Threadster: Iowa’s Other Cash Crop is Conspiracy Theories

Our plan to get ahead of the post-Iowa rush by racking-up a bunch of jokes about Bernie’s victory ahead of time was double-thwarted. First, we were badly distracted by the sudden emergence of a possible betting pool over which state Kansas City is in. And second, it turned out when the Iowa caucuses were done, they weren’t actually done done.

Tabulation that normally took a couple of hours dragged-on so long that everyone except Bernie’s persecution complex stopped caring. The campaign teams and media went on to New Hampshire and gamblers lost focus. The threads devolved into nasty skirmishes about which candidate has the best policies. We’ve wracked our brain and can’t think of anything we care less about than policy. (Duck hunting, maybe, or the state of Delaware.) We’re gamblers here, not pundits. We only care about policy if it’s new and obviously stupid enough to move markets.

The biggest result of what we will now (and only now) call The Iowa Effect has been the break-out of a serious panic among Dems who think nominating Bernie Sanders would be, as oval-headed establishmentarian Jonathan Chait put it, insane.  

The result is a tectonic shift in the stature of previous asterisk Michael Bloomberg. No, not that stature. The tiny former mayor did not get taller. His electoral stature improved. (Full disclosure: I’m making a bundle on Bloomberg-related bets, banking there’s nothing but upside in the twin fears that Bernie will swap his Old Testament prophet schtick for a Che Guevara t-shirt and beret, and Joe will just wander off in the middle of a speech and not be found for days.) The threads are suddenly full of Bloomberg fanboys.

“Bloomberg is your God now,” says Phonebook_Sam in one of several breathless comments on the Bloomberg will win a primary thread.

“I live in NJ and have been hoping Bloomberg would run from the start,” says I’mtheWiz at the New Jersey thread. “A lot of smart, fiscal conservative/socially progressive people here who think he is the best candidate in the pack.”

“Where the hell did Bloomberg come from?” asks HayMitch on the Nebraska primary page. “Is there a poll I missed or something?”

Nebraska is, of course, just across the Big Muddy from Iowa, so it’s unlikely HayMitch could have missed the wailing after Biden’s cornfield pratfall. Perhaps the sound was just so horrifying HayMitch assumed it had to be some kind of swamp gas phenomenon, and went back to filling sandbags in preparation for the Spring thaw.

But swamp gas it was not. Biden’s weak finish kindled afresh the frantic search for a moderate savior, and my Bloomberg stock shot-up enough I’ve retooled my April staycation into Spring Break in Cancun.

Conversely, Mayor Pete’s surprising something-like-a-win-but-not-quite in Iowa spurred a 600% bounce in his New Hampshire futures. Unfortunately, it also left him splattered with the icky-sticky goo of dark, Bernie Bro conspiracy theory.

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist guy at all,” says CTAndy in the New Hampshire thread, kicking off his comment with the same claim every conspiracy theorist makes just before speaking a conspiracy theory, “but I do believe the media has an agenda…Bloomberg is gold to the media because he has billions to spend on advertising.”

“Yep,” agrees Betsgtor22, “they are attacking Bernie to help Bloomberg.  Pete is just their tool right now.”

It looks a lot like Dems are coming to the conclusion that since insane conspiracy theories have worked so well for Republicans, they ought to try them, too. We’re awaiting an outbreak of numerology.


The Iowa Effect has caused ripples beyond the edges of actual, active politics. There was a media report that retiree John Kerry is considering jumping into the race to save Dems from their enthusiasm for Vermont socialists. OK, Boomer, but that seems to us a little like subbing Reese Witherspoon into an NBA game because you’re having trouble blocking-out the other team’s power forward. Even if she puts-up a scrappy fight, we’re guessing her rebound total will not exceed the number of bones she breaks.

Kerry denied the rumor, but you never know. Those Democrats are sneaky. Hillary Clinton has been denying rumors for a couple of years and she’s still a betting interest in 28 different PredictIt markets.

Clinton shares may have settled-into a state-by-state death march to NO, but on the Will Hillary Run? page there is a remarkably active subculture of threadsters speculating not on whether she will get into the race, but when.

“She is just waiting for Biden to lose badly in the early states,” suggests Federerrocks, “and then when he is at his most vulnerable, she will announce to save the party and the DNC. The bottom line is she is going to save the DNC from Bernie who is a communist. Even the Democratic party will not accept him from being the nominee. All of this will be more relevant at the convention. She is the only person that can beat Trump in 2020! Go Trump. Keep America great again!”

“She will only need a small number of delegates to steal the nomination at the convention,” speculates Nostrallamas. “The Shadow Campaign is going exactly as planned.”

Which would make it the first Presidential campaign – shadow or otherwise –  to go exactly as planned. If she can pull that off, she should be President.


The most trenchant 2020 macro analysis we’ve found is in the who wins the whole enchilada thread.

“2020 is different than 2018,” writes the tasty-sounding FishnChips. “2018, Dems ran on Orange-man bad and Trump couldn’t counter. 2020, Dems plan to run on Orange-man bad, but they have to run a Presidential candidate. It will be Orange-man bad vs. Socialists are worse and Nancy Pelosi.”


We will be frank: we do not understand betting on the number of Tweets issued by a particular politician. For candidates with disciplined, well-organized social media operations, it seems too rhythmically predictable to bring worthwhile returns. With less predictable, more visibly orange candidates, there seems no way to quantify the risk.

Perhaps everyone is better at this than we are. The Trump tweet thread is filled with gloaty declarations of vast windfalls like this from IGotCuckedAgain: “He’s sick, but it’s good money.” Which is great, really, except El Presidente is a Senate trial away from clamming-up for a week or an adderall overdose away from tweeting 10,000 times in two hours. How do you handicap that?

Bad as we think tweet bets are, however, there may be good political intelligence contained among the Twitter threads.

“Looks like Yang is giving up,” says Butter17 on the Yang tweets page, noting a decline in the pace of the candidate’s otherworldly tweets.  â€œIf him tweeting is representative of his own enthusiasm and hopes this doesn’t look good. New Hampshire may be the end of the road.”

Which would seem to indicate looming opportunity on the next Democrat to drop out market, where Yang is trading at exactly one Yang.

Who’s in?

On Twitter, @TomSayingThings makes jokes about the remarkable symbiosis of politics and whiskey, which he takes very seriously.

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