Will Texas Be A Swing State In November? You Can Bet On It (Literally)
The odds aren’t great, but according to booking sites they’re there.
Speculating that Texas will go blue in the near future has a certain trollish quality. In fact, it’s also been a downright spectacular way to sound like you don’t know much about the Texas electorate in years past. Wendy Davis’s sound defeat in the 2014 gubernatorial election proved that the Texas Democratic Party isn’t ready to compete, and bringing the prospect of a blue state up at all seems almost futile. If you’re confident that Texas is going to stay a deep shade of red in 2016 and for years into the future, well, recent history hasn’t offered much evidence to the contrary.
But for the first time, you can actually put your money where your mouth is in the debate. PaddyPower, the Irish gambling site, recently released odds for five different swing states, and users can bet on which party’s candidate will win the state’s electoral votes in the general election. The list includes four familiar states to poll-watchers (North Carolina, Iowa, Florida, Ohio), and one that bookies tend to stay far away from: Texas.
To be certain, the odds that Texas goes blue in November aren’t good. At 14/1, they’re slightly better than the odds the site offers for the Astros (15/1) or Rangers (16/1) winning the World Series. They’re all in the game, but none of them are particularly likely propositions (even if Hillary Clinton selects Dallas Keuchel as her running mate). And the other side of the bet—putting your money down that Texas stays red in November—is even more intense, where gamblers will have to put down $100 to make a dollar.
That discrepancy relates to the real goal of betting sites. They don’t want to predict with scientific precision the likelihood of a given event coming to pass (stick with Nate Silver for that), but rather find a balance that gets a roughly equal amount of action on both sides of a bet, and that will help them avoid losing a fortune in the face of an unpredictable situation. So they’re conservative on both sides here—they need one person to see Texas going for the GOP in November as enough of a sure thing that they’ll put down $100 to win a dollar for every seven people who think that it’s worth a buck to bet that Texas could be a surprise pick to go blue.
But the mere fact that a gambling site sees the chances of a blue Texas as something worth offering odds on is surprising. In 2014, of course, you couldn’t get odds on Wendy Davis beating Greg Abbott anywhere—all of the action would have been on the GOP side of that bet, and that’s how bookies take a bath. (For what it’s worth, we determined that year that, if you wanted to place a bet on Davis, you’d probably be looking at about 166/1—worse than Marcus Mariota leading the Tennessee Titans to a Super Bowl victory next winter.)
Nobody’s offering odds on California going red in November, which means that the perception that Texas is in play is real. And looking at the further odds on PaddyPower, you can get an idea as to why: The site reasonably posits that Hillary Clinton is an overwhelming favorite (1/18) to win the Democratic nomination, and that Donald Trump (2/5) is a lot more likely than Ted Cruz (5/1) to be the GOP nominee. Further, the speculation that Clinton will select popular former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro as her running mate is high—PaddyPower puts those odds at 5/2, twice as likely as the next most popular potential veep (Tim Kaine, at 5/1), and well ahead of the rest of the field. Cruz, meanwhile, is an unlikely running mate for Trump (and getting less likely the more time those two dudes spend talking about each other’s wives), and the site reflects that by giving him 10/1 odds—behind John Kasich, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, and even Lil’ Marco Rubio.
All of this is to say that the odds right now favor a November election that puts Hillary Clinton and Julián Castro up against Donald Trump and John Kasich. Clinton is well-liked in Texas—she received nearly a million votes in the primary—and Castro is a native son who left his tenure as the leader of San Antonio to join Obama’s cabinet, which suggests that he’d add a fair bit of popular support to the ticket. Trump, on the other hand, is not particularly beloved by Texas Republicans. Despite the fact that nearly twice as many people voted in the GOP primary as voted in the Democratic primary, Clinton pulled nearly 200,000 more actual votes than Trump did in the state on Super Tuesday.
When you factor all of that together, it doesn’t necessarily add up to “Hillary Clinton is going to win Texas in November,” of course. But we’re just talking about the odds here, and 14/1 doesn’t sound so crazy with all of that in mind. And, of course, if you disagree with the very notion that Texas could be a blue state in the 2016 presidential election, well—wanna bet?