The markets are giving Michigan representative Justin Amash a 36% chance of running for president before June 1. If he runs, it would almost certainly be as a Libertarian. This market terrifies me. Iâ€™m staying out.
In a market like this, I think you have to assume that a number of traders have privileged information and will always have an edge on youâ€”people in Amashâ€™s orbit and Libertarian Party circles being the most obvious examples. So the question is whether there is any reason to believe, based on available information, that the market is mispriced.
I can think of three main reasons why Amash would not want to run:
1. National Debate Thresholds: In order for a 3rd party candidate to get into the national presidential debate, he/she needs to reach a polling threshold of 15 percent. Gary Johnson did not hit this number in 2016 despite running against two highly disliked major party candidates in an anti-establishment year. There is little reason to believe that Amash can raise enough money to reach the threshold in a less favorable year.
2. Satisfaction with Major Party Candidates: Voters in the two major parties are broadly satisfied with their choices. Trump has consolidated support among Republicansâ€”enough to stave-off a primary challenger even after getting impeached. Democrats are mostly concerned with ousting Trump. The election looks to be a referendum on Trump in which neither side will be clamoring for another choiceâ€”especially one who could function as a spoiler.
3. Risk of Helping Trump: Insofar as Amash would be running with the primary goal of pushing back against the Trumpian drift of the Republican Party and conservative movement, running as a Libertarian would likely backfire. Available polling suggests Amash would draw more from Biden than Trumpâ€”potentially enough to tip the election in swing states like Michigan.
Iâ€™m reluctant, however, to take a short position based on these factors. All of these reasons are basically irrelevant if Amash decides that he wants to take advantage of the Libertarian Partyâ€™s infrastructure while the nomination is there for the taking. He is highly unlikely to get re-elected to Congress and might conclude that there is no room for him in todayâ€™s Republican Party anyway.
I donâ€™t have enough insight on Amashâ€™s personal preferences and decision-making process to bet one way or the other with confidence.For more thoughts on this market, see our recent podcast here:
Pratik Chougule is a contributor to Star Spangled Gamblers and author of the e-book How to Make Money from Political Predictions: A Guide to Generating High, Steady Returns on PredictIt. Follow him on Twitter @pjchougule.