The favourites on both sides are Washington insiders
There was a time, 40 years ago, when a career in the US Senate seemed a prerequisite for the Presidency. In 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1972, both major party candidates were serving or former Senators. But Richard Nixon’s 1972 defeat of George McGovern (the candidates are pictured in a not-quite-full-colour “coffee cup poll”) was the last time this happened. Since then, no serving or former Senator has been elected as President, though four have received major party nominations (Mondale, Dole, Gore and Kerry).
But right now, the betting markets on Tradesports – the most liquid exchange at this stage in the race – have Senators as frontrunners for both the Democratic and Republican nominations. On the Democrat side, the favourite is Hillary Clinton, Senator from New York, whose candidacy has been covered on this site several times: most recently here. She can be backed at a probability of 43.8% (odds of 1.28/1). For the Republicans, the two favourites are Senators John McCain (Arizona) and George Allen (Virginia) – seemingly the man with the momentum this week – are almost neck and neck. They can be backed at 18.0% (4.55/1) and 20.4% (3.90/1) respectively.
Since the 1960s, the tenor of American political campaigning has changed: ironically, shifted in part by two of those Senators who went for the White House – Nixon and Goldwater. A candidate who can run as a “Washington outsider” tends to get the edge over a Senator whose past positions and movements on every issue can be traced through the voting records. Since Nixon, every elected President except the elder Bush has been a former state governor. Although Allen served from 1994-1998 as Governor of Virginia (a state which forbids governors serving consecutive terms) before entering the Senate, the “insider” perception may still stick to him.
Punters should consider avoiding the current favourites and looking towards the governors’ mansions for betting value.
Mike Smithson is on holiday until 5th September.