The 2020 US Presidential election race has been a roller-coaster.
The first party votes were cast in the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. Bernie Sanders emerged as the front-runner. Joe Biden was buried. Election betting markets at European sportsbooks like bet365 and betway priced them accordingly.
Then everything changed. Rapidly.
It started when Joe Biden won South Carolina. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropped out of the race and endorsed him. Biden went on to have an impressive Super Tuesday, becoming the prohibitive favorite for the Democrats.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump currently faces no legitimate challengers. He’s the odds-on favorite on all legal online betting sites to be re-elected.
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 at the odds and how to bet US Presidential elections.
Presidential election odds 2020 (Updated April 8, 2020)
|Candidate||bet365 odds||Betway odds|
|Donald Trump (R)||-110||-125|
|Joe Biden (D)||+130||+120|
|Andrew Cuomo (D)||+2500||+2500|
|Bernie Sanders (D)||+2500||+3300|
|Mike Pence (R)||+2500||+4000|
There was significant movement on some candidates in the second half of 2019. Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing significantly impacted his election odds. He oscillated from even money to as high as +140 at some books during the impeachment process.
But after the House voted to impeach President Trump on Dec. 18, his odds to win the 2020 election actually improved. The impeachment itself has rallied and activated his base, which is common going back to Bill Clinton in 1998. His acquittal certainly won’t hurt his odds. With unemployment low and still no consensus candidate on the Democratic side, Trump is now at an all-time best among oddsmakers for reelection.
On the Democratic side, polling favorite Elizabeth Warren emerged as the top challenger to Trump, surging past Joe Biden during the summer of 2019. Then after strong (and ultimately prescient) polling in Iowa, it was Pete Buttigieg. After Iowa, it was Buttigieg again. After New Hampshire and Nevada, it was Sanders. Now after South Carolina, it is Biden making a charge, sending Buttigieg out of the race completely.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is spending unprecedented amounts of money advertising in key states. He entered the oddmakers’ list between +1100 and +1500 and climbed as high as +450.
Then, he dropped out of the race after spending $500M and only winning America Samoa.
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
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 betting sites.
Donald Trump Odds to Win 2020 Presidency
Donald Trump opened at even odds of +100, or even money. This means you would need to wager $100 to win $100 (and $10 to win $10). Entering 2020, Trump’s odds climbed as high as -130 and now sit at -150 as of February 5th. This means you would wager $150 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 were early polling 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.
While Biden still leads all Dems with endorsements, Michael Bloomberg and surprisingly Amy Klobuchar have started piling up supporters.
Top 2020 US Presidential Contenders
President Donald Trump is the only Republican of note 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.
The field is really down to two now. Super Tuesday changed everything:
- Bernie Sanders: Part of Sanders’ 2016 appeal was his ability to connect with young people. He’s 78 years old now. Can he still connect with the younger generation now that Pete Buttigieg has knocked him from that corner? Apparently he can! Sanders has stolen some of Buttigieg’s thunder back after New Hampshire–partly buoyed by college voters. It will be interesting to see if that builds or wanes again. Sanders would be the oldest elected President ever if he won. Ronald Reagan was 73 when he won his second term.
- 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. 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 still leading national polls (although by less and less each month). He’s an old white man. Checks a lot of boxes. However, a fourth place finish in Iowa could cause the party establishment to jump ship. The fifth (!!!) place finish in New Hampshire could prove to be the death nail in his campaign coffin.
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. Buttigieg and Sanders come out as winners here.
- February 11: New Hampshire primary. Sanders wins but splits the delegates with Buttigieg. Klobuchar finishes a strong third.
- 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.
Approaching primary betting trends
The Democratic debates have begun to coalesce some opinions. Watch these trends as Iowa and New Hampshire approach:
- Will Sanders see a sustained bump? It’s hard to pin-point why betting markets suddenly favor Sanders. He’s not leading Iowa as of mid-January (slightly trailing Joe Biden). He’s had so-so debates. However, his message resonates with Iowans.
- Will Buttigieg’s polling translate to votes? The same question surrounded Barack Obama heading into the 2008 primaries. His strong performances there ended up carrying him to a hard fought nomination. Things will snowball quickly for Mayor Pete if he wins those two states. His polling has improved in South Carolina as well, leaving him within shouting distance of the front-runners.
- Will Warren climb again? In early Fall, Elizabeth Warren had all of the momentum. That has since slowed down. Has her support moved to Buttigieg and Bloomberg? And if so, can she get it back? The final debates leading to the Iowa caucus will be vital for her chances.
- Is Bloomberg for real? There’s a sense that Bloomberg’s business bonafides will provide a stark and compelling contrast to Trump’s among independents. Entering a race late can have its benefits as challengers haven’t picked him apart yet. Does he have enough time to flip voters already committed to other major candidates?
This has been a very unusual primary race to date. While Biden has led most of the way, the volume of challengers who have risen and fallen has been higher than normal. Expect another candidate to rise and fall from mid-January until the Iowa caucus.
Can you bet in the US?
As of now, legal US online sports betting sites don’t accept wagers on elections. This is unlikely to change by the 2020 election. Keep your browser locked to TheLines for updated sports betting news throughout the year.