How the Iowa Democratic caucuses at WH2004 were the trigger for the establishment of PB

How the Iowa Democratic caucuses at WH2004 were the trigger for the establishment of PB

In January 2004 the former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, looked as though he might make it right through to the nomination. He had been a big pioneer of utilising the internet for online donations and mobilising volunteers something that was quite new at the time. In the polls ahead of Iowa, then like now the first state to decide, he looked strong and was tight favourite, at one stage odds-on in the betting, for the nomination.

At the time my day job for Oxford University meant I was travelling to his state, Vermont, a fair bit and I got to know the head of a college there who who knew Dean and was as fascinated by the political process as I was. Whenever we met we always talked about US politics and in 2004 George W Bush was seeking re-election for the Republicans.

About 10 days before the caucuses I was with my college head contact and asked how he rated Howard Dean. His response surprised me when he said emphatically that Dean would “at some stage blow himself up”.

In those days Betfair used to have forums on its site where people could discuss betting markets and I made something of a reputation for myself by predicting very boldly that Dean wouldn’t win the nomination quoting my Vermont contact’s assessment.

Then came the caucases and as the results were coming in it was clear that Howard Dean was not going to to win. He came third and his response was in the clip above which effectively killed any chances he had.

Shortly afterwards my son Robert suggested I set up my own blog and was formed in March 2004. What helped get a sizable audience within a few days was going to promote the site on the Betfair forum where I had built up a good record thanks to Howard Dean tanking in Iowa.

Mike Smithson

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