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Betting on the next election

By D. G. Martin
Posted Monday, February 20, 2006

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Chapel Hill, NC - Gambling and politics.

Say the words in North Carolina these days and a lot of people will wince, especially Democrats. Some of the tough politicking that pushed the lottery through the legislature last year looks worse and worse the more light that shines on the process.

But there might be some good news in the realm of gambling and politics for those North Carolina Democrats who think their favorite son, John Edwards, has a good chance to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. In fact, anyone who has some extra money can make a lot more money by betting on Edwards than they could ever expect to win in the state lottery—if Edwards wins the nomination.

Here is how. For every $6 that someone “bets” on Edwards, he or she will win $100—again, if Edwards wins the nomination. (Or $60 would get you $1000; $600 brings back $10,000, or $6,000 would give a $100,000 return.)

To make a “bet” on Edwards, go to the Internet political futures market firm, Intrade ( Intrade calls itself a “Trading Exchange for Prediction Markets,” which means that it accepts wagers on the various possible outcomes of political races and other news events.

The good news for Edwards “bettors” might not be such good news for Edwards himself. The low price for an Edwards contract means that many other bettors do not give him much of a chance.

On the other hand, if you wanted to bet money on Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic nomination, you would have to put up about $43 to get the chance to win $100. For a betting person, Clinton does not have nearly as much upside as Edwards. A lot of people are betting on her.

But for Edwards, Clinton’s high price is not good news. The smart money is betting on her.

However, there may be worse news for Edwards. The price to bet on former Virginia governor Mark Warner is about $24 for a chance to win $100.

One of Edwards’s appeals to Democrats has been his claim to be the “southern” candidate, which could be important because the only Democratic presidential candidates to win the popular vote since the 1960 election have been Southerners. (Lyndon Johnso-1964, Jimmy Carter-1976, Bill Clinton-1992 and 1996, and Al Gore-2000)

Now, the political bettors are telling us that Edwards has a challenger for the “Southern Candidate,” namely Mark Warner, and that Warner has four times better odds to win than Edwards.

What about the chances of other Democrats, in the eyes of the political bettors? Here is a quick rundown from a recent Intrade listing. These are prices for the chance to win $100:

Al Gore-$5; Russ Feingold $4; Joe Biden $2.50; Bill Richardson-$2.50; Evan Bayh-$3.50; Barack Obama-$1; John Kerry-$2.

There are lots of others. For a dime or two, you could win $100 if Mike Easley should become the Democratic nominee.

What about the Republican possibilities?

The political bettors favor John McCain. To get $100 if he should win the Republican nomination, you would have to put up about $35.

As in the Democratic race, the second strongest candidate comes from Virginia, Senator George Allen. His $100 bet would cost you about $28.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s bet cost about $11 and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, about $7; Condoleezza Rice, $4; Florida Governor Jeb Bush, $3; Newt Gingrich, $3; Bill Frist, $3.

If you are looking for a North Carolina long shot on the Republican side, you can buy a $100 contract on our Senator Elizabeth Dole for 20 or 30 cents.

Finally, Intrade offers contracts on the party to win 2008 presidential election.

If you are willing to bet about $47.50, you can get $100 if the Democratic candidate wins. If you want to bet on the Republicans to win, it will cost about $51.

Are you tempted by any of these possible bets? A lot of North Carolinians have learned never to underestimate the political skills and attractiveness of John Edwards. Some of them will surely bet on him at the “bargain” price listed for his contracts.

But remember, most gambling in North Carolina is a still a crime.


D.G. Martin is the host of UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch, which will take a break during through the end of March during “Festival.”

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