It’s Mueller time. The Special Counsel’s 400-page report on Russia’s alleged influence on the 2016 election was released to the public this morning (with some ongoing investigations redacted, of course), and every voter in America knows exactly what it means.
The report completely exonerates President Trump. It’s as plain as day. The report also incriminates President Trump as a traitor and an agent of Russia. It’s as plain as day.
Aristotle wrote that a thing cannot be itself and its opposite at the same time. Try telling that to Republican or Democrat political activists. They’re viewing 2 different movies on the same screen, coming up with justification for whichever story they would like to be true.
Leave it to one of the great intellectuals of our time to lay it down perfectly:
The #MuellerReport perfectly crystallises our age. Those who dislike Trump are leafing through looking for only that which incriminates, those who like him search only for what exculpates and exonerates. Each frantically ignoring what they don’t want to see. I’m guilty too
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) April 18, 2019
Confirmation bias is so prevalent in 2019 that a tweet like that one just feels like a miracle. (Only 200-or-so Twitter users are now attacking Fry as an agent of the Kremlin. 300, tops.)
Consider what’s happening to the Special Counsel’s document right now. The Trump fan sits down to read the Mueller Report thinking, “I know the POTUS has done everything 100% right from the beginning, and I’m gonna prove it. Woah, look at these 3 words at the end of page 236! This proves me correct!” The Trump hater scans through the Mueller Report thinking, “I know he’s a Russian commie spy, and I’m gonna prove it. Woah, look at the 4 words in the middle of page 112! I TOLD YA SO, you Russian-lovin’ xenophobes!”
The whole schmozz reminds me of a song lyric by Stereolab:
You go in that team, I go on this team,
Divide everything, a flag or a number.
Make ‘em opposites, so there’s a reason
Okay, now we can fight.
My only other personal commentary is that Twitter is extremely right-wing and nobody there knows it. The small number of Republicans and large number of Democrats on social media are each using far-right fascist tactics, portraying opponents as “the other,” a horde of lower life-forms who do not share any of the same human traits as those who agree with them.
But there’s an interesting side-effect (just one?) of the back-and-forth chirping by political camps.
It makes handicapping the Vegas odds feel refreshing as hell.
Presidential Politics in 2019: Loose Talk, Tight Wallets
The markets at political betting sites force speculators to set partisan baloney aside, and to be totally cliché about it, put their money where their mouth is.
Imagine if politicians were asked to gamble $100,000 on themselves to win any upcoming election that they predict a victory in. The time-honored TV rhetoric of “You think Americans will vote for my opponent? Nonsense!” would change to something like, “I am reasonably confident in a non-financially-committed sort of way that I can probably luck out and win this one. But don’t quote me on that.”
Surely there are Trump haters who have driven 45’s impeachment odds shorter by placing large wagers on The Donald to get thrown out of the White House. And, of course, there are Trump fans who are putting money on the President to remain in office and prevail in 2020.
But there may not be as many partisan bettors as one would imagine. Because unlike the reactions to the Mueller report, unlike what you hear at stump speeches, and unlike the mixed messages coming from biased news sources like Breitbart or CNN, the gambling lines on politics are objective.
President Trump will either remain in office through 2024 or he won’t. Winning speculators will get paid out and mistaken bettors will lose cash. It’s cut and dry. Just like with sporting events, there must be a winner in the end. Parties will always claim that the other one is cheating, but that happens in sports too. It doesn’t change the scoreboard.
Bovada Sportsbook has appeared torn between adjusting Trump betting odds to the action and trying to keep everything in perspective. Trump-impeachment markets have come and gone from the site’s “Politics” futures board. When the media screams that the end is nigh, the odds on Trump to be thrown or voted out of office shrink shorter. When things quiet down, they expand or disappear.
There’s one Trump market at Bovada that currently interests me – and should interest any household handicappers who are looking to boost their gambling stake over the long term.
Bovada’s Odds on the GOP Nomination in 2020
Incumbent commanders-in-chief are pretty much always nominated to run for a 2nd term, should they seek one. Trump is not a popular President with the general public. But he’s extremely strong within the Republican Party, and will almost certainly gain the 2020 nomination if he wants it.
The sportsbook is offering a (-750) market on The Donald to earn a bid for reelection next year.
It’s a fascinating scenario. I’m not a big fan of sub-1-to-2 favorites’ markets in general (as readers know) and never recommend a moneyline betting gambit on a (-750) team to win straight-up.
But what if Alabama was (-750) to beat Coastal Carolina? The Crimson Tide would never lose that game under any kind of normal circumstances, just as Trump is not going to lose the next GOP primary election given any kind of normal circumstances.
Yes, it can be argued – and argued well – that there’s no such thing as “normal” with a firebrand outsider like Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office. However, we’re just looking at the horse race here. If Trump were an alien from Jupiter, and won the previous Republican primary by a billion delegates, then the latter fact would still be more important than the former. At least for our purposes.
Love or hate him, Trump has been very successful in politics…at least so far.
An Investment Lesson From the Roaring 20s
The line on a 99% sure-thing nomination creates an investment trope not unlike what savings-account holders went through prior to the Great Depression. Banks were allowed to spend clients’ money freely in the 1920s. Many institutions put savings-account money into the stock market. When that didn’t work out so well in 1929, a lot of middle-income earners simply lost their accounts and savings because the money originally in them had vanished for good.
Scary enough to imagine. But for centuries before that, American banks mostly made good on customer savings accounts, with interest. All people had to do was put a whole lot of $ in, and they could expect to have a little bit more to withdraw later on.
Is the Trump-nomination line at Bovada the equivalent of a short-term, lucrative-as-you-make-it bank deposit that can be withdrawn as a greater sum next summer? Yes…if the RNC nod is really a “gimme.” Even at microscopically-short payoff odds, a sure thing is a sure thing.
We just have to make sure the President’s stock isn’t about to crash like it’s 1929.
Disasters That Could Befall Trump’s 2020 Nomination Bid
No (-750) line is worthwhile unless you’re willing to invest a good chunk of money. With high risk and a low “savings account interest” style reward, it’s important to handicap the potential “crashes” that could somehow keep such a strong Republican POTUS (or at least strong-among-Republicans POTUS) from getting the GOP’s general-election nod in 2020.
In situations where a sports club is a 1-to-5 favorite, we might look at the real chances of different kinds of upset-scenarios occurring on the field of play, like “the starting QB gets injured” or “the underdog acquires a new superstar in a trade.” If the combined odds (real odds, not betting odds) of the upset-springing possibilities don’t add up to much, then the favorite is still a safe pick.
Trump’s nomination line at Bovada is so short, and his nomination as the incumbent feels like such a sure thing, that we have to apply a somewhat different tactic here.
Let’s peek at several possible scenarios in which Trump could conceivably lose or not seek the nomination at all – and try to filter out any noise from the media that isn’t based in reality. If the chances of each outcome are in the “reasonable” range, then 45’s nomination line is a bad investment, like opening a savings account at a bank that’s going to risk the whole caboodle on Bitcoin futures.
Or, if they all seem like such freaky long-shots that the chances of a random, cozy United Airlines flight resulting in bloody carnage are strong in comparison, then it’s safe to invest in The Donald to prevail, and wait for a nice ROI on a big fat futures wager.
#OnThisDayInHistory in 2017: After refusing to give up his seat on an overbooked United Airlines flight, Dr. David Dao Duy Anh is forcibly dragged off the flight by aviation security officers, leading to major criticism of United Airlines.https://t.co/HuELIlywMj pic.twitter.com/3GFpUFzuDQ
— Public News Service (@PNS_News) April 9, 2019
Erm…make that Southwest Airlines.
Trump Decides Not to Run Again
The idea that Donald Trump only ever wanted to be President for 4 years and will not seek another term has gotten a lot of airplay. It’s not just wishful thinking from his opponents – there are lots of Trump fans out there who think the same thing.
Running in parallel to any such rumors is the ongoing notion that Trump didn’t ever think he could win in 2016, and it was all a publicity stunt that ended in victory by total accident.
I’m skeptical of both conceits. Trump campaigned like a madman in the final days of the 2016 race, and he’s already raised a prodigious sum of cash while branding and designing a whole new campaign for next year. Put such speculation in the category of religious crazies who shout “the end is coming in 6 months” only to claim that a miracle saved us at the last moment after 200 days go by.
- Likelihood: Nil
Trump is Beaten by a Surprise Rival Nomination
To expand on a common theme, the mainstream media’s general hatred of D.C. insurgents like Trump and Bernie Sanders will always make their rivals look a little stronger. CNN ran a full feature segment when Bill Weld recently announced his GOP candidacy for President. They’ll be cheering him on (unless he happens to win in 2020, in which case Weld will be the next Antichrist.)
Remember Evan McMullin. McMullin’s 2016 campaign for the GOP nomination (and as a write-in candidate for the general in November of that year) received a whole lot of pizzazz and media hype. “Never-Trump Republicans” joined in a unified chorus telling their readers to vote to nominate the Utah neoconservative instead of Trump. Newspapers gleefully called for the upset.
Trump called McMullin “McMuffin” at a few stump speeches, essentially ending the latter’s career in national politics.
The current POTUS is pretty good at campaigning against Democrats. He’s even better going up against Republicans, having mowed-down Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz in short order. There is almost no chance that a fellow GOPer will beat out Trump in the 2020 primary.
- Likelihood: Nil
A Scandal Will Smash Trump’s Modest Popularity
As of a year or 2 ago this would have seemed like a much-stronger possibility. Trump was already floundering with a sub-40% approval rating, and his alleged ties to Russia (and porn stars) produced clickbait like the internet has never seen before.
But 45’s approval rating has climbed slowly, surely upward since then. He is breaking 45% in polls by The Hill (not exactly a bastion of right-wing bias) and 50% in polls of likely voters by the Rasmussen firm. What’s more important is how the up-trend has coincided with “end of days” rhetoric in the media.
Mueller’s dismissal of any potential “collusion” charge against the Trump team is a severe blow to the credibility of CNN and MSNBC, who have been pushing the story relentlessly for years. Americans seem to make up their own minds about the President. If they already think Trump is a genocidal fascist who eats babies for fun, then CNN and other networks make for fun entertainment. If they like Trump, they read Breitbart or tune the news out completely.
Bottom line – none of the hot-button shrieking ever seems to affect Trump’s approval rating one way or the other. Even though the walls are closing in and it’s the beginning of the end. Tune in tomorrow to see the walls right back where they were yesterday…but always closing in!
The chances of Trump getting hit with a prohibitively-bad scandal at this point are miniscule, since his supporters won’t believe any of the reporting anyway.
- Likelihood: Nope
So is the Trump Nomination Line a Good Wager?
Finally we have to consider the fact that Trump is old, and overweight. A severe health issue or even death (so many Democrats would dream) could prevent him from taking the nomination.
But ironically, it’s yet another criticism of 45 that points to why that’s a slim possibility too.
Trump plays golf obsessively, and while he takes plenty of partisan heat for it (as do all Presidents), believe it or not you don’t play golf while laying down in a reclining chair. Golf is healthy and safe exercise for an elderly person. It’s probably the only thing that has kept him alive this long.
Yes, this is a political blog post – it’s not about sports. But speculators who go all-in on Trump’s current GOP nomination futures can look to the sport of golf – and the President’s clumsy version of it – as yet another “safety” in a race full of contingency plans for the overwhelming favorite.
In my opinion, the pick is extremely safe.