Right now, there is only one political prop of consequence, and none of the best election betting sites offers it.
Maybe it’s because they have absolutely no idea where to set the opening line.
Yes, you can currently wager on things like whether or not Donald Trump will be banned from Twitter (he won’t be) and which female VP candidate Joe Biden will eventually select.
You can bet on a host of Kanye West odds, too.
But in an election with this much drama and hype (read “the most ever by far”), the pickings are surprisingly slim.
Where are the US Civil War II props, the California secession props, the refusal to leave office props?
What are the odds there will be DOJ arrests of high-profile persons in the FBI for the apparent Steele Dossier hoax and summary FISA Court frauds?
Where are the odds on problematic Mount Rushmore getting defaced, the next statue to be pulled down, whether or not a given team will kneel en masse for the anthem?
If we can’t get a bit of fun at the betting boards during such a tumultuous political season, then what good are they as entertaining, escapist outlets?
But even if books want to stay away from more hot-button, harder-to-grade, esoteric stuff, there’s one wager that’s been begging for a posting and a promotion, and it’s nowhere in sight:
What are the odds Joe Biden actually debates Donald Trump on stage?
For months now, there’s been plenty of eager talk about these debates, tentatively scheduled for three such spectacles to be held between late September and late October.
But just as tens of millions of Americans eagerly await these live, televised showdowns, there has also been credible discussion about the fact that they probably aren’t going to happen.
Indeed, Joe Lockhart, the CNN political analyst and former press secretary for President Bill Clinton, has now made that very argument. Writing for the left-leaning news outlet, Lockhart gives Sleepy Joe bullet list of dos and don’ts.
Coming in at number five:
“Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump.”
Naturally, Lockhart isn’t advising the gaffe machine to avoid debating because it will make the Democratic candidate look bad.
While everyone – even Biden diehards – understand that the man’s Achilles’ heel is actually his mouth, the friendly mainstream framing advises against debate because…wait for it…Trump is a big fat liar.
“It’s a fool’s errand to enter the ring with someone who can’t follow the rules or the truth. Biden will undoubtedly take heat from Republicans and the media for skipping the debates. But it’s worth the risk as tring to debate someone incapable of telling the truth is an impossible contest to win.”
This is, of course, a nonsensical assertion.
It is every debater’s dream to go up against someone who will mislead with sideways half truths and take quotes out of context.
For anyone familiar with the issues on which they speak, forcing such an opponent into a corner – to the point of no return – isn’t just a forensic goal, it is the entire premise of the institution of debate itself.
Debating a liar on national TV would be a Godsend for anyone who had a firm grasp on the so-called truth. They’d champ at the bit to get in there and duke it out. If Trump is the snake oil salesman and chronic liar as claimed, his opponent should be begging to take him out on stage.
No, this is an admission of panic, and it’s becoming a prominent issue in the mainstream.
In the last month, many major outlets have echoed CNN’s sentiment, urging the presumptive Democratic nominee not to debate the President before the November general. Here are just a few of those headlines:
- The New York Times: “Let’s Scrap The Presidential Debates” (Aug. 3)
- The New Republic: “Let’s Cancel the Presidential Debates Forever” (July 31)
- Boston Herald: “Biden better walk back any offers to debate Trump” (July 25)
- The New York Times: “Biden Should Not Debate Trump Unless…” (July 7)
And so on.
That we still don’t have a basic prop bet on this from any of the biggest professional political oddsmakers on earth is curious to say the least.
Anecdotally, out of all the bets offered this cycle, this is the one every single person in our office would jump on. That’s because nobody here believes there will be Presidential debates in 2020.
And while each of us has divergent political leanings, we all agree about the whys and wherefores of this one: Biden, like him or hate him, does not shine on the debate stage.
Of course, there is great risk in bailing on the Presidential debates, which have been held in America for every election since 1960.
Certainly, Biden advocates will applaud the decision, assigning it social-media-friendly hashtags like #DontDebateHate or similar. But such tactics may not make inroads with undecideds.
And despite the recent proclamations that there are no undecideds for this particular election, you can rest assured that there are millions of them.
The real question for Biden – and for oddsmakers and bettors (once given the lines) – is whether or not the reward outweighs the risks.
It seems that most voters want to see the candidates face off. Even the ratings for the Democratic primary debates bear that out.
Certainly, network and cable news outlets want the eyeballs – and the ad buys – that Biden vs. Trump would generate. Indeed, any network that would deign to walk away from that money can be viewed as vehemently partisan, favoring the Basement Joe stratagem over an honest airing of party platforms to the American public.
Hopefully, the top Vegas election sportsbooks will figure this out in short order. Perhaps once Biden picks his VP (the recently-leaked Kamala Harris selection is getting viral online pushback, which might delay things on that front), they’ll turn to more interesting props.
To debate or not to debate, that is the question.