Bettors’ verdict: GOP could lose the House

Market Watch – by Brett Arends

Next year’s midterm elections for Congress are now a tossup between the Republicans and the Democrats, according to the betting at the Iowa Electronic Markets — the only sportsbook in America allowed to bet on U.S. elections.

Nancy Pelosi’s chances of leading the Democrats to a House majority have more than doubled in less than a month to about 50% as a result of the government-shutdown fiasco, according to betting on the exchange.  

And the Republicans, who appeared to have a lock on the elections just a few weeks ago, have seen their chances collapse at the same time.

Back in September, oddsmakers gave the Republicans a one-in-four chance of gaining seats, improving their overall control of the lower house. That’s now down to one-in-twenty. (The numbers sometimes don’t add up to 100% because of trading spreads.)

It all started to change when Ted Cruz stood up in the Senate and started reading “Green Eggs and Ham.” Then came the shutdown, the threat over the debt ceiling and the pitiful last-minute cave.

Betting markets can be a useful tool in trying to predict the outcome of future elections. They have a reasonable track record, though it gets much better the closer you are to the elections. There is a year to go before the 2014 midterms. And the districting in the House should give the GOP a cushion too. The Democrats will need to beat the GOP hands-down to take a lot of seats off them.

The Iowa Electronic Market is run by the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. The school got a limited exception to the federal laws against betting on elections because they set it up as a teaching tool, to study the predictive power of markets, and because the real-money bets are small (each account can bet a total of only $500).

Here’s a look at current bid and ask prices on the exchange’s “2014 Congressional Control Market.” The movements in the betting market show how badly the GOP have just messed up.

You couldn’t make this up.

For many years—from about 1965 to about 1994—the national Democratic Party acted in a manner which was largely consistent with the conspiracy theory that it was being secretly controlled by Republicans. How else to explain the party’s long-running series of self-inflicted wounds—such as the rancorous party conventions and the inept presidential campaigns?

Today the Republicans are behaving in a manner which would really only make logical sense if they were being secretly controlled by Democrats.

On Wednesday, as the House GOP folded, Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show: “I was pondering if I can ever remember a greater political disaster in my lifetime, if I could ever remember a time when a political party just made a decision not to exist for all intents and purposes.” When Republicans lose Limbaugh, well, it isn’t really a split-decision.

To lose one government shutdown inside of 20 years may be considered a misfortune. To lose two begins to look like carelessness

Brett Arends is a MarketWatch columnist. Follow him on Twitter @BrettArends.

4 thoughts on “Bettors’ verdict: GOP could lose the House

  1. I call BS on this… too many people have backed the Republicans over Democrats on the economy and Obama Care . Only the media has said the Republicans are in trouble. What sane person would want Nancy as Speaker of the House??? Some rep. may loose their chair to a third party or a demo may loose to a third party . But the Demo having a majority in both house??? no way. I will win a million dollar scratch off ticket before that happens…

  2. It really doesn’t matter who wins or loses the House. They are all the same bag of shit in different wrappers, with only a few exceptions.

  3. My dear old Grand dad was a bookie and I think he would have a good laugh at layers who let their own political sympathies influence the odds they offer.

    But has Rush not worked out that the Republicans are not being controlled by the Democrats but by the people who control Obama?

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