Biden seen as 'strongest challenger in modern history’ as protests, coronavirus send Trump reeling

Javier E. DavidEditor focused on markets and the economy
Yahoo Finance

The race for the White House has turned decisively in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden, predictive betting markets show, with a convergence of negative developments weighing on President Donald Trump, who until recently was seen as an overwhelming favorite.

Bettors on Smarkets, U.S. Bookies and Oddschecker are all forecasting Biden is now the odds-on favorite to win in November, an outcome that market observers have suggested investors can live with given his comparatively moderate policy stances. 

“Biden becoming more likely to win the election than Trump is a hugely significant moment in the election as oddsmakers now believe the sitting president will not serve a second term,” US-Bookies betting industry analyst Alex Donohue said on Thursday.

“For the first time since betting markets opened, there is a candidate that is more likely to win the 2020 election than Donald Trump,” he added.

Smarkets puts the chances of a Biden win at 51% compared to Trump’s 43%; meanwhile, Oddschecker says Trump’s chances have taken a “significant hit” in recent days. In spite of both candidates being hobbled by gaffes and stumbles, Biden has managed to solidify his electoral support in a way that has given him a sizable — if not commanding — lead in most major polls. 

“Biden, for all of the criticisms on Twitter...is in one of the strongest polling positions for a challenger in modern history,” Beacon Policy Advisors’ senior research analyst Ben Koltun told Yahoo Finance this week.

The former vice president “has problems with younger and non-white voters,” but those demographics are not likely to break for Trump, Koltun said. “He’s done a much better job consolidating the anti-Trump vote than Clinton did four years ago.” 

‘Hard to see how he wins a second term’

Hand turns dice and changes the name "Trump" to "Truth".
Hand turns dice and changes the name "Trump" to "Truth".

Widespread civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police, the unrelenting COVID-19 crisis and the herky-jerky end to restrictive lockdowns are imperiling Trump’s reelection chances.

On Thursday, Reuters reported that the president met with top campaign aides with his poll numbers deteriorating in the wake of protests, even as easing lockdowns help spur the economy toward recovery. One source told the publication Trump was frustrated as his political woes mount.

Meanwhile, key swing states, which before the pandemic were leaning solidly in favor of the president, are now swinging in the opposite direction. The latest controversy buffeting Trump’s campaign has seen the president threaten to move the Republican National Convention out of GOP-friendly North Carolina, in the midst of a political standoff with its Democratic governor. 

“If the president doesn't win North Carolina, it's hard to see how he wins a second term,” noted Ed Mills, Raymond James’ Washington policy analyst. “I want to see how that plays out in the state. Does it energize the base or does it show the president is leaving the state?” he asked.

Perhaps more pivotal to Biden’s chances will be his selection of a running mate, especially in light of the racially-charged demonstrations shaking the U.S. to its core. 

Smarkets investors see California Sen. Kamala Harris as the leading candidate, with 41% odds that Biden will select her. Other dark horse contenders include Florida Rep. Valdez Venita Demings, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, ex-Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and ex-Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren.

Harris, Abrams and Demings are all black women, which Smarkets Head of Political Markets Sarbjit Bakhshi said was “an important thing to note at this period. People are looking for a balanced ticket...that represents America more.”

He added: “So these things are all playing into that mix, and that might have been focused by the crisis in America, and what they can bring to the Biden ticket. The only consistent message that we’ve been getting from this market is Kamala Harris should be his VP.”

Javier David is an editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @TeflonGeek

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