The Strange 2020 Presidential Candidates: A First Look

With the race for California’s 21st congressional district finally called for Democrat TJ Cox, yesterday technically marked the end of the 2018 midterm cycle. And while many are taking a much-needed break for the rest of the year, there’s no rest for the wicked — or in this case, the political junkies.

Indeed, people are looking ahead to 2020’s elections, with some candidates already jump-starting bids for the presidency. By and large, though, the figures who’ve already declared their intentions have a slim chance of even appearing on ballots in Iowa and New Hampshire. Still, because the heavy hitters are staying quiet, let’s look at a few of Donald Trump’s more…eccentric challengers.

Already Announced

As of writing, there are three people running who are considered “declared major candidates.” And let me tell you, at least two of the words in that phrase are correct.

Take, for example, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, whose marquee issue is protecting America from artificial intelligence. Or how about Richard Ojeda, a Democratic West Virginia State Senator who lost this year’s race in WV-03 and voted for Trump? Probably the most serious contender so far is John Delaney, the outgoing representative of Maryland’s 6th district. 

Speculated

If none of those options suit your fancy, fear not, for the betting markets are buzzing with other potential candidates.

While there are numerous different places on which people can place bets about the 2020 presidential race, including PredictIt and PredictWise, I like to treat these markets a lot like egregiously partisan polls — though they should rarely be taken seriously, it’s best to look at the averages. And for that, we head to OddsChecker

The top of OddsChecker contains some common names: the five favorites are currently Donald Trump, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden. It’s easy to argue about the order of these candidates, or whether they should be top-five or top-ten picks,  but all are fairly reasonable.

If you scroll down a bit, it starts getting weird. Coming in at number 20 is the Detriot-based social activist Marshall Mathers, whom you may know better as “Eminem.” Other names include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (twice), Ben Shapiro, Tom Brady, John Cena, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, and LeBron James.

In total, OddsChecker lists 138 different candidates. That’s a shocking number, especially when you remember that people are betting real money.

Conclusion

It may seem preposterous that the US would elect an unknown politician, business mogul, rapper, movie star, or athlete to the Oval Office in 24 months; but keep in mind — that’s exactly what people said about Trump. 

After all, late 2014/early 2015 polls for the 2016 GOP nomination were led by Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee, with the eventual winner not even listed. Likewise, CNN’s most recent 2020 Democratic primary poll features Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris at the top: in a few months, that list could look completely different. 

At the end of the day, looking at random betting markets (especially right now) may not provide new or realistic clues about who will be the next president. Nevertheless, it can function as a useful thought experiment that teaches us how to hedge our expectations and adjust our priors. 

Oh, and I’m not claiming that we’ll soon have President James Comey, but this early in the election cycle, you never know..

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