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English Betting Parlors High on Hillary
Many observers of American politics complain that the media, folks like me, turn elections into horse races with stories about who's up and who's down.
We handicap rather than inform, say these detractors.
Well, with a wonkish track record of allowing candidates columns and columns of inches to get into specific proposals — to the point where former Iowa House Speaker Christopher Rants thought I was a crazy after taping an entire stump speech he gave here – this post is going to shamelessly feed the political horse-race beast.
One can actually examine the 2008 presidential race like the Daily Racing Form.
One of the world's largest bookmaking operations, England-based Ladbrokes, has published odds on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in 2008. The odds are updated based on bets placed.
Thanks to former U.S. Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, and other player-haters who shut down Americans' ability to gamble (legally) over the Internet with foreign sites, you can't make the bets — unless you go to London (or go Capone).
But the betting lines are instructive. It's one thing to drink four beers and tell your pals you think Rudy Giuliani is going to win the next presidential election, or that former Vice President Al Gore will make a successful late-hour run.
It's quite another to throw a few C-notes behind blustery predictions.
The London bookmaker as of Tuesday night was going with U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., to win the presidency in 2008.
Her Ladbrokes odds are the best of any candidate in either party at 5/4. For non-gamblers (ninnies) in the readership, this means that if you bet $40 on Hillary and she wins, you pull in a $50 profit. You shell out $40 and get $90 back. According to the gambling Web emporium Easy Odds, other English bookmakers have Hillary as the favorite as well.
On Ladbrokes, Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, is next at 7 to 2, and Democrat Barack Obama is running with Ladbrokes odds of 4 to 1.
In horse racing, bettors often talk about a thoroughbred having a "good price," a strong value, or in other words, a reasonable chance of winning with odds that could really lead to a nice payday.
Obama sort of falls into this category at 4 to 1. Bet $200 on him to win the presidency and you'd have $800 in your pocket if the Illinoisan is giving the inaugural address in January of 2009. I bet on Rags To Riches in The Belmont about 10 days ago using this theory and it paid off for me.
But Republican Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is the best definition of a "good price" bet using the Ladbrokes odds. Romney's at 10 to 1.
Romney is posting strong fund-raising numbers, and he has a track record of winning Democratic votes as a Republican. The question: Can he sell himself as the genuine article to Republican primary voters?
John McCain is also running at 10 to 1, and looks better on the stump than he does on TV, which means something in Iowa.
Another good bet using the value theory: former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, a Republican who hasn't entered the race but has made some noise about it. A TV and movie star, and the man who looks most like what America thinks a president should look like, Thompson has odds of 5 to 1 to win the real Oval Office.
That Al Gore as Rocky rising from the mat scenario is 7 to 1.
If you're looking at a long shot that's more than a coin toss into a wishing fountain, you may want to consider New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat with a strong resume of cabinet and congressional service and Hispanic heritage that will appeal in the Southwest.
Richardson is at 28 to 1 odds to be the next – and first Latino – president of the United States. That’s the best “long-shot” bet I spy in the Ladbrokes sheet, the one you dump 20 bucks on and stick in your sock drawer for the next year and half. Another "smart guy" bet would be New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, who brings 20/1 odds to the table. I can’t see this for a number of reasons, but the price is good, so why not take a little action? If the major parties pick the nominees early in the process, a fatigue factor could emerge and set the stage for a serious third-party candidacy.
If you think you can read the parties better than the general election, Ladbrokes offers action on the nomination process as well.
Hillary is a 10/11 favorite to get the Democratic nomination with Obama at 2/1 and Edwards at 4/1, and the unannounced Gore at 5/1. Hillary is a poor price, to be sure, but if you buy the theory that she wins the Democratic nomination because she is a she, this would be the place to make that $10,000 bet. If you are willing to throw larges around, the only sensible place to do it is on Hillary winning the Democratic nomination.
For the GOP nomination, Rudy is at 6/4, Thompson 2/1, Romney, 4/1 and McCain 5/1.
Ladbrokes is only one of many European gambling entities offering odds on the 2008 presidential race.
Not that Iowa Independent would ever encourage sinful activities like gambling, even though the land between the Mighty Miss and the Big Muddy is becoming something of a Vegas On The Plains with our growing casino population. (And we still let you smoke cigarettes in our gaming halls you high-hatting, Evian-drinking, Dean-voting coastal prisses.)