State of election markets: 296 Days

As we enter the home stretch of the 2016 presidential election, with actually voting just 15 days away, both nomination contests experienced meaningful movement this week. On the GOP side there was a debate on Thursday, January 14 where Donald Trump and Ted Cruz squared off hard against each other. While the immediate reaction from the debate was a small dip for Trump and rise of Cruz, the debate had no influence on the larger trend of Trump grabbing likelihood from Cruz in the race to be the non-establishment candidate for the GOP. On the establishment side, Marco Rubio gained a little against his competitors Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, but that was not enough to stem the concern that the non-establishment candidate could actually win the nomination. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton fell sharply against Bernie Sanders as her campaign (1) flayed at attacking Sanders (2) continues to get crushed by the DNC's decision to hide the Democratic debates.

Non-Establishment Race: The race for the non-establishment GOP candidate turned sharply for Trump in the last few days, despite a strong debate by Cruz. The reason for this is simple: Iowa. Trump was down big to Cruz in couple of polls in Iowa, but has now bounced back. They are now tied in the polls, but the markets give Cruz an edge, because he has a better ground game in place. And, Trump will certainly beat Cruz in New Hampshire. If Trump can hold back Cruz in Iowa and win New Hampshire, he could win the non-establishment race right there, or get a knockout in South Carolina. Conversely, Cruz will certainly lose New Hampshire to Trump. Trump is now clearly going to make it out of the first three contests, but Cruz may not.

Establishment Race: On the establishment side, Rubio continues to show dominance. He had a strong debate and Bush or Christie did not provide a compelling reason to abandon Rubio at this point. Rubio is almost certain to grab third place in Iowa, a comfortable win over the rest of the establishment field. If this helps coalesce the establishment vote in New Hampshire, he could secure the establishment race after New Hampshire. At worst, he would certainly carry the establishment vote in South Carolina, after taking 3rd in Iowa and 2nd in New Hampshire, and knock out the rest of the establishment field.

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Vertical Lines: GOP debate on Thursday 1/14/2016
Sources: Betfair, Hypermind, PredictIt, http://twopointoh.predictwise.com/politics/2016-president-republican-nomination/

Rubio's probability of winning the nomination faded slightly on the strength of the non-establishment field. The establishment was 80% or more to win through July. After that point it has been a slow and steady downward trend. Now there is about 45% likelihood that the establishment candidate becomes the nominee and a 55% likelihood that the non-establishment candidate gets the nomination. I cannot emphasis this point enough, but part of this has to do with the increased palatability of Trump to the establishment. He may not be polished politician, but he is very mainstream in policy positions. Cruz is far to the right of Trump on social and economic issues. Despite his blustering on immigration, Trump is really not that different from the mainstream Republican right. If anything, they assume he is personally more socially liberal, something the establishment GOP does not mind at all.

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Clinton could lose both Iowa and New Hampshire to Sanders, the polls are close enough; but, she is still about 85% to win the nomination. Clinton still has more money and widespread mainstream Democratic support. She is generally viewed by Democratic voters as more electable. But, seeing this fall in the early states, Clinton recently tried to attack Sanders on healthcare, from the left? It was a bizarre move that showed that the campaign is a bit rusty. With her long history working for healthcare reform, there was plenty of better options for her to attack. And, unfortunately for her, the DNC has buried the debates so no one will watch them. The next debate is tonight, the Sunday of a MLK weekend! Clinton is also really strong in debates, both against the Democratic field (making her appear more mainstream progressive and less mainstream) and in pivoting the debate towards the general election. She should be using the debates to attack Sanders on the question of electability and to showcase her historic progressive record. Of course, Sanders could use the platform to show that he is the more progressive candidate, and not as extreme has the Republican candidates paint him. He could use debates to tear down the electability argument that Clinton was hoping would allow her to coast to victory, while appealing to Democratic voters. And, of course, the Democratic party misses out on an opportunity to contrast Clinton/Sanders to Cruz/Trump, which would probably help the eventual Democratic nominee, whomever that turns out to be.

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Vertical Lines: Nothing interesting this week!
Sources: Betfair, Hypermind, PredictIt, http://twopointoh.predictwise.com/politics/2016-president-democratic-nomination/.