UK Sportsbooks See Marco Rubio and Donald Trump Surge
After the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday, the odds for both Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio winning the GOP nomination for president have lowered. In the case of Senator Rubio, his odds have decreased by a whopping 40%.
Prior to Saturday, Sen. Marco Rubio was listed as a +200 underdog to win the Republican nomination, according to William Hill and Bet365. On Sunday, after Rubio finished in 2nd place in South Carolina by less than a percentage point, the UK sportsbooks placed Rubio’s odds at +125.
Marco Rubio Seen as the Main Rival to Donald Trump
The change is due to two factors. One, Rubio finished ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. South Carolina was said to be a perfect battleground for Ted Cruz, because of the large percentage of evangelical Christians expected to vote there. For Sen. Cruz to lose by even a small amount is a considerable upset for Rubio. The consensus is the Florida senator has the best chance to defeat Donald Trump in the primaries.
Two, a disappointing 4th place finish for Jeb Bush in South Carolina was a death blow to the former Florida governor’s campaign. On the night of the primary, Jeb Bush announced he would suspend his campaign. The elimination of Bush leaves only one other candidate as a potential “Establishment” option: Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. Most do not see the old-fashioned Kasich as the kind of candidate who will draw mass support in the atmosphere of 2016.
Rubio Gets Establishment Support
Thus, the Republican establishment is likely to flock to Marco Rubio. The impact of Jeb Bush’s departure from the race should allow money to flow into the Rubio campaign. It also means the 7.8% of (South Carolina) voters who voted for Jeb Bush are likeliest to vote for Marco Rubio.
If that holds in the upcoming Super Tuesday vote on March 1, then Rubio’s 30% of the GOP electorate would place him within striking distance of Donald Trump. If John Kasich left the race anytime soon, it might mean another voting bloc of 7% to 8% might coalesce around Marco Rubio.
Marco Rubio’s Path to Victory
Therefore, if the conventional logic is right and few of those voters are likely to vote for Donald Trump, Rubio would be in a position to surge ahead of Trump in later votes. There are two problems with that logic, though.
One, John Kasich shows no sign of leaving the race. Until he does, it appears that Rubio is going to continue to lose votes to Donald Trump. At a point, an air of inevitability is likely to drive voters and political endorsements Trump’s way.
Two, the conventional logic has been wrong every step of the way in 2016. Donald Trump has swept aside all the predictions that voters would choose someone else when the votes became real. The idea was people would “date” Donald Trump, but marry someone else once it was time to make a real decision. That has not been the case.
Donald Trump’s Odds at -125
Donald Trump’s odds moved, though not nearly as significantly. He was trading at even-money before South Carolina. Now, William Hill and Bet 365 have him in the -125 range.
Given his impressive 1st place finish, one might have expected more, but Trump already was the betting favorite. Also, polls showed him well ahead in South Carolina, so the victory was no surprise. The betting odds already reflected the general idea he would win in South Carolina.
How Trump Continues to Win
Pundits are left to wonder how Donald Trump continues to draw the support he is drawing. He actually defeated Ted Cruz among evangelical Christians, which is astounding. Evangelicals say they care about social issues and morality, yet they are voting for a man who supported abortion for decades, gave donations to Hillary and Bill Clinton, boasted about adultery, and claims he has no reason to ask forgiveness.
Evangelical Christians in South Carolina claimed two things. One, they felt Donald Trump speaks the truth more often than Ted Cruz — to many, Sen. Cruz seems like a slick politician. Two, they believe Donald Trump on the immigration issue, which seems to be a core value with South Carolinians.
Cynics would say South Carolina evangelicals voted based on Trump’s race-baiting instead of their moral views. South Carolina voted Strom Thurmond into office from 1954 to 2003, despite (or because of) his staunch opposition to segregation. South Carolina also was the first state out of the Union during the Civil War, and flew the Confederate flag over the state capital until 2015.
Ted Cruz’s Path to Victory
Ted Cruz is hoping for a variation of Rubio plan. In his case, Sen. Cruz hoped Dr. Ben Carson leaves the race. Carson also polled at 7% in the South Carolina primary, and the Cruz faction believes those voters are likeliest to vote for their man. It was no coincidence they were recruiting Carson supporters at the Iowa caucuses.
If so, then Ted Cruz would be a few points behind Donald Trump. Cobbled together with support from a former Bush and Kasich voters and perhaps a few more evangelical Christians in other states, the idea is he could reach parity with Donald Trump.
These might be optimistic for both camps. Donald Trump continues to poll higher than Cruz and Rubio in most categories of Republicans. And even if one of them surges after Super Tuesday, Donald Trump might have too big of a lead for it to matter by then. He added 50 delegates in South Carolina, to 0 for all other candidates. The winner-take-all format of the Republican nomination process can be brutal.
Odds on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders
Hillary Clinton’s numbers did not change at William Hill or Bet365 after her win in Nevada. She remains at -500 at both sportsbooks. Bernie Sanders saw his odds increase from +350 to +400, as the consensus is he does not have the voting bloc to defeat the former Secretary of State.