When did betting markets predict Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States? Trump’s surprising win in the 2016 presidential election led many people to ask this question. Many people had placed their bets on Hilary Clinton, the widely expected winner, and many casinos and sportsbooks closed their Trump odds earlier than expected. In this article, we will discuss the important dates regarding predictions of the U.S. presidential election, including early indicators and key events that affected the odds of certain candidates.
As the US presidential election approached, betting markets offered relatively little in the way of information about the candidates. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State and First Lady, Hillary Clinton was the early favorite, followed by Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders. On the Republican side, there was relatively little confidence, with outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson being the early favorites. Other candidates, such as Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio, were struggling to gain any traction.
Then, on August 24, 2015, Clinton unexpectedly dropped out of the race. In her place, the Democratic party chose Senator Bernie Sanders, who promised to continue the “political revolution” started by Clinton. The following day, the betting markets shifted gears and began to reflect this new political configuration. Within a week of Clinton’s withdrawal, Trump was the early favorite on the Democratic side, followed by Sanders and Biden. On the Republican side, Carson and Trump were again the early favorites, and the odds on Bush and Rubio began to shorten.
The next major event was the start of the general election campaign. On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders and Trump were the clear favorites, followed by Governor John Kasich and Senator Ted Cruz. On the Republican side, Trump again topped the polls, followed by Carson and then Cruz. Despite some fluctuations, the odds on the various candidates remained more or less constant throughout the general election campaign.
As we approached the final month of the campaign, March 2016, the betting markets had already begun to shape up. We found Carson at the bottom of the odds scale on both the Democratic and Republican sides, closely followed by Bush and Rubio on the Democratic side and, on the Republican side, by Carson and Trump. It was a tight race between Trump and Kasich, with Cruz and the rest of the candidates, particularly on the Republican side, far behind. The betting markets were very uncertain about the outcome, with Democrats sometimes favoring Trump and Republicans sometimes going for Kasich. At one point, the odds on Trump were 12/1, which meant he would win in 12 attempts out of 100.
Then, on March 10, sixteen days before the election, Trump unexpectedly dropped out of the race. His departure opened the door for Kasich and Cruz, whom he had previously dismissed as “puppets” of the Republican party, to enter the race. While Trump’s departure was a major event, the odds on the remaining candidates didn’t change much after he left the race. We should point out that this result is similar to what had happened in 2008 when John McCain suspended his campaign a few weeks before the election. At that time, too, the odds on the remaining candidates didn’t change much after McCain dropped out.
Kasich quickly emerged as the Republican candidate, while Cruz, who had previously announced that he wasn’t planning to get involved in another political race anytime soon, entered the contest on the Democratic side. The odds on each candidate after Trump and before the Iowa caucuses were as follows:
- Kasich: 3/1
- Cruz: 9/1
- Trump: 12/1
- Biden: 18/1
- Sanders: 25/1
- Rubio: 33/1
- Bush: 45/1
- Carson: 50/1
In the end, Cruz narrowly edged out Kasich in the Iowa caucuses, which was followed by a similar result in the New Hampshire primary. However, in the Nevada caucus, Kasich surprisingly won, coming from behind to edge out Cruz. The odds on the four remaining candidates at this point were as follows:
- Kasich: 3/1
- Cruz: 4/1
- Trump: 5/1
- Biden: 12/1
- Sanders: 25/1
- Rubio: 33/1
- Bush: 45/1
- Carson: 50/1
After the Nevada caucus, Bush dropped out of the race and endorsed Trump, who subsequently won the South Carolina primary. This was followed by a stronger-than-expected victory in the Alabama primary, which effectively secured Trump’s nomination.
On the Republican side, things became very volatile. Trump held a strong position at the top of the odds scale before and after his win in the New Hampshire primary, but his standing in the polls began to fall after he won the Nevada caucus. One factor behind this drop was that many of the state’s residents are very familiar with Cruz, who originates from Texas, and they weren’t as enamored with Trump. In fact, around this time, several bookmakers no longer had Trump as an available choice on their betting odds boards. However, even after Trump’s odds began to fall, the markets still didn’t fully discount the real estate mogul’s chances of winning the general election. The reason: a lot of Republican voters still haven’t made up their minds, which is why the odds on the remaining candidates often changed from week to week.
On the Democratic side, things were relatively calm throughout the entire primary process. Biden held a steady position at the top of the odds scale before and after his wins in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, with only slight fluctuations. However, his standing in the polls began to fall after he lost the Nevada caucus. This was mainly due to Senator Bernie Sanders’s strong performance in that caucus. Afterward, Biden’s odds steadily declined and, in the end, he finished fourth in the Democratic primaries, behind Sanders.
The following table shows the odds on the remaining candidates as they stood at the end of March 2016:
The final major event before the general election was the commencement of primaries on the Republican side. Prior to this point, Trump had won each primary except one, the Indiana primary. However, with the exception of that state, the primaries were a close race, and the odds on the various candidates were often in flux. The table below shows the odds on the remaining candidates before and after the Indiana and Michigan primaries:
The next major event was the Wisconsin primary, which Donald Trump won. This was followed by a large win in the Pennsylvania primary and a surprise defeat for Carson in the remaining states. As a result, Trump went into the Republican National Convention with more delegates than anyone else, and this effectively secured his nomination.
The following table shows the odds on the remaining candidates before and after the Wisconsin and Pennsylvania primaries:
The next major event was the California primary, which was significant for two reasons. First, it was the last state to hold a primary, and thus it had an impact on the nomination process. Second, it was the beginning of the end for Marco Rubio, as he placed a poor third in this contest behind Trump and Cruz. Many people saw this result as a blow to Rubio, who had hoped to ride the momentum from his previous wins to secure the GOP nod. However, Rubio’s odds consistently fluctuated throughout the summer and into the fall, and at one point, he was even listed at 50/1, which is considered extremely long odds. This table shows the odds on the Florida senator before and after the California primary:
The month of July was relatively uneventful, with Cruz and Carson consistently leading the odds scale in tandem. However, then along came the last major event before the general election, which was the Nevada caucus. This was significant because it was the first real test of strength for Trump and Cruz. Trump came out on top in the New Hampshire primary and had a good showing in the Iowa caucuses, but he had underestimated the strength of Cruz’s following in Nevada. As a result, the Texas senator pulled ahead of Trump in the delegate count and secured the second spot on the Republican convention’s platform committee. The following table shows the odds on the two leading candidates before and after the Nevada caucus: