Is Huntsman more electable than Romney?

Gamblers are more willing to bet their money that Huntsman can beat Obama than that Romney can.

Intrade runs betting markets on just about everything. Because people are putting money on the line, the current intrade share prices can be used to estimate the “common wisdom” among bettors about how likely something is.

The political markets are fun to watch. There’s a market for betting on the outcome of the 2012 presidential election and another for betting on the Republican nomination race. At present, the betting on Intrade leads to these predictions (sorted in descending order by the middle column):

Candidate Chance of being GOP nominee Chance of winning 2012 election
Romney 68.5% 34.2%
Paul 8.4% 4.9%
Gingrich 8.2% 3.1%
Huntsman 6.7% 3.4%
Perry 3.0% 1.0%

We can take this one step further. If you were to bet on a candidate’s chance of winning the general election in 2012, you would have to factor in that candidate’s chance of winning the nomination first. By fiddling with these numbers, we can estimate each candidate’s electability in the general election.

For example, if we divide Romney’s 34.2% chance of winning the general election by his 68.5% chance of winning the GOP nomination, then we infer that Intrade’s bettors believe that Romney has a 49.9% chance of beating Obama if he receives the nomination. (That is, 34.2/68.5=49.9). If he is the nominee, bettors believe Romney has a 49.9% chance of beating Obama.

Let’s do that math for all these candidates. Here’s the result (in descending order):

Candidate Math Chance of beating Obama (if nominated)
Paul 4.9/8.4 58.3% chance
Huntsman 3.4/6.7 50.7% chance
Romney 34.2/68.5 49.9% chance
Gingrich 3.1/8.2 37.8% chance
Perry 1.0/3.0 33.3% chance

I question the result for Ron Paul. He has such an energized base that I wouldn’t be surprised if his supporters were irrationally optimistic about his odds. Hard to say.

But aside from Ron Paul, bettors believe that Huntsman is the most electable candidate. And in a result that may interest Utah readers, gamblers are more willing to bet their money that Huntsman can beat Obama than that Romney can. (Please, no jokes about $10,000 bets. I know. It’s tempting.)

I wrote a similar post back in June. Back then, Huntsman had a 48.0% chance of beating Obama, better than Romney’s 41.1%. Huntsman still has better odds against Obama, but Romney has closed the gap somewhat.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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