Election Good, Bad and Ugly

The Good: We have divided government. Since Democrats no longer control Congress, they can’t bankrupt America quite so fast!

The Bad: Prediction markets, which I touted as the best guide to elections, didn’t do so well. Yes, they correctly said Republicans would take the House, but they’d also predicted Republicans would take the Senate. Polls and statistical modelers like Nate Silver did a bit better this time. They also said Republicans would win both, but they gave them only a slight edge.

As I write this Wednesday morning, Republicans have (according to ElectionBettingOdds.com, the site Maxim Lott created that tracks election betting around the world) a 19% chance of winning the Senate.

Nineteen percent isn’t zero; they could still win the Senate, but Republicans don’t have the 60-70% chance that bettors gave them in recent weeks.

The Good: Bettors at least adjust their predictions quickly.

Last night, while clods on TV still said “Democrats and Republicans battle for control of the House (CBS),” those of us who follow the betting already knew that Republicans would win the House.

Historically, bettors have a great track record. Across 730 candidate chances we’ve tracked, when something is expected to happen 70% of the time, it actually happens about 70% of the time.

That’s because people with money on the line try harder than pundits to be right. They also adjust quickly when they see they’ve made a mistake.

At 8:23 p.m., with just 12% of the New Hampshire vote counted, bettors gave Democrat Maggie Hassan more than a 90% chance of winning the Senate seat, up from 63% earlier in the day. You wouldn’t have noticed that shift watching TV. The AP didn’t call the race until 11:39 p.m.

Bettors also failed to predict Trump’s win in 2016. But they at least gave him a 20% chance, much higher than most “expert” statistical modelers, like the Princeton Election Consortium, which gave him an absurd 0.01% chance.

Big picture: Betting odds remain the single best, and fastest-updating predictor.

The Good: Last night, Ron DeSantis’ odds of becoming the Republican presidential nominee jumped from 16% to 27%, while Donald Trump’s odds fell to 18%. That’s probably because of DeSantis’ nearly 20-point blowout win in a swing state. I put this in the “good” category because, watching Trump on TV last night, I’m reminded that he’s an ignorant bully who only cares about himself. His mere presence on the public stage hurts America by creating more division and hate. His election “denier” candidates like Doug Mastriano, Doug Bolduc, Tudor Dixon, and John Gibbs all lost.

Also, if DeSantis is nominated in 2024, bettors give him a 74% chance of winning, whereas they give Trump just a 47% chance.

The Good: If Kamala Harris is nominated, bettors give her just a 36% chance of becoming president.

The Ugly: Long-term incumbents won again: Patty Murray, Mike Crapo and Chuck Schumer (29 years in Congress); Ron Wyden and Chuck Grassley won, too (42 years).

The Good: Iowa passed an amendment protecting gun rights. Three states passed measures protecting reproductive freedom. Anti-abortion measures in two states lost.

Maryland and Missouri legalized recreational weed.

Maybe Good: Ranked-choice voting leads in Nevada.

The Bad: Recreational weed lost in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota. Sports gambling lost in California. California also banned e-cigarettes, which will create a new criminal black market and kill more cigarette smokers.

The Ugly: Chuck Schumer will probably be Senate Majority Leader again.

The Ugly: The Wall Street Journal reports: “Europe Doubles Down on Big Government … adding hundreds of thousands of public-sector jobs, guaranteeing business loans.”

Won’t voters ever ask government to LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE?

It’s so sad. All around the world, we don’t learn.

By the way, ElectionBettingOdds.com also tracks football odds. The Buffalo Bills, despite losing last Sunday, still lead the Super Bowl pack. The Eagles, Chiefs follow; 49ers, Ravens and Cowboys follow.

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John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed."