Why Trump Is No Longer a Safe Bet
by Kelsey Warner
Donald Trump, although still ahead in national polls, is no longer the sure bet for the Republican nomination. InsideGov examines prediction market trends and their correlation with election events to determine what might have hurt his chances.
Businessman Donald Trump's seemingly unstoppable presidential campaign might be losing its momentum. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's recent sweep in Colorado put up another speed bump in Trump's path to the Republican nomination. While Trump claimed the Colorado outcome was "rigged" and "totally unfair," his campaign is simply no longer winning all aspects of the race.
Prediction markets are reacting to this latest hiccup for the Trump campaign. As the possibility of a contested convention in July looks more and more likely, Trump's numbers have dipped. Prediction markets are where people bet on the possibilities of certain outcomes in politics, sports or even the Oscars. These profit-minded markets tend to be less reactionary than national polling and reflect predictions on the overall outcome.
For most of this election cycle, Trump has maintained a strong lead over the GOP competition in prediction markets. Bettors place their money on Trump, who they see as the most likely candidate to become the Republican nominee. InsideGov visualizes this trend below using PredictWise, a tool that aggregates prediction markets data.
Although he still holds the best odds, Trump's recent dip represents a departure from the earlier successes that defined his whirlwind campaign.
Trump began collecting the fruit of his campaign labors during the early state primaries. He dominated Super Tuesday with wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. His eclectic mix of victories throughout the primary season — from Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the Northeast to South Carolina and Mississippi in the South to Arizona and Nevada in the West — speaks to his broad appeal with voters. As the Washington Post observed, "no Republican nominee has ever won all of the different states Donald Trump has."
Faced with a crowded field that started out with 17 aspiring Republican candidates, Trump employed attacks that divided and conquered the GOP establishment. Moving into the latter half of April, only three candidates remain — the competition has slimmed down from the 12 who competed in the Iowa caucuses Feb. 1.
Although his lead in national polls has decreased, Trump continues to hold a strong advantage. On April 14, he polled at 40.4 percent, with Cruz nearly 10 percentage points behind at 30.6 percent. Ohio Gov. John Kasich stands at 21 percent — an impressive feat considering he was polling in the single digits into the beginning of March.
While the national polling has tightened only slightly, the prediction markets show just how much the dynamics of the race have changed. Trump's odds were at least 60 percent better than the other candidates nearly throughout March. As Cruz surges in market favorability, Trump's lead has decreased, with a difference of only 17 percent occurring on April 10. This race is no longer a cakewalk for Trump.
Trump, once the sure bet for the nomination, started to seriously slip in the favor of the betting markets in late March. By looking at the PredictWise visualization, there are two key declines. They begin after March 1 and March 28.
The events surrounding these dates could point toward what actually slowed down The Donald.
Trump hit his peak on March 1, the first Super Tuesday. In the days that followed, his odds dropped nearly 20 percent from his 85 percent high. Although Trump accomplished a near clean sweep of the available primaries, he didn't win everything. He narrowly won in Virginia, beating Florida Sen. Marco Rubio by 2.8 percent.
Although largely lost in Trump's shadow before the primaries, Rubio and Cruz proved themselves as worthy rivals. Rubio won Minnesota, where Trump "flunked" with a third-place finish. Cruz assumed his place as a viable competitor for the nomination with successes in Oklahoma, Alaska and Texas. These wins marked the beginning of the prediction market odds improving for Cruz. On Super Tuesday, although Trump secured multiple wins, he fell short of his promise of "so much winning."
After the Super Tuesday decline, Trump did recover. His odds hovered in the 70s during mid-March. However, the cracks really began to show on March 28. Trump dropped by 30 points in eight days, putting him at below 50 percent odds for the first time since the beginning of the primaries. On March 29, Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager, was formally charged with misdemeanor battery regarding an earlier incident where he allegedly grabbed the arm of reporter Michelle Fields. Trump stood by Lewandowski, despite video evidence of the incident.
The trouble compounded on March 30 when Trump made controversial comments regarding abortion during an MSNBC town hall. He suggested that, during a Trump presidency, abortion would be outlawed and "some form of punishment" would be enacted for women who sought abortions. These comments, from which he attempted to backtrack, prompted outrage from both Democrats and Republicans.
Alongside Trump's March turmoil, prominent Republicans have waged their own anti-Trump campaign. The #NeverTrump movement, led by a unified batch of Republicans, even has its own super PAC. Trump has been the focus of a slew of negative advertising funded by organizations with Trump as their main focus. Rather than backing a specific alternative to Trump, this movement attempts to stop him from getting the number of delegates necessary for the nomination.
Although still the candidate with the best odds, bettors seem less certain that Trump will be the GOP nominee, likely due to the combination of these events. Despite his success in the primaries, the necessary delegate count remains elusive.
In order to secure the Republican nomination, a candidate needs 1,237 delegates before the July convention. While once pacing to hit this goal, Trump's momentum has slowed. Now the goal of 1,237 looks like a long-shot for any of the candidates.
The Trump campaign will undoubtedly battle its way to the end but might depart from the convention in Cleveland empty-handed. In this tight race, every primary until the convention will be critical.
Since his early-on delegate lead and primary wins haven't secured his path to the nomination, Trump's chance at becoming the Republican Party's candidate is no longer a safe bet for the prediction markets.
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"Why Trump Is No Longer a Safe Bet"