General Election Predictit Strategy

For example, in the image below, a screen cap of the Tier 1 markets on May 5th, Donald Trump “Yes” is overpriced relative to the alternatives, since you can buy Republican “Yes” or Gender “No”at par value or cheaper. price dem

  • Coverage: BROAD
    • Democrat covers Clinton as the likely nominee but includes Sanders (- his prob. of an independent run) + non-candidates who have outside chance of the nomination such as Biden and  Warren as a byproduct of the uncertainty surrounding charges against Clinton with respect to her private server scandal.
    • Republican covers Trump as the likely nominee priced at a premium with respect to the potential for a brokered convention or a GOPe 3rd party ticket challenge.
    • Other covered Gary Johnson & Liz Stein, but also a Sanders or a spurned GOPe backed candidate running as independents at the expense of their original parties.
  • Exposure Ceiling:
    • $2,550 total
    • $1,700 on mainstream / $850 on lottery
  • Price Implication:
    • This market should price as the highest value premium market as it offers coverage of both Trump and Clinton plus the (admittedly small) chance that either (or both) of those candidates could be replaced by their party in the general election. If you can get this market discounted to other options, buy here first.

Will a woman be elected U.S. President in 2016?

  • Coverage: BROAD (lol)
    • Yes (Female President) is almost exclusively priced according to Clinton’s prospects as the Democratic nominee in the General Election + the chance that if Clinton is indicted, Elizabeth Warren could be produced as the Democratic nominee in a brokered convention deal.
    • No (Male President) primarily covers Trump but would include Sanders and Biden or any likely GOPe candidate that might be produced in the extremely unlikely event of a Republican contested convention.
  • Exposure Ceiling:
    • $850 total
  • Price Implication:
    • Of the three Tier 1 markets, this one seems to lag with price movement the most. If you are trying to buy the dips and sell the highs you can do it with less time sensitivity, but at a lower volume, here than in the other Tier 1’s. Personally, this is my buy and hold market because I have found the best margins in terms of coverage to price here before the Tier 2 markets opened.

Who will win the 2016 U.S. presidential election?

  • Coverage: NARROW
    • Primary action is in the Clinton and Trump contracts, both the presumptive nominees. At this point Clinton should trade with more hypothetical nomination risk than Trump, because while Trump has all but locked up his nomination, Clinton has been unable to subdue Sanders and has the specter of an FBI indictment lurking at the periphery.
    • That said, you can basically get in on any other named candidates, which you can split into Presumed (Clinton & Trump), Unlikely (Sanders, Biden, Warren, Marco), Lottery (Jeb!, etc.) But if thats your game, just send me your cash directly.
  • Exposure Ceiling:
    • $1,700 on Presumed
    • $3,400 on Unlikely
    • A bunch on everyone else but the shares are all capped at .99
  • Price Implication:
    • The market prices for Trump and Clinton here are usually stupidly overpriced compared to the alternate options you can find that I am outlining in this post. Why would you buy here? Literally only for selling bumps on the brand value of the contracts. Is it cool to own a bunch of Trump “Yes” shares? Yeah it is. Is it worth buying them at 5 cents over the alternate options covering more outcomes? Probably not.

  • Importance: HIGHEST
    • No President since JFK has been elected without winning Ohio
  • Polling
  • Current Government: Mixed
  • Price Implication:
    • The state of Ohio is the undisputed pound-for-pound champ in terms of importance, swinginess, and correlation with the general election winner. This should essentially trade at par with the Tier 1 Markets.
  • Importance: VERY HIGH
    • I am putting it at #2 because it is a must win for the Republicans and has flipped more recently than Virginia.
  • Polling:
  • Current Government: Mixed
  • Price Implication:
    • If Trump is unable to win Florida he will not be president. There is almost no chance he would lose in Florida but flip other states he would need to cover that gap. Thus, this should essentially trade at par with Trump “NO” in Tier 1 Markets.
  • Importance: VERY HIGH
    • Definitely top tier in terms of potential value, but Trump can probably win without it and the anti-DC area message of his campaign plus the active efforts of the sitting Democratic Governor to prevent the Republicans from winning the state will make it less likely to flip than in previous elections.
  • Polling
  • Current Government: Unified
  • Price Implication:
    • I am tempted to say that Virginia will be the Democrat’s Florida. It is not quiet as valuable or critical, but if they lose here they will almost certainly have lost substantially in other states. As previously stated, Trump is unlikely to win here. The only thing that would radically alter this field (and simultaneously prove that I am a prophet) would be if Trump brings Jim Webb onto the ticket as his VP. Webb is one of the few VP prospects popular enough in his home state with swing voters to move the ticket. I just don’t see Rick Scott or John Kasich (still lol) providing nearly the same kind of value in the previous two markets.
  • Importance: HIGH
    • The last time New Hampshire picked a losing candidate was in 2004, opting for Kerry over Bush by a margin of 1.37%. The time before that they voted for Ford over Carter. Not a terrible way to rack up a loss all things considered.
  • Polling
  • Current Government: Mixed
  • Price Implication:
    • This one will trade right at the general election market prices in Tier 1. Clinton will only do as well here as she does in general polling, and Trump might outperform based on his early strength here in the primaries. Additional food for thought: the Live Free or Die crowd’s anti-establishment streak produced impressive numbers for Ross Perot (even the second time).
  • Importance: HIGH
    • They picked Gore the first time and Bush the second. Only other recent miss? Dukakis. Go figure, this place is wack.
  • Polling
  • Current Government: Unified
  • Price Implication:
    • If not for that insane primary on the Republican side I would say this should trade at Tier 1 market price. But Iowa is Iowa. It is a state populated by special breed of person that seems to actively resist any effort to be polled, quantified, or qualified. I would respect that but it is super annoying in this context. As such, the most I am willing to say is that Iowa should be a little to the right of national opinion, but Trump could lose here if he seems insufficiently “conservative” which would produce a result reminiscent of Romney. I don’t see a point in going in here considering all the other options with less uncertainty.
  • Importance: HIGH (Maybe)
    • Pennsylvania is probably the biggest flip target for Trump outside of the normal swing states. The demographics are decent for him, his support for American manufacturing should swell his base far more than any recent Republicans, and Clinton’s foot-in-mouth antics has already alienated her from coal country voters.
  • Polling
  • Current Government: Mixed
  • Price Implication:
    • If Trump wins Pennsylvania he will be hard to beat. I suspect he will devote a lot of his time to the state on the attack, which would force Clinton to defend, and this territory is poorly suited to her platform defensively. Expect a tight race here, prices favoring the Democrats, but keep an eye on the polls and watch for a swing: this market may shift faster than the Tier 1 markets if polling starts to swing in Trump’s favor.
  • Importance: MODERATE (Nothing screams moderate like all caps)
    • Moderately important as a swing state, but very interesting as a betting market. While it is highly hispanic, Trump’s straight talking populist brand of Republicanism will do much better than the Neo-Con dribble of the past few contests. This one will probably come down to persuasion and I suspect it will serve as a decent barometer for the national race in general.
  • Polling
  • Current Government: Mixed
  • Price Implication:
    • Probably will trade near the general election market prices in Tier 1 with a small bump favoring the Democrats because of the demographics. That said, if you are convinced Trump will win (looking at you ✓ᵀᴿᵁᴹᴾ crew) this market should be attractive to you. How much of a factor the demographics will play considering the weakness of Clinton, and the alignment of Trump’s persona and brand with Nevada makes this a decent sleeper pick.

Tier 2 Bonus:

  • If you are confident Trump will win, buying unified control of Congress is actually one of the best contracts out there. The downside of this contract is tied to any one of the Presidential election, control of the Senate, or control of the House going to the Democrats. Due to gerrymandering the Republicans would need to work exceptionally hard to lose the House, and since they would never lose the House whilst winning the Senate or the White House, this market is simply “Will Trump win + Will the Republicans hold the Senate”. If Trump wins they will probably hold the Senate. Thus, the value here is high relative to the cost in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 markets if you consider it in terms of cascading outcomes.
  • Free money on “No”. As mentioned above, the Republicans will not lose the House. They have too much of a buffer in terms of seats, and too much of an advantage from gerrymandered districts.


Additional Notes:

  • 8/1/2016 – Predictit has opened many new markets since I originally wrote this guide. The strategy considerations for those markets are the same as those that are outlined here with respect to the Tiers and the value cascades.

Jim Webb will be Trump’s VP


Following this slip by Ben Carson, who is leading Trump’s exploratory VP committee, it seems clear to me that Jim Webb will be Trump’s VP choice.

The strategic case for a Trump/Webb ticket is incredible. Webb is more conservative than most of the GOP. He is a loyal, Second Amendment loving, Marine Vietnam veteran and classic American hero. If Trump can convince him to join the ticket this race would be over before it has even begun.

Webb can attack the Democrats as a former member who grew tired of their anti-Americanism. He worked for Reagan and left the Republican party because he was fed up with the cronyism and neo-conservatism, specifically the Bush era brands of it. He is a decorated Vietnam war hero and is more pro-second amendment than East Coast Republicans like Chris Christy.

Can you imagine Paul Ryan trying to attack Jim Webb on his record? It would be a blood bath. All the better for Trump, because Webb has crossover appeal, blunting Clinton’s claims he is divisive. Can you imagine Trump riffing “She says I’m divisive folks, well, I got a former Democrat, American hero Jim Webb, as my VP. Who is Crooked Hillary uniting besides the Washington insiders?”

Webb would be Trump’s masterstroke. It is by far the best move. Note, it is also probably one of the few real choices Trump has. Most of the establishment guys he might be expected to ask will not want to do the job, or couldn’t be trusted. Christie would be a bad fit, Sessions doesn’t expand his base, and Mathis and other military choices are too close to the Iraq war and Neo Con foreign policy. Gingrich is Gingrich. Why bother? But Webb. That would be the Trump choice. Bold. Game changing. Unexpected.

Consider Webb’s record and you will see why. Hell, you could almost argue Webb has been Trump longer than Trump has been Trump. Webb aligns with Trump on foreign policy, not to mention, he is practically the only person in America who correctly predicted the outcome of the Iraq war before it began.

Seven months before the beginning of the 2003 Iraq War, Webb wrote an essay for the Washington Post in which he “ questioned whether an overthrow of Saddam would “actually increase our ability to win the war against international terrorism” and pointed out that the measure of military success can be preventing wars as well as fighting them. He charged, “those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade.” He concluded, “the Iraqis are a multiethnic people filled with competing factions who in many cases would view a U.S. occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam. … In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets.”

Webb is on board with Trump’s negative view of globalization as it relates to depressing the American economy, and even has addressed how economic inequality has systematically encouraged illegal immigration.

An op-ed authored by Webb appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Titled “Class Struggle: American workers have a chance to be heard.” The piece addressed the harmful economic inequality in the U.S., with the elites on one side and American workers on the other side. The article cites the “age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration,” as well as extravagant executive compensation, the detrimental effects of free trade and globalization, iniquitous tax cuts, speedily rising health care costs, and stagnation in income as the reasons for the increasing disparity between the elites and American workers.

Webb is Pro-Second Amendment, which is basically the litmus test for the conservative electorate. Again, here he shines better than many so-called Republicans. The story of his political aide getting arrested also highlights his loyalty and unwillingness to back down to pressure to be politically correct.

On March 26, 2007, a senatorial aide of Webb, Phillip Thompson, was arrested for carrying Webb’s loaded pistol as he entered the Russell Senate Office Building and for carrying unregistered ammunition. The weapon was discovered when Thompson went through an X-ray machine with a briefcase that contained a loaded pistol and two additional loaded magazines.[54] Charges against the aide were dismissed after prosecutors concluded it could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Thompson was aware that the gun and ammunition were in the briefcase.[55] Webb responded to his aide’s arrest by reiterating his support for gun-owners’ rights:

“I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment; I have had a permit to carry a weapon in Virginia for a long time; I believe that it’s important; it’s important to me personally and to a lot of people in the situation that I’m in to be able to defend myself and my family.”

Some of you might be saying “There is no way Jim Webb gets the endorsement, Trump said no Democrats.” All fair and good, except Jim Webb will rejoin the Republican party, just like Trump did. The baptism of Jim Webb by Donald Trump would be a powerful narrative for the Trump campaign, signalizing a new direction for the Republican party. Adding fuel to the fire, in Trump’s comments on Webb following the first Democratic debate way back in October 2015, he notes that “He’d be a lot better as an independent than he would as a Democrat, because I watched [the first Democratic presidential debate] the other night and he was not registering as a Democrat.” In that context, Trump’s recent declaration that he won’t be nominating a Democrat is absolutely true. He wouldn’t be nominating a Democrat: he would be nominating Jim Webb.

Honestly, If I was conspiratorially minded, I would almost believe Webb and Trump were working together all along. Webb goes as a Democrat, fails to get the nomination because the party has degenerated into a crypto-communist mess, so he drops out while publicly stating he will not support Clinton, the likely nominee,  but would not rule out voting for Trump or running independent. Meanwhile, Trump crushes the establishment crony capitalists in the Republican party, notably the Bushes who he harshly criticized on their neo-con foreign policy, setting the stage for Webb’s return to the party post-dynastic GOPe.

It’s Webb. It has always been Webb.

TRUMP/WEBB: Make America Great Again, Together

The Battle of Waterloo, Indiana

The Indiana primary, scheduled to take place May 3rd, will ultimately prove to be the decisive contest of the campaign for the Republican Party presidential nomination, as Donald Trump, compelled by circumstance, must gamble everything on a decisive victory in the state in order to cement his candidacy, lest he face an ignominious defeat by the procedural machinations of his foes in a brokered convention. Trump, a charismatic and cantankerous upstart who declared war on the entrenched establishment that has long dominated the Republican Party, succeeding despite long odds utilizing bold and unorthodox tactics, now faces a do-or-die contest with these opponents who have been driven to desperate action, mobilizing a last effort to defeat him to avoid their destruction. With only a small number of states remaining before the convention, and considering the current delegate totals, for both Trump and his establishment opponents, the path to victory appears, as it did in 1815, to advance through a town called Waterloo. The contest for Waterloo’s possession, and for the possession of all the other towns like it in the Hoosier state, has transformed what is typically a low-stakes primary in an inauspicious part of the country into a referendum on the political and cultural civil war that has rocked the Republican Party, a schismatic conflict that has frayed the bonds that have, for decades, united the various political constituencies of the American conservative coalition. A Trump victory in Indiana would signalize the success of the anti-establishment, America-first, revolutionaries in subverting the establishment Republican ideology of domestic neo-liberalism and foreign neo-conservatism as the dominant framework for representative American conservatism.

Trump is likely to win in New York, his home turf, on April 19th, and should likewise do well in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, which all vote the following week on April 26th. While he can be proud of his probable successes in these primaries, winning a slate of states that are unlikely to vote for the Republican party in the national election does little to silence his critics within the Republican establishment who contend that his selection as nominee would doom the party to a landslide defeat in the general election. Thus, while Trump does need to win those aforementioned states to avoid a brokered convention, they are, in a sense, less important than Indiana, where his success or failure will be a measure of his ability to appeal to a Republican leaning state that is noteworthy for its exceptionally average character. Likewise, if his opponents are able to engineer his defeat in Hoosier country, the event of a brokered convention is made both more likely, as Trump is deprived of vital delegates, and the case for dispossessing him of the nomination by a brokered convention is strengthened: his establishment critics can argue he has failed to win a mandate from the most loyal conservative constituencies.

Can Trump win Indiana? As the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo was “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life“, so, too, does the upcoming primary battle for Indiana promise to be a tightly fought contest. As of April 10th, prediction markets suggest Trump’s chances are a little under 40%, but it is likely that this number will rise as the primary draws nearer. The primary is an open ballot affair, which has favored Trump in the past, but with the narrowing of the field that advantage has noticeably diminished. Due to a law circumscribing the use of automated phone solicitation, opinion polling in the state is both more difficult, and expensive, than it is in most other parts of the country. Certainly polling will be conducted, but the volume and timeliness of data available is unlikely to satisfy those of a statistical disposition. Thus, the best, and for the moment only, way to speculate on the state of the state is by considering the composition of the strategic elements in play, which, in this case, can be narrowed down to three significant characteristics. Those being (1) the effect of outsourcing on the state economy, (2) the impact of the Cruz campaign’s new establishment support, and (3) the predilections of moderate conservatives as swing voters. There is an obvious connection between points (2) and (3), but as they both have at least one unique strategic characteristic it is prudent to consider them separately on their own merits.

Indiana has faced a high rate of job loss from outsourcing activities in the manufacturing sector, of which, Mexico has been a significant foreign beneficiary. The recent announcement by Carrier that it would be moving its Indiana manufacturing facilities to Mexico, costing the state 2,100 jobs, is a damning, and timely, affirmation of the truth behind Trump’s declamations on the negative impact of the neo-liberal trade policies his establishment opponents support. Trump has successfully capitalized on the marginalization of disposed working-class voters in previous contests, and Indiana is inundated with a general resentment for big business that is less pronounced in Republican states outside of the Rust Belt. That sentiment extends beyond blue-collar workers, permeating small town Hoosier communities that have seen their economic prospects diminished, atomized, to appease predatory special interests, only to have their struggles ridiculed by pusillanimous establishment eunuchs who jeer at their misfortunes. At his best Trump speaks to this anger, and if he remains on message he will be competitive in the state: what cannot be achieved by well conducted righteous fury must be outside the capacity of mankind to realize. With the support of his “high energy” base, broadening the scope of his message to connect the betterment of the state economy with his America-first trade policies could help him to expand his support with evangelical and very conservative voters, groups he has had inconsistent success with in previous contests.

Trump making headway with evangelical and very conservative voters previously would have been a death sentence for his redoubtable opponent, Ted Cruz. However, following Cruz’s April 5th triumph in Wisconsin, the importance of those voter groups to the ultimate fulfillment of Cruz’s ambition has been somewhat diminished. Thus, the game plan for Cruz in Indiana will almost certainly be a redux of his Wisconsin strategy, predicated on winning moderate voters and leveraging establishment support to undercut Trump’s prospects. Cruz, who has frequently described himself as an anti-establishment candidate reviled by party insiders, a position that seemed well supported by a wealth of evidence, has, with his embrace of establishment support in Wisconsin, revealed that his public persona, the waggish rogue, is a facade, camouflage to obfuscate his mastery of the Machiavellian arts. His heel-turn from crusader flying the flag of rebellion to gentle protector of orthodoxy is an act of convenient pragmatism and dubious virtue. The states that yet remain to be contested skew heavily Western and South-Western. If Cruz successfully re-brands himself as a unifying moderate at the expense of some of the religious and very conservative voters who form his original base, he greatly improves his odds of preventing Trump from gaining enough delegates to avoid a brokered convention. Should he succeed, Cruz would be advantageously positioned to make a claim for the nomination, arguing he would be the only man capable of uniting the fractious party factions, which may well be true if you consider the extinguishment of the rebel faction as unity. The Republican establishment, having now thrown their support behind him, will have little leverage to prevent Cruz from achieving his design. That said, winning in Indiana, the last Republican state where there will be a serious contest, is the key to the success or failure of this plan. If Trump can make the case that Cruz has been compromised by his establishment allies, forcing him to either double down on his transformation into a moderate or backtrack to defend his original supporter base, he can co-opt Cruz’s metamorphosis, re-branding him as either a mendacious charlatan or a lupine firebrand assuming the countenance of a sheep. Neither outcome would be conducive to Cruz’s prospects for victory.

As the aforementioned conflict illustrates, the outcome of the Indiana primary will be heavily dependent on the perception of undecided, moderately conservative voters. Kasich, a non-entity in almost every respect, will win some of these moderate voters, mostly in the eastern parts of the state under the yoke of the Buckeye broadcast market. If Trump is successful in forestalling Cruz’s metamorphosis into a moderate, any votes that go to Kasich will probably benefit Trump. If Kasich drops out of the race prior to Indiana, the situation is not appreciably changed. If the existence of one of the three candidates can be said to have a negligible impact on the event, what are the key issues that will impact moderate voters? The economic situation will be a major factor here. Trump, as previously described, is better positioned than Cruz is to use this to his advantage. Social issues, while important, are less tractable as campaign fodder in Indiana than they are in more socially conservative Republican states. That said, Cruz could position himself advantageously in the state if he can quickly steer the public conversation to Trump’s alleged misogyny. By taking the moral high ground Cruz would be provided an elevated defensive position, from which it would be easier to avoid taking divisive policy positions that could upset the delicate balance required to maintain his current base while appealing to moderates. Finally, the impact of public perception on security and terrorism must be addressed. Defense issues play a significant role in determining the allegiance of primary voters. With respect to this subject there is one story of local significance that could be leveraged to great success. The settlement of refugees from Syria in America, a program pursued by the Obama administration, has unilaterally determined that Indiana should be one of the primary colonies for those Mohammedan masses. Unsurprisingly, this has not been well received by Indiana’s conservative leaning residents, and prompted Republican governor Mike Pence to launch an unsuccessful legal challenge to exempt the state from the resettlement efforts. If Trump can capitalize on this issue, it would likely pay big dividends to him in the support of moderate voters. As a bonus, it may also neuter the Indiana Republican establishment, many of whom have been quite vocal in their dislike of his candidacy, as they would be forced to oppose him while he loudly champions the ‘right’ side of an issue that is almost universally supported by the state’s conservative voters.

It took the united effort of the European establishment to restrain Napoleon, and, such was the brilliance of his leadership, they very nearly failed to defeat him despite their unprecedented unified exertions. By what slim margins are divided the most disparate outcomes, for it is now beyond our capacity to imagine how the world might have looked today had the outcome been reversed, with one exception: the town of Waterloo, the humble ground upon which was fought the battle for the possession of the future, would retain its exulted status, proof that while history does frequently rhyme, it also can echo. On May 3rd, whether we witness the defeat of a rebellion or the success of a revolution, a town named Waterloo will once again host a struggle between opposing forces, engaged in a conflict for supremacy, where one must be destroyed for the other to attain, or maintain, power. That the final act, determining the outcome of this endeavor, will take place amongst the small towns of Indiana, the crossroads of America, seems appropriate, even, poetic. The blustering rebel will do battle with the grand old prefects of the Grand Old Party in Hoosier fields. Whatever the outcome, it is assured that Trump, like Napoleon before him, will ever after be defined by the success or failure of his efforts to gain the demesne of Waterloo, and with it, the world.