Against all odds, Donald Trump wound up staging arguably the biggest political upset in the history of American politics four years ago when he beat Hillary Clinton. On Election Day 2016, Clinton had higher than a 70 percent implied probability of winning the general election, with Trump facing incredibly long odds.
In spite of it all, Trump eked out a victory by the slimmest of margins. Seemingly every battleground state swung in the direction of the Republicans. In states like Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, a narrow majority of voters wanted to see what the political outsider would be able to accomplish following the eight-year term of Democrat Barack Obama.
Four years later, we’re back in the midst of an election cycle. While Trump has spent the majority of his four-year term in the White House as a betting favorite to win re-election, his odds have since cratered at political betting sites around the industry. As of this writing three days before Election Day, Trump is once again a sizable underdog.
Trump’s chances aren’t as poor as they were at this time in 2016, but the scales are again tipped in the direction of his opponent. Joe Biden has emerged as between a -180 and a -200 favorite to win the election at sites like:
Trump’s odds have slid down into the +150 territory. That’s a far cry from the +400 odds he was facing in ’16, but he is still up against it.
While some may jump at the chance to get an incumbent president seeking re-election at plus-money odds, I’m here to tell you why you’re better off setting that money on fire than wagering it on Trump to win a second term.
1. Polls Heavily Favor Biden
You probably remember what the polls said about the race between Clinton and Trump four years ago. Clinton was leading the polls in just about every battleground state, which is why Trump’s win came as such a surprise to so many.
What you may not remember is that the betting odds told a different story than those polls. While Clinton was a massive -300 favorite at a variety of betting sites by election day, the polls indicated the race would be much more competitive than that.
A lot of Trump’s hope stems from this.
Biden’s lead isn’t *quite* comfortable enough in PA.
And although he has some *good* backup plans if he loses PA… namely AZ/FL/NC/GA…he doesn’t have a *great* one being ahead only 1-3 points in those states.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 28, 2020
Take a look at some of the margins between the two candidates we had in the final days leading up to November 8, 2016, in a few swing states. Clinton led Trump by 6.5 percentage points in Wisconson. Clinton had a 3.6-point lead in Michigan. Clinton was up 2.1 points in Pennsylvania. Trump wound up winning all three. Based on those tiny margins, that was hardly unfathomable in retrospect.
Look at those same polls this year.
Biden is up 10.5 points in Wisconsin. Biden leads Trump by nine points in Michigan. The former VP also holds a five-point edge in Pennsylvania.
Can Trump turn those results upside-down? It’s possible. But the national polls tell a different story, too. Clinton led Trump 45.7 percent to 41.8 percent according to FiveThirtyEight at this time four years ago. RealClearPolitics’ latest polling average has Trump trailing Biden by 7.8 points nationally.
2. Trump Won’t Pick Up Extra States
Donald Trump has spent his four years in office largely pandering to his steady base of voters. While he does maintain consistent support among a large segment of the national voting bloc, he has largely failed to expand beyond that base. Trump won the Electoral College last time around despite losing the national popular vote by nearly three million.
To win, Trump essentially needs a repeat performance of his 2016 electoral showing. That means he needs to win Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina, and Ohio again. At this point, it’s impossible to look at polls and assume that Trump is going to do that again in 2020.
Martha McSally has done everything she can to appeal to Trump & his base
This is how he introduced her:
“Just come up fast. Fast. Fast. Come on. Quick. You got one minute! One minute, Martha! They don’t want to hear this, Martha. Come on. Let’s go. Quick, quick, quick. Come on” pic.twitter.com/3caQZaAmx9
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) October 28, 2020
BetOnline sportsbook has odds on whether Trump will lose every single state he lost in 2016. The odds favor Trump losing all of those same states at -240. That makes sense if you just look at the map. Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, and New Mexico are even more Democrat-leaning than they were four years ago. Virginia isn’t going anywhere. Illinois is the safest blue state in the midwest.
There just isn’t a blue state on the map that Trump can flip in this cycle, which means he has to pull off the same narrow win he did last time around. Given the odds, his chances of doing so are incredibly thin.
3. Trump Won’t Get The Same Miracle Results in Swing States
The president still has a strong chance at keeping some of the swing states red. In Florida and Ohio, for example, Trump is still a minus-money betting favorite. Can he win those states again in 2020? Certainly. In fact, election betting sites think he will.
The problem is that his odds of keeping other red states from turning blue are fading. Biden is a heavy favorite in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Biden has even emerged as a minus-money favorite in Arizona, a staunch Republican stronghold that has voted Democrat in just one presidential election since 1952. Arizona’s 11 votes are likely to go from Trump to Biden, which isn’t a good indicator of how things may go for POTUS on November 3.
Polls remain close in Florida and Ohio despite Trump being a slight betting favorite. If Florida flips for Biden, for example, Trump’s chances of getting to 270 are essentially dead. At that point, he would have to win every other swing state while also flipping a couple of states from blue to red. As we said previously, that just isn’t happening.
4. Trump is Overvalued by Oddsmakers
Let’s take MyBookie’s odds to win the presidency as an example. MyBookie has Trump as a +130 underdog to win, with Biden at -170. If you convert those odds, that means oddsmakers give Trump about a 44 percent chance of winning the presidency.
Polls and projections just don’t bear those numbers out, so it’s a bit curious that oddsmakers are so bullish on Trump’s chances. Let’s go back to the FiveThirtyEight numbers. Trump has a dreadful 11 percent chance at winning, per their mathematical simulations. Trump can still easily lose the election even if North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona happen to swing his way.
This is a very cool new interactive from @FiveThirtyEight. It lets you see how the odds change depending on who wins specific states.
— Ben Casselman (@bencasselman) October 21, 2020
Are betting sites covering themselves in the event that Trump pulls an unlikely upset again? Of course. Sites got trounced when Trump won last time, so it makes sense that they might look to improve his odds this time around so they don’t get burned quite as badly if he winds up winning again.
The odds and polls just don’t line up at all. If odds followed the polls, Biden would be a massive -805 favorite, while Trump would be priced in the +810 range. You’re simply not getting proper bang for your buck with Trump with the way oddsmakers have set the numbers.
5. No October Surprise This Time
Trump has tried everything within his power to try and drum up an “October surprise.” In late October of 2016, FBI Director James Comey torpedoed the election when he announced that the FBI was reopening an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.
Clinton’s favorability numbers were already low, and Comey’s late announcement effectively helped put Trump over the top. Four years later, no such revelations have come out about Biden.
Trump complaining about the media not covering the Hunter Biden stuff as he wishes: “You can’t have a scandal if they don’t report it.”
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) October 30, 2020
Trump and his associates have tried to stir up a scandal around Biden’s son, Hunter, but people aren’t taking the bait this time around. These are the actions of a desperate candidate that knows he likely can’t win on his own. So, he has to try and flood the zone with as much muck as possible to try and taint the public opinion of his opponent.
It hasn’t worked to this point, and it’s hard to imagine anything damning comes out about Biden between now and next Tuesday. If Trump actually had anything worthwhile, he would have tried it by now.
Nearly 80 million Americans have already voted as of this writing, and we’re likely to see record-shattering turnout numbers across the country by the time the polls close on Tuesday. Even if Trump did wind up coming up with something to hurt Biden’s chances, enough damage to his own re-election chances has likely already been inflicted.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu …