Roger L. Simon

Will Rubio Surprise in Iowa? Ask the Bookies

You wouldn’t know from listening to the pundits on Fox News, who yammer on constantly that the Republican nomination is down to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but, according to mostly British bookmakers, it’s Marco Rubio, not Cruz, who is in second place on the Republican side, sometimes substantially. Actually, Rubio is coming in third overall for the presidency behind Hillary and Trump and just ahead of Sanders, with the Texas senator in fifth place on most gambling sites.  For details, you can find 25, count ’em, 25 bookies here.

So what’s up with that?  The Brits and other bookmakers are down with the Establishment, aka GOPe?  (Actually Rubio is considerably more conservative than Trump and roughly equal with Cruz in most areas, but I’ll play along with the conventional rhetoric for the moment.) No, it’s safe to say the bookies are down with one thing only — money.  And they tend to be right on their odds more often than not, otherwise they’d be out of business.  Evidently, they’re not.

And if you think they’re not paying attention to what’s going on this side of The Pond, the recently semi-announced Michael Bloomberg is already in 7th position with most outfits, rapidly edging ahead of floundering Jeb Bush. I scanned the lists to see what the good bets might be. (Hey, I’ve been covering the campaigns, so I should know, right?… Wrong.) Nevertheless, Ben Carson is at 560-1… not bad.  I might take a flyer on that for twenty quid.  (The same site has Al Gore at 664-1.  Not sure if they factored in the recent snow storm.)

I’ll leave aside for the moment why the bookies still have Hillary a solid number one — maybe they tapped Loretta Lynch’s private line — and speculate on why they give the back of the hand to Sean Hannity, et al. and see Marco as the top threat to Trump at this moment.

The main reason may be simple.  Rubio is doing the best against Hillary in head-to-head polls and the bookies are figuring Republicans will eventually start thinking pragmatically and vote for the candidate most likely to win.  Moreover, Marco is an attractive, young candidate — the JFK thing.  Bookmakers tend to go with the obvious.  If Djokovic has won the last three Grand Slams, they’ll go with Djokovic, if he hasn’t broken his leg. And then there’s the all-out war between Trump and Cruz.  One will fall.

The bookmakers evidently are not overly concerned — at least not enough to affect the odds heavily — with Rubio’s position on immigration, which seems to be his Achilles heel with some primary voters. They don’t trust him on it.  Who knows how high he would fly if they did?  (Note to Marco: Come out strongly against illegal aliens ever getting voting rights.  That’s the heart of the matter.  The rest is window dressing.  As for the mass deportation, everyone knows it’s never going to happen.)

Another thing that may have kept Rubio floating higher (at least in the gambling world) is that he hasn’t jousted much with Trump lately — never a good idea. Donald has shown himself to be the greatest master of the fatal put-down in modern politics. Marco, wisely, tends to attack ISIS, Hillary, and Cruz more. Also, Rubio has lately taken a sunnier approach on the campaign trail that seems to be working.

Is the Florida senator rushing toward a last-minute Iowa caucus surprise as Santorum did in 2012 when the Pennsylvania senator jumped from 7% to 24% in a week?  Who knows? Pollsters have a record of being way off in Iowa.  I’m excited to be going there to cover the caucuses because they are so mysterious.  I even bought a new warm fedora for the occasion.  (As some commenters have noted, the old one was getting pretty ratty.)  Still, I won’t make any predictions, but I will say this — if I have to choose between the pundits, the pollsters and the bookies, I’m no idiot. I’ll go with the bookies.

(Artwork created using multiple AP and images.)