National Commentary

What Are the Odds? Bookies Like Trump

nfbenton-mugWhen I was a much younger political activist, every election was seen as a life-or-death situation, as likely to trigger or not a nuclear war, and so on. Unfortunately, this coming U.S. presidential election in the U.S. is stirring up similar visceral feelings.

Back in the day, when I was sure that doomsday was about to happen in the impending general election, I visited a major donor, an unpretentious, scruffy but very wealthy older gentleman whose Cadillac was dusty because he drove it through his orange orchards. I assured him that a catastrophe was about to happen on election day.

He leaned back in his office chair and picked up the phone to place a call, obviously a direct line to someone, because he didn’t have to say a word when it was answered. All he said was, in his big bellowing melodious voice, “What are the odds?” stretching out and almost singing the last word.

He listened, and hung up the phone. “Nothing to worry about,” he told me. Out of sympathy, I guess, he still wrote me a check, but it wasn’t to empty his bank account as a panicky gesture to forestall Armageddon. Of course, within that week it was confirmed that he, and his Vegas bookie, were right. The outcome wasn’t even close.

So this time, on the eve of the first presidential primary (the Iowa caucuses) of the 2016 campaigns, my thoughts go back to that earlier time, especially as the news now comes that London bookies are now predicting that Donald Trump will actually win the GOP nomination, something they hadn’t acknowledged until only very recently. These odds-makers don’t play, they’re dealing in real money and often an awful lot of it.

Thus, while CNN and “Meet the Press” knock themselves out to rehearse every nuance of the campaigns, and everybody is citing the latest polls of likely voters, etc., etc., the cool, cold odds numbers from the many websites that calculate such things seem relatively final and unforgiving. Read them, turn off your computer, and switch your TV to the Cartoon Channel.

On the eve of Iowa, here’s what they’re saying, taking a random site for its predictions:

Yes, according to it, the news about Trump is true. He is now calculated as an even chance to win the GOP nomination, way ahead of everybody else. Sen. Marco Rubio has the next best odds, at 9/4, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz at 6/1, Jeb Bush at 9/1, Chris Christie at 22/1, John Kasich at 40/1 non-candidates Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney at 50/1 each.

Ben Carson is at 100/1, Mike Huckabee at 150/1, Rand Paul at 150/1, Carly Fiorina at 150/1, Rick Santorum at 250/1, and Jim Gilmore at 250/1.

Up until only recently, of course, it was a far different picture, with Bush having the best odds even as Trump’s campaign was refusing to unravel the way so many predicted. Now, even as The Donald still upsets the scions of the GOP establishment, apparently they’re having to come to grips with his odds-on role as the favorite.
They know, as well, that neither Iowa nor New Hampshire will decide anything.

It’s not about conventional politics. The Frankenstein monster that the GOP unleashed in reaction to the Obama administration’s initiatives, especially to Obamacare but also much more, has now morphed into a tall, bellowing humanoid figure that may not exactly have electrode bolts sticking out the sides of its neck, but has artificial hair stuck on the top of its head that may be covering something up there.

This monster, the creation of the “grass tops” (a D.C. phrase that is contrasted to “grass roots” because it is heavily funded to superimpose on an angry rabble the programmatic contents and mobilization strategy of a “movement”) so-called Tea Party and its undeniably racist core, which Trump’s own utterances are now confirming, is now completely out of control!

(By the way, the odds-makers have the following outcomes for the Democratic side: Clinton is the overwhelming favorite at 1/5, followed by Sanders at 7/2, Vice President Biden at 16/1 and O’Malley at 100/1).