Just like a sporting event, presidential betting odds are set to reflect the likelihood an outcome occurs. If bookmakers view a candidate is unlikely to win, they will see long odds. Conversely, the favorites’ odds will be much shorter.
Betting on the 2020 presidential election winner is perhaps the most straightforward way to wager. Bookmakers assign lines to every candidate, and a bettor wins if his or her choice gets elected. President Trump, who is essentially guaranteed his party’s nomination due to widespread support from conservatives, is the favorite overall. For the past year, even through impeachment, most top sportsbooks have listed his odds around even money all the way to -150.
Until the Democrats settle on a nominee, top contenders such as Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren all saw odds north of +300. Because so much was to be determined on the Democrats’ side, a bet on the eventual presidential winner before the nominee is determined would pay out handsomely.
Betting who will win the Democratic nomination is also a popular politics gambling market. Since these wagers are only on who will face Trump – regardless if they go on to win the presidency – the odds are significantly shorter.
Unlike sporting events, where a line is set for a game that will come in the next day or week, political election odds are set for months – sometimes even years – ahead of an election. A candidate could start with long odds, see those slashed, then see them rise again – possibly multiple times in the span of a month. The race for the presidency also sees candidates end their campaigns entirely, even some that were viewed favorably by bookmakers.
U.S. presidential betting (and most politics betting in general) is similar to a futures bet such as wager on which team will win the Super Bowl or finish with the best record in the NBA, though a sports team is largely judged by wins and losses, and a presidential candidate can see their election odds improve or worsen on less tangible matters, such as endorsements or fundraising.
That’s why it’s important to follow Bookies.com for not just the latest odds, but what key performance indicators might mean for U.S. presidential bettors going forward.
Things to Watch For When Betting on the US Election
A novice sports bettor knows wins and losses alter odds, but a sharp bettor follows injuries, transfers and a host of other developments that can impact a team’s performance. The same goes for betting on the 2020 presidential election, though these moves can be harder to track. Along with presidential election betting odds, here are critical components of the 2020 presidential election you need to follow when considering a bet.
Politicians and celebrities have endorsed candidates in U.S. elections since the nation’s founding. If a voter views an influential person or politician giving the endorsement favorably, it could influence their vote. Americans now have more access to more influencers than ever, diluting the impact of an individual endorsement, but it still remains a major key to watch when considering presidential betting gambling odds.
That remains especially true of elected officials. For example, if a governor in a key swing state endorses a candidate, it means they may be willing to campaign directly for that candidate and possibly help them access resources for campaign rallies and other forms of campaign infrastructure such as field offices.
Endorsements also underscore momentum. No politician (or celebrity for that matter) wants to support a loser. An endorsement means that influencer sees their candidate has a path for victory. Those supporters tend to snowball, meaning just a few major endorsements in a short time can encourage more to follow suit. This gives, at the very least, the perception of a strong candidate. That in turn can influence their prospects – and their election odds.
Candidates love to tout any and all endorsements, proudly discussing them on the campaign trail and posting them on their election websites and literature. Check out a candidate's endorsement list when considering a bet, and also view odds on Bookies.com to see how those endorsements are calculated into 2020 presidential betting.
Polls remain the lifeblood of any candidate’s run – and a critical factor in presidential betting odds. Endorsements, debate performances, primary results and a host of other factors can influence poll respondents’ answers, but the results of the polls themselves have major impacts on how bookmakers view a candidate’s prospects.
Presidential election bettors will note shifts after most major polls are released. By and large, the odds tend to reflect these changes. A sharp bettor also knows that a strong debate performance, for example, could lead to a bump in the polls, and that they should place their bet quickly before their odds are slashed by the next poll.
Sharp political bettors also know a shift in poll results without a shift in betting odds could mean bookmakers are taking in a different set of information (or sharp money) that is seemingly going against the polling data. Polling remains a baseline for a candidate’s chance of success, but there are more factors in the process, some that may be harder to discern.
Still, bettors would be wise to follow major polls such as Quinnipiac, Mason-Dixon, Monmouth and reputable news organizations, among others. There are literally hundreds of types of political polls, but the most critical are favorability ratings (particularly for Trump) and preferred candidate (for the Democrats during the nomination process and for both the eventual nominee and Trump for the general election).
Worthwhile polls are released almost daily, so bettors should track these sources almost as closely as they check election betting odds.
American presidential elections arguably depend on money more than another other factor. A candidate’s war chest not only helps him or her promote their message before voters, it also shows the degree of support. Someone willing to give their money to a presidential contender is perhaps the most significant sign of being literally invested in a candidate.
Media outlets love to report a candidate’s money situation, particularly in the context of their campaign’s success, and candidates themselves must disclose, line-by-line, their income and expenditures quarterly. A particularly successful (or unsuccessful) fundraising haul makes headlines and goes a long way into how bookmakers view presidential election odds.
Both Republicans and Democrats will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the 2020 presidential election alone, so a well-funded campaign is essential to not just secure a nomination but win the presidency. A sharp political bettor always checks a candidate’s finances before placing a wager.
2020 US Presidential Candidates
Third-party candidates rarely crack single digits in U.S. presidential elections and haven’t won a single vote in the Electoral College in more than half a century. That means the winner of the 2020 election will be either the Republican nominee (Trump) or one of the remaining Democrats fighting for the party’s nomination.
Donald Trump: The incumbent president, Trump is the first modern commander-in-chief to never crack more than 50% approval in any reputable poll since taking office. At the same time, he has one of the highest support ratings among conservative voters of any Republican president, despite (or in part, because of) his impeachment. This dichotomy is a microcosm of his first three-plus years in office and lays the groundwork for what 2020 election bettors should expect. Trump’s odds at a second four-year term depend almost entirely on getting enough Republican support (and voters) in key battleground states that it overcomes his high disapproval marks among Democrats and independents.
Other Republicans: Incumbents almost never see any type of challenge from within their own party, and Trump’s tight grip on conservative voters makes this less likely than ever. Token opposition for the Republican nomination is already fading. There will be no legitimate challenge to Trump’s re-nomination.
Trump’s nomination as the 2020 Republican candidate is secure, but his Democratic challenger is very much undetermined. The months-long nomination process for the Democratic nominee presents a fascinating opportunity for political bettors. It will also go a long way in bookmakers’ odds for the 2020 presidential winner.
Joe Biden: The former vice president under Barack Obama was the clear front runner for most of the 2020 campaign until stumbles in early nomination states put his whole campaign in jeopardy. He still carries high name recognition and support among key voting blocs, but with both his polls numbers and campaign resources dwindling, Biden may very well see his odds rise and his prospects fall, even if his reputation helps him stays in the race for a while longer.
Bernie Sanders: An unabashed progressive, the Vermont senator has built his reputation (and voter base) championing causes considered on the far left of the American political spectrum. The self-described Democratic Socialist’s message of a political revolution has alienated voters on the right (and some in the center), but his rabid support on the left made him a leading candidate in the eyes of bookmakers.
Upcoming Pivotal 2020 Election Dates
- Late April Primary, April 28 | Most party nominations are secured by late April, but a close race could put a spotlight on primaries in New York (274 delegates) and Pennsylvania (186). Fellow northeastern states Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware also hold primaries that day, which could not only establish a nominee, but shore up support in a region that has been critical to Democratic candidates in recent decades.
- Democratic National Convention, July 13-July 16 | Democrats from across the country will converge on Milwaukee for the formal selection of their party’s nominee. Under the primary system, the selection is now typically a formality, but election bettors should pay close attention in case there is a contested nomination (no one with enough delegates to win on the first ballot), especially if none of the candidates hold a sizeable lead in delegate counts.
- Republican National Convention, Aug. 24-Aug. 27 | There should be no such drama in Charlotte when the GOP nominates Trump for a second four-year term. The tone and tenor of the convention, however, could help foreshadow the nature of Trump’s campaign against the Democratic nominee, something worth watching for general election bettors.
- Presidential Debates, Late Fall | The trio of presidential debates are among the most important determinants. A debate in and of itself isn’t typically enough to win (or lose) an election, but they can go a long way in polls and fundraising, two key components to how bookmakers lay odds.
- Election Day, Nov. 3 | The end of a race that began with Democratic campaign announcements nearly two years earlier. Except a wide open and riveting finish.
Betting Tips for the 2020 US Presidential Election
With Americans unable to place legal bets on any political race, they will have to be content following along with developments and voting in their state’s nominating contest. For bettors outside the U.S. looking to place a wager on the 2020 presidential election, here are the best betting tips for presidential betting to keep in mind before putting money down on a candidate.
Timing is Critical
As any sharp knows, a good bet isn’t necessarily on who will win but the value that bettor receives. The grueling presidential campaign process sees massive betting odds fluctuation for all contenders.
It’s almost impossible to predict which way the lines will go ahead of time, but there are key trends to monitor. Though campaigns famously can flip after one bad quote or photo, much of what makes or breaks a candidacy is scheduled ahead of time. Track debates, earning reports and major polls released before primaries, all of which are planned in advance.
A politics bettor that thinks a candidate is going to do show well in any of these areas should place a bet before they happen. Conversely, if a bettor believes a candidate will do poorly in these areas but still is a good bet overall, they should wait until afterward to place their wager. Like a smart investment in the stock market, 2020 presidential election bettors should buy a candidate’s prospects when odds are undervalued.
Bet on the Electoral College, Not Popular Vote
America’s elections take fundamental differences to the parliamentary-style process in most English-speaking countries. Parties don’t select a candidate, but they instead accrue delegates through a state-by-state nomination process, with the eventual recipient of the most delegates earning the right to go to the general election.
In another key difference, the general election isn’t determined by raw popular votes, but by the Electoral College. Each of the 50 states is given a number of Electoral College votes based off its population, and the winner is the person who secures 270 (or more) of those votes. So while national polls may show an advantage for one candidate or another, the election will be decided by who wins the most votes in a specific set of states.
In 2016, and likely the 2020 election, those were in the American Midwest, most notably Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. With the majority of Electoral College votes essentially decided due to heavy partisan leans in most states, bettors shouldn’t concern themselves with national trends, but look at polls, fundraising and support in that key handful of undetermined states.
Primaries Aren’t General Elections
It can’t be reiterated enough that primaries are for a party’s nomination not the general election. While primary wins are good to track for bets on the party nominee, it’s important to understand that that a candidate can gain overwhelming support in their party’s state nomination contest but have almost no chance in that same state’s general election.
For example, the winner of the South Carolina Democratic primary has that victory as a way to show the nationwide Democratic base that they are the best candidate for their party. However, the South Carolina Democratic primary winner (likely Biden) has virtually no shot carrying that state in the general election due to its overwhelming partisan lean toward Republicans.
Again, just because someone touts support, no matter how lopsided, in a party primary, it doesn’t have much of an impact on the general election. Sharp bettors need to familiarize themselves with current partisan makeups and realize that in most states intraparty support means very little in the general election.
Oprah, Katy Perry, The Rock and other celebrities might make for a fun bet, but they are never good wagers, no matter the odds. People may point to another celebrity-turned-president in Donald Trump following his improbable run to the White House, but his campaign still withstood the 18-month crucible of a presidential run.
It is too late at this point in the 2020 election cycle to seriously challenge for the presidency, meaning there will be no surprises of that magnitude this year, no matter how famous that individual may be. Regardless the odds, reject any off-the-wall bet for a celebrity candidate - or anyone else not declared for the race.