It’s been almost four months since I last wrote about the Democratic Presidential race. There have been dropouts, new entrants and major changes. Kamala Harris dropping out did come as a shock to many, myself included, but it was clear that her campaign was on the wane and her chances of winning the nomination were slim.
Michael Bloomberg has finally entered the race and may prove to be a formidable candidate, especially if gets a chance to debate in the 7th Democratic Debate on January 14th (for which the qualifying criteria has not yet been released by the Democratic National Convention).
So far in these updates, I have focused on the national polling from Realclear Politics available here and the implied odds probability from Betfair Exchange here . I will continue to use these as I believe this lends consistency and allows a clear way to track progress and change in individual candidate’s campaigns and momentum.
However, I will now also reference individual state polling, also from Realclear, when I dig down deeper into each candidate’s update below. The early state polling for places like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada is a valuable resource that can help paint a broader, yet more accurate picture, of the candidate’s potential success.
I just want to highlight that I have always ranked the candidates by their implied probability from their betting odds, but I have in this case excluded Hillary Clinton (who is currently wedged between Andrew Yang and Michael Bloomberg) as she is not currently running.
Amy Klobuchar (Implied Probability: 2.8% / NEW (Polling 2% - 5%):
Klobuchar has never yet figured in the top seven but has benefited from qualifying for the 6th debate which took place last night on the 19th of December. By many accounts, she was also the strongest performer of the night. It would be the perfect time to get a campaign boost and with a strong showing in the 7th debate, she could potentially be a serious contender for the Iowa caucus on Monday, February 3rd.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 3.1% / -0.6% (Polling 2% - 6%):
He has hardly moved in polling or probability, but he has stuck in there, outpolling supposedly more serious candidates like Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard. I really can’t see him winning at this stage, but I am very, very curious as to where his eventual endorsement will go.
Michael Bloomberg (Implied Probability: 9.5% / NEW (Polling 3% - 7%):
A big political beast who has entered the race quite late on but has immediately jumped into 5th favourite. A billionaire and a two-term Mayor of New York, he has massive name recognition and may be seen as a counterweight to the more radical left-wing candidates like Sanders and Warren, but with experience and a professionalism that Buttigieg and Biden struggle with respectively.
As I mentioned in the summary, he needs to get into the 7th debate but if he manages to and does well, I believe he can win the nomination.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 10.6% / +5% (Polling 5% - 13%):
Buttigieg is the perfect candidate to illustrate the point that national polling alone is not enough to get the full picture of a candidate’s prospects. He very rarely polls above 10% nationally (the 13% poll I have referenced in his polling range is a bit of an outlier). However, he currently leads in Iowa polling and is second in New Hampshire, which has its primary on February 11th.
I think he needs to win one of these two. Winning an early state contest counts for an awful lot but coming second doesn’t, even if the votes are basically designated proportionally. Without an early win, I fear his campaign will flounder.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 16.1% / -15.6% (Polling 12% - 18%):
Warren has had a tough four months since my last update on the race. Warren has definitely struggled in that period. In late August, she was the markets’ clear favourite to win. Since then, her chances have halved while she has dropped from 1st to 3rd favourite. That said, her polling range has only marginally decreased from 14% - 20% to 12% to 18%.
She has still had some good moments in debates and stump speeches, but she struggled badly with the enhanced media scrutiny and attacks from rivals that come with being the frontrunner. Without that added pressure, she may again start to slowly creep up in polling.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 16.1% / +2.9% (Polling 13% - 25%):
Sanders had a heart attack on October 4th. In the aftermath it felt to many that this was effectively the end of his campaign. It was assumed that this would further add to the perception of him being too old and fragile to be the President of the United States.
However, soon after, he procured the endorsement so Congresswomen Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and has since campaigned with vim and a vigour that has defied his critics. He is second in Iowa and leading in New Hampshire, though is well behind Joe Biden in both Nevada and South Carolina.
If he comprehensively defeats Warren in each of these four states, she may withdraw and could perhaps endorse him. This isn’t likely yet but may be his best chance of catching Joe Biden.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 31.7% / +7.3% (Polling 23% - 32%):
Biden is back on top in terms of betting as well as polling (which he has led from day one). I am beginning to be a bit more bullish on his chances and think a ~30% implied probability is a bit too low. Yes, he makes gaffes and isn’t a very slick debater but he has constantly polled first and there is no evidence that this will fall drastically.
His biggest threat is that one candidate wins both Iowa and New Hampshire and then he goes into the Caucus (February 22nd) and the South Carolina Primary (February 29th) trailing. Even if that was the case, he has a large lead in both currently and this would not be a fatal blow. This is the first update where I genuinely see him as not only the current leader but also as the candidate who indisputably has the best chance of winning the Democratic nomination.
I had intended to write this in the immediate aftermath of the second round of the Democratic Debates, hosted by CNN, which took place on July 30th and 31st. However, I got a little distracted by summer and other events which means the last update is now almost two months old.
There was serious movement in that update where the field went from having two main frontrunners in Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to flattening out to five serious candidates, with Warren, Harris and Buttigieg joining. That first set of debates were very damaging for Biden who looked his age and was hammered by Kamala Harris (in what was almost certainly a pre-meditated attack) on his actions on race in the past.
What started then and has continued now is the rise and rise of Elizabeth Warren in the betting markets and polls. In this collection of blogs, I have always ranked by the implied odds from the betting markets which has been at considerable variance with the raw data from the polls. Warren has risen in both and is now basically joint second in the polls with Bernie Sanders (though individual polls very greatly) while she is now the bookies’ favourite after two very strong debate performances.
The next set of debates are set for September 11th and 12th and I will be closely following these as, so far, only ten candidates have qualified so there should be more speaking time and some serious rises and falls, based on performance.
Cory Booker (Implied Probability: 2% / NEW (Polling 1% - 4%):
Cory Booker has down well in the debates without yet getting the rewards in the polls. I still believe he can have his “time” with the media, and I can easily see him move into the low double digits with a break performance and become a serious contender.
It hasn’t happened for him yet but as the race moves forward and candidates drop out, it’s much better to get the momentum later on. He may also be deemed as an attractive unity candidate by the Democratic Party.
I think he offers a lot more value than Harris, who I would place him in the same grouping as, and I think his rise may come at her expense later on.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 3.7% / -0.1% (Polling 1% - 3%):
Andrew Yang baffles me every time I write about him. He is incredibly stable and consistent with hardly any change in his polling or odds. He didn’t have a particularly good second debate and while he may not drop out of the top seven after the third round, I really can’t see him break the top five.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 5.6% / -6.3% (Polling 3% - 8%):
He’s dropped a place; his polling is lower, and his odds are longer but none of this is fatal to Buttigieg’s chances. He’s definitely in a bit of a lull and there are criticisms that he is more style than substance but, on the other hand, I do think he can benefit from staying in the race, building his policy platform and communicating that to the Democratic electorate as the field narrows and each candidate gets more screen and debate time.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 11.4% / -11.3%) (Polling 5% - 8%):
Harris had a fantastic first debate which propelled her to the top of the pile but then fell flat in the second debate which has seen her fall back. I think she is a little flat and doesn’t deliver consistently when the cameras are on her.
Harris can win the candidature and I expect her to last quite far into the process but must find that spark needed to really connect with a large part of the Democratic electorate as she is still not breaking 10% in any of the recent polls.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 13.2% / +2.6%) (Polling 10% - 20%):
Sanders is holding steady in second with Elizabeth Warren in joint second but, since late April at least, he has been on the wane while her star has risen.
Their combined vote is enough to overtake Biden but it remains to be seen if they will continue to gradually expand the Left proportion or eventually turn on each other.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 24.4% / +4.0%) (Polling 19% - 33%):
Biden recovered well in the second debate and despite being attacked from everywhere, he was able to parry off most the attacks.
He remains well ahead in the polling, though his lead is no longer insurmountable. It would be foolish to discount him and if the field below him continue to be divided quite evenly then he could easily do well in the early states and look like a presidential candidate in waiting.
Equally, he could continue to drop further gaffes and slowly fade away…
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 31.7% / +15.6%) (Polling 14% - 20%):
Warren is riding on the coattails of two great debate performances and is probably now just slightly ahead of Sanders and there is a good chance she consolidates the Left vote and then looks to eclipse Biden in the polls.
Even though she eventually endorsed Clinton in 2016, she is probably too far to the Left for many mainstream Democrats who may be happy to have her in the race now to split the vote between her and Sanders but who may then work against the eventual champion of that side of the party.
Having said that, if she performs well in the third debate, now that she has a much higher profile and may be the target of more attacks from across the field, then I believe she can eclipse both Sanders and Biden and become the frontrunner.
*Polling date taken from here
A lot has changed since the last update. There have been a few further new entrants, candidate’s campaigns have slowly waned while others are finally gaining momentum.
However, this week has been dominated by the first two Presidential debates, which took place over two nights on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, with ten candidates taking part in each.
These debates had plenty of talking points and have certainly moved the dial on a number of candidates. In each of the two debates, female candidates dominated while the more established, incumbent runners took some serious flak.
This has led to some dramatic changes in the rankings while one of the former favourites, Beto O’ Rourke has fallen out of the top seven and it looks like time is a serious contender has come to an end.
Furthermore, it has flattened out the race from two main contenders (Biden and Bernie) leading the way to what currently looks like a very competitive five way race…
Tulsi Gabbard (Implied Probability: 2.9% / NEW (Polling 1% -3%):
In my view, Tulsi Gabbard has always been an exciting, radical candidate with many traditionally contrarians American foreign policy views that are becoming more mainstream as the party drifts to the Left. She was one of the stars of the first night of the debate and had one of the highlights of either night when she lectured Tim Ryan on the America’s continued involvement in Afghanistan. She backed Bernie Sanders in 2016 and I think she will ultimately end up being a high profile endorsement of his again as we reach the competitive end of the campaign.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 3.8% / -1.3%) (Polling: 1% - 2%):
I wrote in the last update that;
“Yang has been remarkably consistent over the last six weeks. Despite polling on average at 1% and in 11th place, he remains in sixth place in the probability rankings. He needs to be do more and be heard by a larger proportion of the electorate if he is going to kick on from here.”
This remains the case and I am now very surprised that he has managed to stay in the top seven as he hasn’t really managed to further his audience. He did manage to pitch his key policy of a universal basic income in the debate, though I don’t think it has captivated the public imagination.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 10.6% / -9.2%) (Polling 13% - 27%):
It’s been a strange lull in the campaign for Bernie Sanders where he hasn’t had any major blunders but it’s impossible to shake the notion that his star has waned slightly. This is also reflected in the polling where instead of consistently polling second, he is now behind Warren in about half of the polls. It’s the most over rated piece of analysis on the Democratic race but it’s impossible not to ask why Bernie in particular, when you can get Bernie’s policies from about 3 or 4 other younger, fresher candidates who are less belligerent against the parties’ establishment?
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 11.9% / +3.6%) (Polling 4% - 9%):
Buttigieg has slowly and steadily increased his polling and is now undoubtedly a top tier candidate. That said, he didn’t particularly shine in the second debate (which was definitely the more competitive of the two) and he may need to launch a few policies in the short term to not only maintain the growth but also to re-capture some of the earlier excitement around his candidature.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 16.1% / +8.4%) (Polling 7% -19%):
Warren has arrived in a big way. She was already rising in the polls due to a number of exciting policies and a slicker, more authentic approach to the media but she then dominated the first debate and looked like a genuine, potential president. While I was previously sceptical, I now believe she can win and, for the first time, is now a serious, credible alternative to Bernie Sanders for many on the Left in Party.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 20.4% / -6.3%) (Polling 25% -38%):
Biden still has a massive lead in the polling (though his numbers will probably take a hit following this performance) but he looked rattled at points in the second debate and he was skewered by Kamala Harris when she turned on him and confronted him on his record on bussing earlier in his career. He did bite back that he has always tried to protect people and not a prosecutor but it was lost in the moment and it will now be interesting to see if he can reclaim the top spot or we’re already reached, and passed, peak Biden.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 22.7% / +14.2%) (Polling 5% - 8%):
Harris has jumped up two places to take the lead in the betting. This is mainly based on her strong performance last night though she has always been seen as a very strong candidate by many in the press. I think she is much more suited to questioning and debating then to stump speeches (where she sometimes fails to capture the crowd) and I imagine her campaign team are now wracking their brains trying to think of ways to build on her momentum between now and the next set of debates on CNN. I think this may include a number of interviews on the main talk shows that focus on her childhood and formative years in order to connect further with the wider electorate.
*Polling date taken from here
The biggest change since my last update has been Joe Biden entering the race. He has more than doubled his chances of being the next Democratic Presidential Candidate and six of the other seven candidates
Beto O’ Rourke (Implied Probability: 4.8% / -9.9%) (Polling 3% -6%):
I think O' Rourke's star has truly waned now. In the last update six weeks ago, I claimed that Pete Buttigieg offered a more dynamic, compelling alternative for Democratic voters looking for a fresh candidate who could appeal to a vast swathe of the Party's voters. When I googled O' Rourke today, the only headlines he had generated recently were articles about his regret over his Vanity Fair campaign launch. I think there is every chance he drops out of the top seven in the next few months.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 5.1% / -0.2%) (Polling: 1% - 2%):
Yang has been remarkably consistent over the last six weeks. Despite polling on average at 1% and in 11th place, he remains in sixth place in the probability rankings. He needs to be do do more and be heard by a larger proportion of the electorate if he is going to kick on from here.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 7.7% / +4.3%) (Polling 5% - 12%):
Apart from Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren has had the best time of it among the Presidential hopefuls since the last update. She has more than doubled her chances, moved up two places and her polling has increased significantly. I have said for a while that, despite some very interesting and innovative policy launches, she needed momentum. Warren's campaign now seems to have sparked a little and it will be interesting to follow if she can close the gap on Bernie Sanders and challenge him for the champion of the progressive side of the party.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 8.3% / -2.8%) (Polling 2% - 10%):
It appears as if Buttigeig is in this campaign for the long haul. He needs to continue to build his voter recognition levels and launch more policies. He is definitely focusing on the former and in the last three days alone, he appeared on Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert. I personally found this appearance a little cringey but Jimmy Fallon is definitely an influential media star for young, liberal voters in the United States. I do think he can do quite well in the debates if he makes it to them in a strong position but he'll need more substance to keep the momentum until then.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 14.7% / -6.1%) (Polling 5% -10%):
The second update in a row where Harris has dropped by a place. In my view, third looks about right for her at the moment. Harris is certainly a very strong candidate but can not be currently classed in the category as Bernie Sanders, yet alone Joe Biden. The upper end of her polling is similar to Buttigieg and Warren and it is in this second tier of candidates she should currently reside. She has recently started to work on her appeal to voters on the Left and she still has the potential to win, especially if she can take her home state California early on.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 19.6% / -1.7%) (Polling 11% -25%):
Sanders has continue to campaign well though last time my concern for his chances was "has had everything go right for him so far and avoided any major controversies but still never polls above Joe Biden". This was before Biden had formally entered the race. Now that he has, the gap has increased significantly and Sanders will have to lift his game even higher. He is a good speaker though and once he sees off the challenge from Warren on the left he may be able to frame it as Hillary 2.0 versus the Left.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 26.7% / +14.2%) (Polling 33% - 46%):
Biden is now the clear front-runner in almost every category. Polling, betting, endorsements and name recognition. In the last update, he was beginning to waver a little and I did wonder whether he would decide it wasn't worth it at all. However, he recovered from this slight flounder and he now has every chance of taking on Donald Trump in 2020. There is still an expectation that he may commit a few more gaffes and could throw it away but for now, the candidacy is Joe Biden's to lose...
*Polling date taken from here
There have been some significant changes since my last article a month ago. We have seen the 6th favourite at that time, Sherrod Brown, declare he is not running while Joe Biden has recently come under serious pressure for allegations of inappropriate touching, initially from Lucy Flores while six other women have since almost made claims.
At the suggestion of a previous reader I am going to add their performance from the most recent opinion polls (using this link for the polling data) to give a little more context and depth. This is very relevant for a candidate like Kamala Harris who has been the frontrunner, or very close to it, in the betting markets for quite some time without ever topping a poll.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 3.6% / -1.4%) (Polling: 4% - 8%):
Warren’s campaign is still struggling to come to life. She has tried to embrace a few radical ideas recently like backing moves to dissemble America’s tech giants into smaller companies. I really think she is in serious danger of being a nearly-ran. While the two candidates directly above her have much chance of dropping out of the top seven by next month, they have come from nowhere and are causing a stir. The challenge for Warren is that she has had every advantage starting off her campaign but is now barely making headlines.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 5.3% / New) (Polling: 1% - 2%):
I know very little about Andrew Yang but his campaign and approach have been very sleek and well timed. He is certainly targeting younger, more radical voters and if he can increase his polling slightly, he could make a stir in the early debates. However, I ultimately don’t think he will be a top tier contender and will be surprised if he stays in the top seven.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 11.1% / New) (Polling 1% - 4%):
The most interesting candidate in the field. Yes, I am slightly biased as his paternal ancestors hail from my current home, Malta, but he has so many facets to his candidacy. He is a gay Afghanistan veteran, Harvard and Oxford graduate who speaks seven languages. He is currently mayor of South Bend, Indiana. I highly recommend watching this short profile of him from the Tonight Show. I will be following him closely as, in my opinion, he is a much more interesting character than Beto O’ Rourke who also represents the “fresh face” of the Democratic Party’s 2020 candidates.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 12.5% / -3.6%) (Polling 26% - 33%):
Biden has had a horrific week for reasons I’ve mentioned already. He still hasn’t officially announced his intention to run but that is seen to be one of American politics’ worst kept secrets. However, these allegations will certainly have been food for thought for him and his advisors. He’ll probably have to try and reverse the damage in the next few weeks before announcing as I am certain he will not want to kick off his campaign in this cloud of controversy. There also still a small chance he decides it’s simply not worth running at all…
Beto O’ Rourke (Implied Probability: 14.7% / No Change) (Polling 5% -12%):
Since Beto announced his intention to run on the 14th of March he has managed to raise a significant amount without really exploding out of the tracks. There have been criticisms of the blandness of his key messages and I do wonder if he will really make his mark in the business end of this campaign. Incredibly, he is the exact same odds as he was a month, which is even more surprising given the other major swings.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 20.8% / -0.9%) (Polling 8% -12%):
She has fallen one place to second, but Harris is a big beast who many believe will go all the way. One of her major advantages is that her home state, California, has moved earlier in the campaign from June to March. If I was her campaign manager, I would still be slightly concerned by her polling numbers which are not really ticking upwards. However, I would still not bet against her and I think she will be there or thereabouts at the business end of proceedings.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 21.3% / +4.6%) (Polling 18% - 26%):
The bookies have him favourite and I think I agree. My one concern is that he has had everything go right for him so far and avoided any major controversies but still never polls above Joe Biden. However, he has raised the most funds, has a very strong online presence and has managed to prevent Elizabeth Warren eating into his vote (at the outset many progressives feared that if they both ran it would split the progressive vote). I have long backed Sanders and have grown more confident over the last month, but his age is such a massive disadvantage and I do worry he could struggle against younger candidates in the early primaries, especially in California. On the flip side if he starts strongly, and Biden’s star continues to wane, he could convince the Party that the electorate have moved to the left and it would be fatal not to support his candidacy for a second time.
Notable Others: It would be foolish to discount Cory Booker (3.3%)(2% - 4%), Tulsi Gabbard (2.9%)(1%) or Amy Klobuchar (2.5%)(1% - 3%) yet but Klobuchar in particular has dropped significantly. There are other candidates, but they aren’t making the impact required to be mentioned this time.
This is the first in a new series of articles I'm going to run in the race to become the Democratic 2020 Presidential candidate. I will rank the top seven candidates in order of implied probability from Betfair Exchange. Implied probability gives the % chance of an event occurring based on the odds. I prefer using the exchange as it is more fluid and reflects changes more accurately.
I will try to write a new article quite regularly (but at least thirty days apart) and I will highlight how the candidates have moved both positionally and from a probability perspective. To keep it exciting I'll write from least to most likely to become the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate. Despite the fact that more than 10 candidates have already announced, with another ten or so actively exploring, I will keep it at the top seven so I can focus more on each one. Naturally, the candidates with the highest percentage will dominate the majority of the post. When the race gets close to the finale, the number of candidates will have whittled down to a handful but for now it is a massively open and competitive field.
7: Elizabeth Warren (5%):
Warren announced her campaign on February 9th. She was one of the first Democratic heavyweights to do it and it was expected she would rapidly become one of the favourites, competing with Bernie Sanders on the progressive side of the party. However, it simply hasn't happened for Warren so far. She doesn't seem to have the charisma on the campaign trail and if she doesn't gain some momentum soon, this once very promising campaign is set to fail before it ever really began.
6: Sherrod Brown (5.1%)
The sixty-six year old Ohio Senator was one of Bernie Sanders' strongest allies in the Senate but ultimately endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. He is seen as a potential unity candidate but hasn't announced if he will run yet. He is currently finishing his "Dignity of Work" tour which has seen him visit many of the most important early primary and caucus states.
5: Amy Klobuchar (5.9%)
The Minnesota Senator announced she would run a day after Elizabeth Warren on February 10th. She is seen as a tough, no-nonsense candidate who could garner the support of the Democratic Party elites while being competitive in "purple" states like her own Minnesota. There have been accusations of bullying from former members of her staff which may haunt her moving forward.
4: Beto O'Rourke (14.7%)
At the moment we have a "Big Four" in terms of probability. Beto is one of the rising stars of the party. Up until a few weeks ago he was the favourite but his delay in announcing his bid has been seen by some as indecision after a meteoric rise in profile following a very close defeat to Ted Cruz for a Texas Senate seat in the November midterms. If he does announce and gathers some momentum, he could easily become the front-runner.
3: Joe Biden (16.1%)
The two-time Democratic Vice President is loved by many on the Democratic side and even now before he has announced if he will run or not, leads almost every poll with approximately 25% to 35% of the votes. Though he is another candidate who could become the front-runner with a well-executed announcement, there is a still a significant chance he'll decide it isn't for him...
2: Bernie Sanders (16.7%)
To many, Bernie Sanders should have been the candidate to take on, and beat, Donald Trump in 2016. However, that campaign, and the grassroots success it had has undoubtedly pulled the party to the Left. The question is now whether Bernie Sanders is still the candidate that best represents democratic socialism in the United States in 2019 and 2020. His campaign has started well with large crowds and very impressive fundraising but it still remains to be seen whether his chance of being President of the United States has passed.
1: Kamala Harris (21.7%)
The front-runner. A Senator from California, she also served as the state's Attorney General from 2011 to 2017. She has almost everything going for her. A woman of mixed background, she embodies the diversity that many in the party want to see come to the fore, in direct contrast to candidates like Biden and Sanders. She was also very impressive in the Senate Hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The key questions that remain are can she compete on the campaign trail and is she progressive enough for the Democratic Party in 2020?
Notable Others: Cory Booker(4.8%) is very unlucky to miss out though having announced on Feb 1st, he will need to get moving up the chart soon. Tulsi Gabbard (4.2%) is an interesting candidate from Hawaii and who is very anti-war but I will be very surprised if she ever really becomes a key candidate in this race.