticed. In some polls he’s creeping up to 2%. If Donald Trump showed us anything, it’s that the current political zeitgeist favors outsiders. Yang could climb.
Key 2020 election dates
Candidates have already started their CNN and Fox News town halls. For the most part, these will have little impact in polling. Traditionally, Americans start really paying attention once networks host debates.
Here are the key events and dates to monitor leading up to the 2020 US Presidential election:
- February 3: Iowa caucus. Expect a favorite to emerge, a surprise candidate to gain steam, and someone considered a front-runner to fall.
- February 11: New Hampshire primary. After this primary, typically two leading candidates become clear. Many candidates will “suspend” their campaigns or drop out.
- March 3: Super Tuesday (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia primaries). This tends to be the final deciding primary for who will win the nomination. However some years, like 2008 between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, a winner isn’t decided until the very end of primary season.
- March 10: Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Washington. Includes three key swing states.
- June 2: Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota primaries. Last multi-state primary.
- July 13-16: Democratic National Convention. This will take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Wise move by the Democrats, as Wisconsin was a state Trump won that was ignored and should’ve gone to Clinton.
- August 24-27: Republican National Convention. This will take place in Charlotte, NC.
- November 3: US Presidential election
2020 Presidential betting tips
If this was 2024 and Donald Trump had just served two terms, “the exact opposite” candidate usually emerges as the victor. Think of it like the NFL. You usually replace the hardline coach with the “player friendly” one.
- Who unseated George HW Bush? Bill Clinton.
- Who followed George W Bush? Barack Obama.
- And who followed Obama? Donald Trump.
Polar opposites each time.
Follow the economy as the 2020 election nears.
Donald Trump has proven to be immune to controversies that have brought down other politicians. If the economy is sour and the Democrats nominate a “change” candidate (Buttigieg, O’Rourke, Warren, Booker, etc.) then expect the Democrats to win. If the economy is down but a traditional candidate like Biden or Sanders (and yes, Sanders is institutional at this stage) is running, then expect a tepid Trump re-election similar to Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012.
2020 early betting trends
The summer Democratic debates have begun to coalesce some opinions. These early trends are absolutely worth watching:
- Will Biden and Sanders continue to slide? While Sanders has performed perfectly on-brand in the debates, he’s not expanding his base. Biden has a target on him. He’s getting beat up. That was to be expected. However, he hasn’t shined either. Other candidates are emerging as stronger options. Expect Biden to continue falling.
- Will Warren and Harris emerge as polling front-runners? This one feels inevitable. The zeitgeist right now is all about female empowerment. This is a different time than just 2016 when Clinton lost to Trump. Expect Harris and/or Warren to surge. They also look like the strongest candidates in the debates.
- Who will emerge between Buttigieg and Yang? Count Beto out. The “young guy who gets young voters excited” battle is between Mayor Pete and Entrepreneur Andy. Due to Yang’s personal resources, he could be the biggest short-term obstacle in Mayor Pete’s way. Buttigieg needs to find his political voice soon.
So, if you look at the trends as of August 2019, expect an eventual Harris or Warren nomination with someone like Buttigieg as the running mate. The key for each will be who captures the Biden and Sanders supporters when they inevitably bow out. Both Harris and Warren should be thinking about how to capitalize on those supporters already.
Can you bet in the US?
As of now, legal US online sports betting sites don’t accept presidential wagers. As the acceptance of sports betting in the US grows, this may change by the actual 2020 election. Keep your browser locked to TheLines for updated sports betting news throughout the year.