It may be worth having a cover against Hillary
US presidential elections are brilliant. The fractal-like complexity of the process by which someone ends up in the White House provides endless scope for novelists, script-writers and conspiracy theorists to come up with weird and wonderful ways for the most implausible individuals to follow in the footsteps of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelts and Obama. And in theory, they could.
The reality, of course, is that the nominations are usually all but decided within two months of their having started, the conventions are publicity shows, and that everything is clear on election night before the voting in the west is over.
But not always. While the 2000 election ultimately conformed to type, the consequences of an faithless Bush elector or two, if low, had to be taken seriously (in fact, Gore suffered a faithless, abstaining, elector; Bushâ€™s stayed solid). Likewise the possibility that Floridaâ€™s votes might be annulled or not cast, resulting in the elections being thrown to Congress. All the same, one way or another, the president was going to be Bush or Gore.
Fast forward to next year. Hillary Clinton seems almost certain to be the Democratic nominee. She only has one challenger, Bernie Sanders, and heâ€™s so far to the left he should be unelectable. That is, of course, something weâ€™ve heard before and it didnâ€™t stop Corbyn from winning but the kind of activism Corbyn benefitted from will be hard for Sanders to achieve given the larger turnouts in US primaries compared to the Labour leadership. In reality, itâ€™s Hillaryâ€™s to lose.
Except lose it she might. The e-mail affair is one of those scandals that many are vaguely aware of in the sense of it being a political football without a killer punch; of interest only to those paid to take an interest. Her husband went through much the same with Whitewater almost a quarter of a century ago when he was running for the White House. But while it is rumbling on, thereâ€™s the possibility that there does lie a smoking gun and that someone will find it. What then?
This is where there not being a serious challenger to Hillary makes things interesting. Were Hillary to fall under a political bus (or a health-related one, for that matter), I donâ€™t believe that the Democratic establishment would leave the field open to Sanders. Were it to happen early in the primary campaign, clearly thereâ€™d be scope for someone else to take her place; were it to happen late, Clinton delegates could be released and advised to switch to an acceptable alternative; were something to happen really late â€“ after the nominations â€“ the Democrat National Committee would need to find someone themselves, though here we are getting into the realms of political fantasy.
All the same, the chances that something politically fatal to Hillary might happen at some point are not infinitesimal â€“ in which case, who steps in to the gap? By far the most obvious answer is the current Vice President, Joe Biden. He was talked of as a possible candidate for much of the year and while he ultimately opted not to run, were he offered the job I canâ€™t see him turning it down. In what would then be a safety-first situation, it would be difficult to find someone with more safety attached.
The biggest difficulty in backing him may simply be the act of getting a bet on: as far as I can tell, no conventional bookie is offering odds at the moment, though at the time of writing he was 199/1 on Betfair (but with only a tiny amount available). As a cover against a Hillary slip-up, thatâ€™s a good price. In fact, at the moment Iâ€™d suggest thatâ€™s around double his true odds.