Budgeting Be Damned: Gambling on the 2016 Presidential Election

Yet another Republican presidential debate is on for tonight, and since a lot has changed since publication of my last voter education pamphlet, it’s important to again take stock to ensure that you keep up. Because I’m guessing that fiscal responsibility will be a major theme of tonight’s discussion, we’re throwing in a quick look at bookmakers’ current favorites to win each party nomination, all of which come courtesy of Bovada. I recommend waiting at least an hour and a half in to your Official NFR GOP Debate Drinking Game before placing bets. Investing is always more fun that way.

While gambling comes in many delightful forms, a reminder on how these types of odds work: if the number is positive, it signals how much you would make if you bet $100 on that outcome. For example, if you take the New England Patriots at +260 right now to win the Super Bowl, and they in fact win, and that win doesn’t trigger a collapse of Western civilization that causes America to descend headlong into an amoral hellscape, you would collect $360 for your troubles. (The most enticing bets right now: Cincinnati at +1200, Pittsburgh at +2000, and St. Louis at +5000). On the other hand, if the number is negative, it signals how much you’d have to bet in order to win $100. Negative numbers are rarely seen in crowded fields, of course, because they signal overwhelming favorites. Which brings us to…

Current odds: -300. Good Lord. The secret, of course, is that they’re begging you to bet on anyone else here precisely because widely held conventional wisdom dictates that she’s going to win, and she’s going to win walking away. Widely held conventional wisdom is right. I would absolutely bet my life savings on this outcome, but I know my mom reads this, so I am definitely not doing that plan that I just said I would do. Hi Mom, I love you.
Greatest strengths: Former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State; brings decades of balanced domestic and foreign policy experience to the table; she’s really really smart
Greatest weaknesses: Still seems like she needs staffers to remind her to blink so that conspiracy theorist don’t start the “robot” theory again; um badly needs a Genius Bar appointment; is a lady, so, like, that one uncle you see every other Thanksgiving just doesn’t see how other world leaders will ever take her seriously
I’m going to win
I am the most qualified
What? You wanted jokes?
Outlook: Pretty good! She’s like a mutual fund: boring, predictable, and you know exactly what you’re getting, but at least that thing that you’re getting is “some money” and not “President Carson.”

Current odds: +400. I do not understand how any Democratic candidate not named “Hillary” gets anything less than four or five digits. (For that money, take Green Bay to win the Super Bowl at +325).
Greatest strengths: Has some really good, radical, long-overdue ideas (e.g., repealing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans; putting a stop to the burgeoning student debt bubble; believing in global warming), and absolutely does not care if you don’t like them, mister, because you’re going to think about them and realize that they’re good ideas and you want, them, too. Also, has really cool hair.
Greatest weaknesses: All of said ideas sound profoundly insane to 100% of 50% of voters (Republicans) and, if they’re being honest, a good 30-40% of Democrats, and thus make him profoundly unelectable should the Republicans nominate any reasonable candidate. Don’t entirely rule out this not happening, but still. You know what, that hair is a little out of control, now that I think about it.
Give me your money
I’m giving it all away
Outlook: Bernie Sanders is an older, whiter, man version of Elizabeth Warren, who astutely decided to stay the hell out of this because she knows she can have a greater impact as a winning, radical senator than as a losing radical nomination also-ran.  At this point, all of your friends who support Bernie Sanders are sticking it out just so they can proudly show off their vintage campaign T-shirts in 20 years the same way you occasionally see older ladies at Whole Foods wearing “GORE 2000” shirts and exchanging knowing looks with other older ladies who pass them in the hummus aisle and nod ruefully.

Current odds:
 +5000. On the one hand, do not be automatically afraid of high numbers. On the other hand, GUHHHH. The only way this is happening is if Hillary and Bernie (I love that they both embrace the first-name thing) were to both somehow run afoul of probably-embittered former candidate and definitely-bloodthirsty loon Jim Webb at some point between now and next fall. Even then, I would not exactly advise Governor O’Malley to wait up for a phone call from the DNC.
Greatest strengths:
 Is a sentient human (?), a natural-born citizen of the United States who is over 35 years of age and has resided in the U.S. for at least 14 years, who would be willing to serve as president if elected.
Greatest weaknesses: Could not be picked out of a ten-man lineup comprised of him, four randomly selected freshman congressmen, four randomly selected ACC head men’s basketball coaches, and your college girlfriend’s dad.
Never gonna happen
No, really, I have no more
Syllables to give.
Outlook: What are we even doing here? Webb and Chafee already bowed out. Joe Biden has had more presidential buzz than O’Malley, and he didn’t even bother showing up! Is O’Malley waiting for a party favor? Is this like the bellboy who awkwardly shuffles around in your hotel room foyer after bringing your bags up until you remember you haven’t tipped him yet? I feel like there should be some kind of token I can give him so that he can feel satisfied and show himself out.

Current odds:
OFF. I even looked outside Bovada and couldn’t find any sites taking bets. Those facts are not good facts.
Greatest strengths:
Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School (BORING), has outlined a platform in which he pledges to enact campaign finance reform and voting rights reforms, put an end to pervasive gerrymandering, and then promptly resign.
Greatest weaknesses: See above. Seriously, that’s it. This is amazing. He’s gotten real people to donate one million dollars, American, for him to fail at actually carrying out one of those inane law professor thought experiments that caused you to descend into Gchat within five minutes of the start of class.
Did this on a dare
Eight beers in at John Harvard’s
Just running with it.
Outlook: He will be featured in November’s debate sponsored by MoveOn.org, and since no one who did not go to Harvard Law School and/or who does not routinely read The New Yorker has any idea who he is right now, maybe they mistake him for a young John Clayton, and they remember how much they like that one SportsCenter commercial, and they go with it for awhile.

Current odds: N/A. Ugh. This was such a good plan. I miss you already, Joe. IF ONLY HIS PEOPLE WERE AMONG THE SEVERAL DOZEN PEOPLE WHO REGULARLY READ THIS BLOG.
Greatest strengths: Qualified, experienced, driven, intelligent, handsome.
Greatest weaknesses: Just not that into it, bro.
Always the bridesmaid
Never the bride. Always the
Bridesmaid [starts sobbing].
Outlook: If you won’t run for president, at least start drinking (note: Biden is a teetotaler) so you can fulfill your destiny as the old, impeccably dressed guy in the corner of the bar who tells the coolest stories and happily flirts with every pretty girl in sight.

ELIZABETH WARR — no, kidding, calm down. That’s it! Those are all of the people that the Democrats have convinced as of now to run for president and/or play second fiddle to Hillary, as the case may be. And in this corner…

Current odds:
+250. Sheesh. Some of the best odds you can get right now come courtesy of the junior senator from Florida whose poll numbers are hovering around 9 or 10 percent. The Republican field is a fiscally conservative, American flag pin-wearing dumpster fire.
Greatest strengths: Not just Hispanic, but Cuban [cut to a huddled group of campaign strategists wearing short-sleeved dress shirts nodding solemnly in unison]; constantly looks like his mom dressed him for school pictures; would probably carry a certain swing state that has been, um, rather charitable to his party in elections previous; young and handsome; basically, the Republican version of Obama, except that he actually loves freedom and was born in a place that is not Africa.
Greatest weaknesses: Doesn’t seem to actually know anything substantive about any point or issue about which he has been asked at any time over the pendency of his entire candidacy thus far. Also, he apparently joined the Mormon Church at age 8 but then decided to go back to being Catholic at 13, I assume because he got tired of not being able to drink Mountain Dew like everyone else in middle school.
Parents fled Cuba
Escaped Castro for freedom!
-Ish. Does it matter?
Outlook: Rubio has an incredibly bright political future. His odds at this early juncture in his career, though, should not be nearly as good as they are for someone who’s hoping to go from Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives to leader of the free world in ten years. But at the same time, his resume looks like an Encyclopedia Britannica next to those of some of his competitors. And as long as CERTAIN OTHER QUALIFIED PEOPLE aren’t willing or able to act like they actually want to be president, why the hell not? Yes, I’m talking about you…

Current odds:
 +250. In seriousness, the fact that the two best bets right now are the high-profile politicians from Florida speaks strongly to just how much oddsmakers believe in the system: eventually, the novelty candidates flame out, and the grown-ups come in, and ultimately, it’s going to be one of the people who can carry this critical swing state who’s going to win. Except, as covered in this space before, Jeb Bush can’t stop saying wonderfully dumb things, literally putting people to sleep, and otherwise finding new and inventive ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The guy who stands the absolute best chance of winning the general election still looks like he’d rather be doing anything else.
Greatest strengths: A pretty moderate Republican, boasting a strong history of successful executive leadership, in a purple swing state with a significant Hispanic population. What’s not to like?
Greatest weakness: Is an actual serious candidate, so every other candidate takes every opportunity they can to characterize him as a liberal sellout who doesn’t love real freedom; is a Bush; willingly (?) put an dopey exclamation point in his logo; doesn’t seem to “want” to “be President” “at all,” which is…”of concern.”
Someone, make me care.
Seriously, I haven’t
Felt feelings in years.
Outlook: Two months ago, I wrote about how he needed to get his shit together right quick. There is now less time, not more time, for this to happen, my friend.

Current odds:
+250. At first, I thought this was far too low. You can get the same odds for a sitting senator and former governor that you can get for a former reality TV star and purveyor of exceptionally tasteless ties that would make Craig Sager blush. But then I listened to Jeb Bush talk for awhile, and, well, sure.
Greatest strengths: Has a ready-made war chest of business-related slogans for use during the campaign (“HILLARY…YOU’RE FIRED. ISIS…YOU’RE FIRED.”); his hair is a bird.
Greatest weaknesses: No way he makes any decision to go to war after any amount less than three generously-sized, Chris Christie-eqse fingers of bourbon; hides hatred for Mexicans by citing hatred of immigrants, like that’s somehow better; can’t stop making horribly offensive menstruation jokes about female reporters and then doubling down on his sexism when someone tentatively suggest something like “Hey, you’re a straight shooter, we get it, but perhaps you should walk that back just a little, just this one time?” That person is also immediately fired.
I am the story
You will struggle to explain
To your grandchildren.
Outlook: The man who is not a serious candidate somehow can’t stop adding to his lead in the polls.

Current odds:
+1000. Hahaha, a neurosurgeon whose greatest contribution to the political discourse thus far has been his strategy for avoiding becoming a gunshot victim during fast food restaurant holdups, is considered five times more likely to win his party’s nomination than Martin O’Malley is to win his. Martin O’Malley needs a hug.
Greatest strengths:
Black guy, so that’s different; still uses phrases like “Siamese twins” on national television; diabolical plan to distract voters from his lack of “traditional political experience” by empirically discovering just how many things you can analogize to nascent Naziism on the rise in the United States has actually been pretty successful so far.
Greatest weaknesses:
Grasp of important foreign policy issues makes Sarah Palin look like Henry Kissinger
The Jews could have stopped
Hitler if they just had guns
What? What did I say?
Thankfully, this is one candidate who voters are wisely ignoring and instead they are what no oh my God, he’s leading the latest polls, launch the United States into the sun already.

Current odds:
Greatest strengths: 
Went to law school but dropped out, which makes her cool; successfully quarterbacked the 2002 HP-Compaq merger, thereby creating one of the largest tech companies in history from which you would still never in your right mind buy a computer; redeemed her spectacular failure of a 2010 Senate campaign in California by blessing us with this delightful “Demon Sheep” advertisement that earned its own Wikipedia article  and only sometimes still haunts my nightmares.
Greatest weaknesses:
Laid off the equivalent of a small- to medium-sized town during her tenure at HP, which is not such a good fact when you’re running for a position that frequently has to discuss things like “creating jobs.”
Hey, not so fast there!
We have OUR OWN Hillary!
Thank you for your vote.
This is a real, actual thing that is hanging in Hillary’s campaign HQ. Yeesh. I just don’t feel like Carly Fiorina is the horse to ride here.

Current odds: +1000. I blame  these marginally worse odds on him just kind of being a marginally less handsome version of Rubio. His face looks like he was sculpted by that courtroom sketch artist who immortalized Tom Brady a few months ago.
Greatest strengths: Really, really, terrifyingly smart; relishes his role as an an unapologetic ideologue who is perfectly willing to eschew governing in the name of self-aggrandizing political stunts; does not give even one time little crap about what you think. I know this was supposed to be a list strengths, but I just don’t have that much to share here. When John Boehner calls you a jackass and Peter King declares you a carnival barker, pluses in the “electability” column can be hard to identify.
Greatest weaknesses:
Face was cobbled together from parts of faces of less committed Tea Party members and is held together by dental floss and also liberty; routinely does things like call the death penalty a tribute to the “preciousness of human life”; WAS BORN IN CANADA AND I WOULD LIKE TO SEE HIS BIRTH CERTIFI, oh, alright, yeah, I guess it would make sense for you to get out in front of that one.
Baby, you a song
You make me wanna roll my
Windows down, and Cruuuuuuuuuz
(Note: I concede this has nothing to do with Ted Cruz, but the fact that the hook to “Cruise” (THE REMIX, ONLY THE REMIX, EVER) is exactly 17 syllables made my day).
Outlook: I love profiles of Ted Cruz as a student at Harvard because, from founding a “no students from minor Ivies” study group to asking strangers to tell him their IQs to gleefully smoking cigars while going over election results, he sounds like a hilarious composite of everyone you hated in law school. The story about him apparently drinking so much Everclear that he was too hung over to play his role in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible the next evening is amazing no matter your political affiliation, though.

After the successful first performance, Cruz spent the cast party imbibing so much Everclear — a powerful grain alcohol — that he couldn’t make it through the next night’s performance. His fellow actors had to coax him into going onstage, but by Act III his condition worsened.

A video of the performance shows him sitting on a bench onstage, his head buried in his hands for nearly five minutes straight. After meekly delivering a line, he walked off stage in the middle of the scene, forcing cast members to improvise around the departure of a lead character. He didn’t return for the remainder of the play.

Ted Cruz seems like a not very nice guy, and if he wins I’m going to move to his birthplace for the next four years, but if he wants to hypothetically join Joe Biden at my hypothetical bar telling hypothetical awesome stories, he should know there will always be a seat reserved for him.

Current odds:
+1200. A sitting governor of a major swing state who absolutely beat the crap out of his most recent Democratic opponent is getting odds five times worse than Donald Trump. 
Greatest strengths:
Not afraid to call his crazy opponents “crazy.”
Greatest weaknesses:
If you put him in the aforementioned 10-person lineup with Martin O’Malley, I’m not going to be able to ID either one.
Another white guy
Must do something crazy to
Stand out! [shrugs, deep sigh]

Current odds:
+2500. Wow. Three years ago, Chris Christie was viewed as the future of the Republican party: a successful and wildly popular Republican governor in a firmly blue state. Then he pulled some Tony Soprano nonsense, someone died because of it, and now he’s just biding his time until he retires and John Goodman inevitably portrays him in a tepidly received biopic, Garden City Giant, coming in fall 2029 to a theater near you.
Greatest strengths:
Strong track record of success as private practice law partner, U.S. Attorney, local politician, and then New Jersey governor; unafraid to criticize House Republicans who delayed passage of Hurricane Sandy relief funds; will literally fight you on the boardwalk if you disrespect him while he enjoys frozen treats.
Greatest weaknesses:
DOESN’T RESPECT THE QUIET CAR. This is arguably worse than Carson’s Hitler analogies and Hitler combined.
I could have beat Mitt
I decided not to try
This was a bad call.
No good. Plenty of people admired then-Senator Obama in 2008, but wondered if he should bide his time as an exciting young leader and then run in a later election with a more robust track record. He decided, nah, to hell with that noise, and it paid off. Chris Christie chose to bide his time, and now, four years later, he’s polling at around 2% and throwing Twitter tantrums about his green room accommodations. Something something something Robert Frost. We’re done here.

Current odds:
+7500. I bet you could ask a casino for odds on Al Gore, and they’d be better than this.
Greatest strengths:
Has greater than zero good, reasonable, measured ideas, like decriminalizing some recreational drugs, re-enfranchising felons, reducing U.S. military activity overseas, and ending significant chunks of domestic surveillance and wiretapping activity. 
Greatest weaknesses:
Campaign is a probably ill-advised attempt to live Dad’s dream; has stated that he opposes gun control in all its forms and abortion in all circumstances, which is terrifying; being a Libertarian is still just code for “I have no idea how government works.”
Fighting the good fight
One Chris Christie screaming match
At a time. WARRANT!!!!
Outlook: If he wins, I’m joining ISIS. Yes, you can come with.


3 thoughts on “Budgeting Be Damned: Gambling on the 2016 Presidential Election

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