How The 2020 Presidential Election Was Won And Lost: A Betting Timeline

Joe Biden ultimately prevailed – but it didn’t always look that way
Pete Watt
Mon, November 9, 10:53 AM EST

So that’s it. Pending any legal challenges from Donald Trump, Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States and here will end OddsChecker’s 2020 US Presidential Election coverage.

The election itself may be over, but the events of a long and gruelling campaign for both parties will be long remembered and discussed – starting right now.

Here are some of the key highlights in the lengthy build-up to the voting day, and how these events affected the betting chances of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden as they played out.

2020 Presidential Election Odds - As It Happened

1st January 2019

OddsChecker begins tracking the market, at which point Donald Trump is the clear favorite to win the 2020 election. His odds of +150 on that day implied a probability of 40.00% that he would secure a second term 22 months later.

Joe Biden’s odds, by comparison, were set at +1600 which suggested just a 5.90% chance he would win the Presidency. These lengthy odds are unsurprising, however, given that the Democrat candidate was yet to be decided.

At that stage, Kamala Harris was the likeliest challenger to Trump, with her odds of +800 indicating an 11.10% chance she would become the first female POTUS.

25th April 2019

The odds oscillated and fluctuated for the first four months of the year, but the first momentous shift came on April 25th, when Joe Biden officially announced his candidacy for POTUS.

Within days, his odds-implied probability of winning more than doubled from 8.30% to 16.70%, elevating him to the frontrunning Democrat in the field. Trump, however, remained the market leader with an implied chance of 42.10% at that stage.

6th February 2020

The Democrat primaries begin in Iowa and New Hampshire, with prior polls predicting a poor performance for the Biden campaign.

And they’re right. Even without Kamala Harris to contend with – the vice-president elect dropped out of the race weeks earlier - the up-and-coming Mayor of South Bend in Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, exceeds expectations as he wins in The Hawkeye State. Biden calls the defeat a ‘gut punch’ as he wins significantly fewer votes than either Buttigieg or the progressive Bernie Sanders.

New Hampshire follows a similar pattern as Sanders and Buttigieg finish first and second respectively, with Biden finishing even behind Amy Klobuchar in The Granite State. With rumours building that he will drop out of the race, Biden’s odds reach their nadir of +10000, or 100/1, meaning bookmakers gave him just a 1% chance of going on to win on that day.

29th February – 3rd March 2020

The former vice-president’s stuttering campaign roars back into life in North Carolina – as he said it would – with Biden winning 48.7% of the popular vote and finishing as the winner in every single county of the state.

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On Super Tuesday, Biden wins the most delegates and votes in 9 of the 15 states. Rivals including Klobuchar and Buttigieg drop out of the race and it becomes clear that it will be Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders who secures the Democrat nomination for the election.

Moreover, it becomes clear that bookmakers favor Biden; his odds are cut to just +180 (35.71% chance) in the hours after Super Tuesday. This marks the highest his chances have been so far and dwarfs Sanders’ odds of +1600 (5.90%).

8th April 2020

The veteran Vermont Senator fights on for another two weeks before he too suspends his campaign. As a result, Biden becomes the presumptive nominee and the betting markets essentially declare a two-horse race. At this stage, Trump is the frontrunner with an implied chance of 51.28%, but Biden is now right behind on 44.44%.

1st June 2020

With COVID-19 beginning to ravage the United States and the protests at the murder of George Floyd entering their second week, Trump is facing heavy criticism both at home and abroad. The first day of June marked the first day that Donald Trump was not the favorite in the market since it opened, as Joe Biden climbed ahead of him to lead for the first time.

The market reads with Biden at the top on +105 (48.78% implied chance) and Trump on +110 (47.62% implied chance.

28th July 2020

From the beginning of June onwards, the Biden lead has been steadily growing and on this day Joe reached his zenith so far in the market. His odds of -170 gave him a suggested probability of 62.97%, while Trump was way back on +175 (36.36%)

2nd September 2020

Donald Trump rallies somewhat, declaring his intention to begin reopening states as soon as possible and to restore the strength of the US economy, an aspect which he built much of his re-election campaign on.

As July ends and September comes around, the gap closes rapidly and Trump is once again installed as the betting favorite, although it only lasts one day; Trump: -105 (51.29%), Biden: +100 (50.00%).

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2nd October 2020

Donald Trump catches coronavirus. Betting markets are suspended as the President is flown into Walter Reed Medical Center. Despite the fact that he declares himself totally fit and free of the virus, the markets reopen 72 hours later with his chances having diminished by 4%. From this stage onwards until election night, Biden’s lead again grows.

3rd November 2020

Election Day. As over 65 million Americans go to the polls to vote on the day, Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump in the markets is 65%-35%.

This is markedly closer than the major news networks and forecasting models on both sides of the pond. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight projects an 88% chance of victory for Biden, while The Economist’s model in London gives the former VP a staggering 96% chance of winning.

With early projections from the likes of Florida and Pennsylvania going in favor of the President, the markets see huge action as the clock ticks towards midnight Eastern Time, with millions of pounds being laid down in those hours. Just after midnight, the odds flip and Trump’s chances reach an all-time high of 69%.

However, the pendulum swings the other way as it becomes clear than Biden has over performed in the states of Arizona and Georgia, while the early ‘red mirage’ is replaced by a ‘blue wave’ of sorts. Joe Biden is again installed as the betting favorite at 5.30am ET the morning after Election Day and never looks back. His lead grows steadily over the following 72 hours before his is declared the winner on Sunday 8th November.

2024 US Election: Betting On The Election

You can read the latest news and odds for the 2024 election here.

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