Terrifying but true: The nation’s leading bookmakers have installed Donald Trump as the favorite to win next year’s presidential election.
With a huge and sprawling field of wannabe Democratic challengers still taking shape, the preeminent professional betting service Bookmaker.eu last week informed clients that they’ve officially made President Hair Boy the frontrunner.
Their early line picks Trump as the top seed, at 6-to-5 odds (a $100 bet would win $120 for a total $220 payout). Former vice president Joe Biden has 19-to-5 odds ($100 to make $380) and Senator Bernie Sanders is at 5-to-1 ($100 earns $500), with half the Democratic members of the U.S. Senate, including Favorite Daughter Kamala Harris — 43-to-5 — trailing behind.
Of course, the first axiom of politics is, “You can’t beat somebody with nobody,” so Trump’s top rank is not a total surprise, given that the Dems are more than a year away from selecting a nominee from among the party’s largest and most diverse group of contenders in memory.
Still, it’s a dash of cold reality here in deep-blue Santa Barbara, at least for those who may have assumed that the combination of Trump’s nonstop, increasingly unhinged rants; his stubborn refusal to appeal to those outside his political base; and opinion polls which consistently show well over half the population disapprove of his performance in office would make him an easy mark in next year’s election.
To paraphrase Hemingway, “Wasn’t it pretty to think so?”
Fun with numbers. High-profile political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia has just published his first forecast of 2020 Electoral College projections, which frame Trump’s reelection bid as a “toss-up.”
A must-read for the pundit class, “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” until 2016 had an enormously successful track record on political predictions (he famously analyzed his whiff on Trump’s win in a column titled “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa”).
No doubt chastened by the experience, the professor is unlikely to underestimate our 46 percent 45th president this time out.
“It would be easy to say that President Trump is an underdog for reelection,” he wrote, noting that Trump won only narrowly in 2016, lost the popular vote, and has done little in office to appeal to those who opposed him.
“At the same time, the president’s base-first strategy could again deliver him the White House, thanks in large part to his strength in the nation’s one remaining true swing region the Midwest,” he added.
“Meanwhile, it’s not a given that the Democratic nominee can consolidate the votes of Trump disapprovers, particularly if a third party candidate — Howard Schultz? - eats into the anti-Trump vote.”
Electoral polarity. Despite the state of the economy, the nation’s bitter political polarization means that most state-by-state results are already baked in, as 70 percent of electoral votes have gone the same way in the past five presidential elections.
A president needs 270 electoral votes to win. While Maine and Nebraska slightly complicate the arithmetic because they award by congressional district, not winner-take-all, the early forecast basically breaks down this way.
Republicans will count on 125 “safe” electoral votes from 20 states and another 123 “lean” electoral votes from six others, for a total of 248 EVs. Although Florida traditionally has been viewed as a “toss-up” state, Sabato puts in it the Republican column because of recent voting trends.
Democrats will count on 183 “safe” electoral votes from 14 states and the District of Columbia, and another 61 from six “likely” and “lean” others, for a total of 244 EVs. This includes Michigan, where Trump won an extremely narrow victory in 2016, which the analysis argues will not repeat.
This leaves a total of four — four, count ’em, four — states, with a total of 46 Electoral Votes that are viewed as legitimate “toss ups”: Arizona, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
One more crucial number: Only 592 days until the 2020 election! Don’t forget to vote.
Here’s a good piece from Vox that delves into several other factors.
Why litmus test on health care by Democratic activists’ is dumb.
Is AOC the face of the Democratic Tea Party?
The fears of a Democratic moderate.
Can Speaker Pelosi hold it together?
A version of this post is published in this week's edition of the Santa Barbara Independent.
Images: President Hair Boy; Larry Sabato; 2016 Presidential election electoral vote.