Will you be staying up for the big political betting night?
With the very first test of public opinion in the 2008 White House race due to take place tomorrow night the big question is how many Iowans are going to bother to turn out to attend the caucus meetings that could set the tone for the whole process of choosing the Democratic and GOP candidates.
- The critical element is that so few people are likely to be involved. For of the 3m people in the state only 2m are registered voters and of these only about 100,000-125,000 generally attend the Democratic caucuses and less than 100,000 go to the Republican ones.
We are talking about a normal turnout of less than 12.5% which is why this contest is such a challenge for the pollsters. How do you identify the one in eight who will take part? So the weather can be critical and the forecasts suggest that across most of the state it will be cold but not quite as cold as it has been recently. Severe conditions could have a serious affect.
The events start at 1am UK time and within a quarter of an hour there will hopefully be estimates of the numbers attending selected meetings and the age/gender profile of those who have braved bitter cold to be there. It’s here that we might begin to get a sense of who is going to win – particularly in the Democrat contest.
If a trend on reported turnout levels starts to emerge then that could be the signal to adjust your betting – not just on the outcome of the caucuses but on who will get the nominations. In 2004 I was a heavy layer of the favourite Howard Dean (I was betting against him getting it) and I was able to reinforce my position quite substantially when the early news from the caucuses indicated to me that he might not do as well as the polls had suggested.
- What you should be listening out for are comparisons with last time. If specific precincts are showing a big increase on 2004 then that is probably good news for Obama. Prospects for the black Senator from Illinois could also be greater if the number of younger people taking part is substantially higher than last time.
For Hillary backers reports of modest increases in participation rates is probably good news as will indications of a high proportion of women being there, particularly those in the older age brackets. The general view is that John Edwards will benefit from lower turnout rates.
The official results from the Republican race should start to come in by about 3am. The Democratic caucuses are likely to take a little longer.
The latest betting has Hillary at 0.46/1 on Betfair with Obama having tightened a touch to 2.95/1. If you can do stay up – it will be great fun and you could make some money.
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