In case any of you have forgotten, this is a page about gambling. I also use it to discuss politics and celebrate the absolutely insane culture surrounding it, which comes easily to me due to the fact that I have the same priorities as most Senators: I want millions of people to worship me, an awesome haircut, and at least one person in every bar to pickup my tab because he or she saw me giving a B+ speech to some racially diverse children.
That said, today I am going to talk about the Kentucky Derby, which is happening this weekend and is framing how I am thinking about the 2020 Democratic Primary. That is because before I bet on any horse race, I ask myself this question: is it smarter to put my money on the favorite(s), or is it smarter to bet the field?
First of all, a lesson for those of you who weren’t raised in Kentucky like I was, where they only teach you math so that you can gamble on horses and keep count of how many mint juleps you’ve smashed while doing it. “Betting the field” is when your bookie lets you take 5 or 10 garbage horses for the price of one. This is a high-risk, high-reward strategy that you only use when you think that the favorites are over-priced or over-hyped, or if you have been drinking Red Bull vodkas for nine hours straight and are desperate to win back your money.
But if you think that I have a sober mind about where the 2020 race falls on this spectrum then you are wrong. My opinion on whether the 2020 Democratic Primary is an election to bet the favorites or to bet the field changes every day. The reasons why depend on complex variables, like candidates’ name recognition, RCP averages, and whether or not a given candidate is important enough for Tucker Carlson to shred in his opening monologue. So here is the case for betting the favorites. My next post will be the case for betting on the field.
First of all, I am going to take Pete Buttigieg out of the favorites column. Yes, I am bullish on an outsider like him breaking through this cycle, but calling Buttigieg an equal to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders after one good month is as risky as calling Post Malone an equal to Jay-Z after one album. It could happen, but right now is too soon to make that prediction. So let’s talk about Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris.
ARGUMENTS FOR WHY YOU SHOULD BET ON THE FAVORITES
If you are good at counting then you will see that for about 60 cents, you can buy YES shares on all three of these big dogs. That is a pretty solid deal. Furthermore, there is a reason why eggheads think that these candidates have an advantage.
Let’s start with Joe Biden. After announcing his campaign, Uncle Joe immediately became the most-endorsed Democratic candidate (this actually matters, believe it or not), polling showed that he was a 6-point favorite to beat President Trump head-to-head, and national surveys have clocked a 6 and 11 point bounce for him since announcing his presidential campaign. This basically means that Joe Biden is the Zion Williamson of 2020 Democrats — the clear favorite for the #1 pick on the DNC draft board.
Uncle Joe is also a politician that 75 percent of Americans have heard of AND think of favorably, which is about twice the number for Pete Buttigieg and 1.5 times as many as Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
This is incredibly important because basically every Democrat in America who has held an office higher than Dog Catcher is running for President this year. So far 21 have declared, which means that if you have a name like “Mayor Pete Buttigieg” or “Governor John Hickenlooper,” you will use at least half of your allotted time at the CNN debate just introducing yourself. The challenge of explaining who you are and unloading your message to voters in this crowded environment is a major barrier to entry for rookies. Nasty Nate recently tweeted about this too:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Communist-VT) has a similar advantage in name recognition and has some other things going for him. Bernie has locked down two critical lanes: the young people who think that socialism is cool and a great way to grow a monetizable Instagram following vote; and the old people who think that socialism is cool and are still mad that Joseph Stalin’s genocidal tendencies cucked mankind out of a workers’ utopia vote. More importantly, Bernie learned some big lessons in 2016. One of them was that being rich is awesome. The other one is that being a candidate for only white people only works for Republicans. He has adapted to these facts by making millions of dollars on a book deal and by successfully engaging with minorities. In fact, according to a recent Politico/Morning Consult Poll, Bernie is now the preferred Democrat for Hispanics and is second only to Joe Biden among African-Americans.
Lastly, Sen. Kamala Harris is an absolute war machine when it comes to raising money and getting the liberal, woke vote fired-up. She is half-black, which is important due to the fact that African-American voters are one of the biggest pieces of the Democratic coalition and are a majority of Democratic voters in the critical early state of South Carolina. Sen. Harris is also strong where Biden is weak. She connects to the young, woke, and coastal wing of the Democratic Party, which means that she also has enormous backing from America’s (PC) Law (and Thought) Enforcement community, which sets the agenda in most newsrooms, and controls the checkbooks of Left Coast moneybags in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. I am 100 percent not exaggerating when I say that Harris’s stunt raising $400,000 in one day for Senator Heidi Heitkamp in 2018 was total fire, and it basically got every possible rival’s attention the way that the USA nuking Japan got every possible enemy’s attention in 1945.
It is very hard for me to imagine how candidates in the field could catch up if any of these three pols get out of the gate fast and win two of the first three primaries. Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Jon Kasich tried to do this in 2016 and it did not go well. This was especially shocking due to the fact that Marco Rubio is short, Hispanic, and often seen in boots, just like a professional jockey.
Like 2016, I fully expect some B-list candidates from the Democratic field to pop with 2nd and 3rd place finishes early on, but get completely smoked as the race moves to the back side of the track and their threadbare campaign staffs just turn into a puddle of sweat and melt in exhaustion. One thing that we absolutely learned from the crowded 2016 GOP race was that winning is the only thing that matters. GOP money men and media types had big boners for Gov. Jon Kasich, Gov. Jeb Bush, and Sen. Marco Rubio, but their repeated 2nd-5th place finishes behind Trump and Cruz amounted to their basically skipping the whole race in order to perform a boring dressage act for Republican donors who get their morning wood from the Wall Street Journal opinion page. Democratic Donors will fall for this trap too when Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar-types start calling for more dough after a “strong 3rd place showing in South Carolina,” but you should be smarter when it comes to betting your own money.
So at an average cost of 60 cents per share, we should all be betting the favorites, right? No. Wrong. The B-side to this, which I will explore when we talk about the case for betting the field, is that the evidence is showing that JV Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and YouTube Star Beto O’Rourke are actually doing a great job of getting their name out in Iowa. This tells me that there is at least a 99 percent chance that they’re also closing the gap in New Hampshire, which is the other early primary that local voters jerk themselves off over because it’s won “in living rooms” and not by campaign consultants and million-dollar ad buys that smaller candidates can’t afford. Whatever. The point is that if anyone in the field can notch an upset early, they’ll be in post position to start the 2020 race. And as every handicapper knows, a middling horse in the right starting position can neutralize the advantages of a bigger, more powerful competitor– a competitor like Bernie, Biden, or Harris.
Now that I have concluded my analysis of the 2020 favorites, I will get back to applying my Kentucky education where it counts: smashing beers at Churchill Downs until I forget how much money I am losing by betting on horses just because they have stupid names. I guess that is a great argument to avoid betting on John Hickenlooper for President too– if I only knew I how to take my own advice.