However, as we begin to hold actual primary elections, I can no longer pretend that it's too early in the race to pay attention. I watched the last Republican debate, and I started reading more of the coverage than I had before.
I'm still convinced that Trump will not win the Republican nomination. (I suppose I should explain the American primary system for our non-US readers, but as I discovered a while back trying to explain this to an Indian co-workers, it really is fairly unique and hard to explain. The really short version is: each political party holds a series of elections at the state level where party members vote on which candidate should be the party's nominee for president. When all these elections have taken place, the winner becomes the party nominee, who will then run in the general election in November against the other party's nominee.)
However, now that Trump has won two of the first three primaries, he's clearly more than a joke candidate. I'm relieved that Jeb Bush at last dropped out. The guy should never have got in. He's the one person who clearly can't accuse Clinton of running as a dynasty candidate, and though I think he's a decent enough politician we simply cannot and will not elect a third member of the Bush family president. This is not a monarchy.
Talk, however, is cheap, and I've been saying that Trump won't win for months while he's continued to lead in the polls (though still with a minority of the party's support.) So am I serious when I say that I don't think he will win the nomination?
As it turns out, we have a way of testing that, and of measuring public opinion at the same time. Prediction markets provide an investment market type environment in which people essentially place wagers on what they believe the outcome of an event will be. So, for instance, if you believe, as I do, that Trump will not get the Republican nomination, you can go to PredictIt and purchase shares in a "contract" that Trump will not get the nomination. Here's PredictIt's explanation of how their markets work:
PredictIt allows you to make predictions on future events by buying shares in the outcome, either Yes or No. Each outcome has a probability between 1 and 99 percent. We convert those probabilities into US cents.
For example, Trader A thinks an event has at least a 60 percent chance of taking place so she offers 60 cents for a Yes share. PredictIt matches her offer with that of Trader B, who is willing to pay 40 cents for a No share. Each trader now owns a share in the market for this event on opposite sides.
The prices of shares will change over time and both traders could decide to sell their shares at any time. A key to success at PredictIt is knowing when to sell in order to take a profit or prevent a loss.
If an event does take place, all Yes shares are redeemed at $1.
Shares on the "No" proposition for Trump are hovering right around $0.50 per share, meaning that in general people on the exchange think there is a 50% chance that he'll be the nominee. So I put $50 on the proposition that Trump will not be the GOP nominee, and another $50 on the proposition that he will not be elected president, since I think that if he were nominated (or if he isn't but runs third party) he will lose. If I'm right on both of those, I make a hundred dollars. If he's nominated but loses to the Democratic nominee, I break even. If he's nominated and wins -- well, we'll all have bigger problems than my lost $100.
Then, I figured that I better stop wishing there were better candidates and get behind my favorite viable non-Trump candidate, so I went and gave Marco Rubio's campaign $50. It's been twenty years since I last gave money to a political candidate's campaign, and I'd been holding off because I didn't think any of the candidates was good enough to put money behind. At this point, though, I'm willing to back Rubio because he's my marginal favorite among the non-Trump candidates.
It's three weeks until we have our primary in Ohio, and a lot will happen between now and then, but now at least I've broken out of my inactivity.