A few months ago, I discovered this betting proposition listed at one of the most popular offshore betting Web sites. At the time, the moneyline price was "Republicans +185."
This means if I'm right that a Republican is elected president in November, I'll win $185 in profit for every $100 wagered. In other words, I'm getting almost 2-1 odds on my money.
As of last week, the payback on a Republican winning the White House had decreased to +155. That's still about 3-2 odds. I consider that to be a spectacularly attractive wager. Note: Betting on the presidential election is not legal in Nevada, the state where I reside. The proposition is available only at some offshore betting Web sites.
So come November 4, 2008, I plan to sit in front of my home television with a wide mix of emotions and several intoxicating beverages. Just as in past years, I expect to be outraged beyond printable words by the election returns. At the same time, I expect to fatten my gambling bankroll with a bet on the winning candidate.
Okay, an explanation is in order. I do this sort of thing a lot. Call it a specialty or a sickness - take your pick.
I bet on national elections. South American soccer matches. Academy Awards ceremonies. This has nothing to do with being "in action." Forget the NFL or NBA, which are far more popular as far as wagering goes.
I'd much prefer to get my money down on something that doesn't involve a bouncing ball, a grass-eating animal or a shady referee. Of course, given the most recent American presidential contests, election returns coming out of Florida and Ohio make last year's NBA scandal look like a choir practice.
I know what you're thinking. I'm wrong. I'm crazy. How can the Republicans possibly retain the presidency in 2008? The economy is a mess. Both wars are a ceaseless sinkhole of lives and national treasure with no exit strategy. Gas costs over $4 a gallon. People are losing their jobs and even their homes.
The current sitting President, a Republican, has the lowest approval rating since Watergate. And the Republican Party is about to nominate a 71-year-old senator who is essentially running on a platform of "more of the same."
How can I possibly recommend betting on the Republicans? You want a list of reasons? Here you go:
1) Democrats Divided. The Democratic Party is now divided and will remain so for some time. Ignore all the forced smiles and hearty handshakes you'll see at the Democratic National Convention coming in August. The primaries were a bloodbath.
Badly divided parties never win in November (recall the divided Democratic Party losing in 1968, 1972, and 2000, and divided Republicans losing in 1976). Many Hillary Clinton supporters have vowed to withhold support for - and will perhaps even vote against - Barack Obama in the general election.
Some polls have shown up to 25% of Clinton supporters will actually vote for John McCain. Even if half of them follow through, that's disastrous for Obama in the general election.
2) Trouble in Swing States for Obama. Recent poor showings in Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia Democratic primaries prove Obama has not yet attracted the support of the largest constituency of voters in America - working-class whites.
This is very bad news for a candidate who will desperately need blue-collar voters to win key swing states. Even California, which Democrats took for granted in the last four presidential races, is now in play for the Republicans. Obama lost by nine percentage points to Clinton in the Democratic primary.
3) Seniors. McCain will win America's senior vote by a wide margin. Seniors constitute one of the largest voting blocs in America. Their backing is critical in swing states such as Florida. Obama has struggled to win the support of seniors in most Democratic primaries.
Old attitudes do not change. Obama will surely win support from younger voters. But youth turnout is never anywhere near what's projected by optimists. Old people vote. Young people don't. This is more bad news for Obama.
4) The Race Card. It's an ugly thing to bring up, but don't tell me that race doesn't matter. It does. It's a disgrace that some Americans - far more than will admit it to pollsters - refuse to vote for a person of color.
Let's see... we've had 232 years of old white men running the country. Now, a black man is about to be nominated by a major party. Millions of closet racists with old-fashioned attitudes are not ready for that kind of drastic "change."
5) Slinging Slime. The Republican slime machine will have plenty of ammunition to sling this year. Consider this: If far-right political action groups made Sen. John Kerry, a bona fide war hero who served honorably in Vietnam, out to be a traitor to his country in the previous election, think of what they are going to with Obama's budding negatives.
Don't tell me these gutter tactics don't work. They do. Willie Horton, Swift Boat Veterans and gay marriage scares are all one has to bear in mind to fully comprehend what tips the balance in national elections.
6) The Vetted Candidate. McCain has already been vetted. Obama hasn't. "Vetting" is a term which means the candidate has already passed a certain litmus test.
For all of McCain's personal vulnerabilities (flip-flopping on key issues, deserting his former wife, alleged extramarital affairs, the Keating Five scandal) there are apparently no skeletons left in the McCain closet. They've all already been exposed, in both the 2000 and 2008 national elections.
Unfortunately for Obama, his dirty laundry is now being displayed. It doesn't matter if allegations against Obama are actually true, or not. What does matter is public perception. Obama's vulnerabilities will keep him on the defensive. And Republican strategists are sure to keep Obama off-topic from his message of change and inspiration.
One of political strategists Karl Rove's most memorable quotes, sure to be adapted as a guideline in the upcoming campaign, is, "If your opponent is constantly explaining, he's losing."
7) Independents. McCain appeals to independent voters. Conservatives might still not fully trust McCain. But they will vote for him over a Democrat.
Where McCain polls particularly well is with independent voters, which make up about one-third of the electorate. It doesn't seem to matter that McCain has now abandoned many of the policy positions that made him such an attractive figure to moderates as a U.S. senator.
He's still viewed as a "maverick" by millions. The media continue to buy into the so-called "Straight-Talk Express," which actually derailed eight years ago in his last presidential campaign.
8) Current Polls. Polls currently show McCain and Obama roughly tied in national findings. While I despise polls and pollsters (why does John Zogby have any credibility left after blowing the 2004 election forecast so badly?), I believe the recent numbers showing a split between the presumptive nominees to be an accurate reflection of political attitudes.
I also have some personal thoughts on this. Traveling around the country as I do, I run into many people who say they will never vote for Barack Obama. I don't hear those negative attitudes targeted toward John McCain.
9) The Raw Numbers. The electoral map favors McCain. Democrats desperately need Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and a few other key states to win. Obama currently has problems in all of these states.
Right now, I count Obama safe in states with 145 electoral votes. McCain is safe in states with 143 electoral votes. Even if Obama carries California's 55 electoral votes, he will also need to win at least two of three (Fla., Pa., Ohio) swing states, which is an underdog proposition at the moment.
10) The Disenfranchised Idiot Voter. Voters who are passionate about politics typically cancel each other out in national elections. Republicans, Democrats and Independents who align themselves with one single candidate over the course of the primary season, the general campaign and presidential debates routinely break evenly about 45-45% in their voting.
This leaves about 10% of the electorate - more often than not comprised of apolitical, disenfranchised flocks of morons - to decide the election.
Consider this: Why do both parties so often run the most simple-minded campaign ads late in the campaign? Why do Republicans often run attack ads that prey on fear? Their hope is to win over the last dregs of the ignorant ranks - those who have not yet made up their minds yet despite months of candidate exposure and political coverage.
Sadly, this is a target group that often decides the outcome of many elections. They went for Bill Clinton twice. They went for George W. Bush twice. This time, I predict they will break in McCain's favor.
To summarize: Obama is struggling with working-class whites, seniors and within his own party. He has proven problems in key states he needs to win. He is an inviting target for political attacks. Yet a Democrat is favored to win the White House. What am I missing?
Strictly as a wagering proposition, the most compelling reason to bet on the Republicans now is that you will almost certainly be able to buy back a ticket on the Democrats later, and get what's called "a middle."
After the customary bounce following the Republican National Convention and polls show the race tightening up to a statistical dead heat, proper odds will evolve, which is about even money.
Locking in +155 now with a potential -110 wager on the Democrats later means a 45-cent middle. Of course, I'm holding all my Republican tickets for the reasons listed above.
This is a bet I hope to lose. I would love to be wrong. I've never wanted to lose a bet so badly as this one. John McCain is no friend to poker players or gamblers.
Many have predicted that if Sen. McCain wins the presidency, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) will not only be written into the federal code, a Republican-led Justice Department will continue to persecute the online gambling community and advertisers through threats of fines and prosecution.
With John McCain in the White House, George W. Bush might as well be elected to a third term. It's going to be déjà vu all over again. And I'll be the most miserable gambler in America with a winning wager.
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