The vice president is said to be “a heartbeat away” from taking over the highest office in the land. Given the events of the past few days, that metaphorical distance feels shorter than ever.
President Donald Trump announced early Friday morning that he had tested positive for COVID-19, followed Friday afternoon by a helicopter ride to Walter Reed Medical Center (where he remained as of Monday morning). With Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden having possibly been exposed to an infected Trump at last Tuesday’s debate — and with both men being in their 70s — the chances of one or both candidates not making it to the Nov. 3 election are too high to ignore.
And that puts Wednesday night’s debate between current Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris under an even brighter spotlight. It’s no longer a standard showdown between two politicians vying to be a heartbeat away after Jan. 20. It’s a verbal battle between two politicians, either of whom could conceivably be atop the ticket in November.
And on top of that, it might be the last debate the public sees this election cycle. Two more Trump-Biden debates are scheduled, but there are no guarantees that either of those will proceed. (It could be a welcome development, however, for anyone who suffered through the first debate, which was termed “a disgrace,” “a dark event,” and by multiple professional observers, “a [expletive] show.”)
Simply put, the stakes are high in Wednesday’s VP debate. FanDuel Sportsbook is aiming to inject a little levity with its Vice Presidential Debate pool, the second of four scheduled pools in a Presidential Pick ’Em series.
“$750,” “Momala,” and other pick ’em pool concerns
While election-related wagering is not a legal option at U.S. sportsbooks, FanDuel has found a workaround in the form of free-to-play pick ’em pools, bringing traffic and new customer registrations to the sportsbook at the cost of, in this case, a $10,000 prize pool. Rival operator DraftKings still has a free-to-play presidential election pool up, but after posting a pool for the first presidential debate, it has not offered one for this week’s Pence-Harris meeting.
The FanDuel pool closes at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday, when the scheduled 90-minute debate begins at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Pence and Harris will be seated on stage, 12 feet apart per Biden campaign request, and the moderator will be Susan Page, USA Today’s Washington bureau chief.
The $10K prize pool will be split among all winners who tie for the most correct answers to the following 10 questions:
Which candidate will be asked to respond first in the debate?
For what it’s worth, incumbent Trump got the first question from Chris Wallace in last week’s debate.
Which presidential candidate will be mentioned first in the debate by either candidate or the moderator?
The options are Trump, Biden, and “neither,” and you can cross out that third choice right now. Given Trump’s current condition and the nonstop news cycle around his behavior, he’s the clear favorite here, with Biden being a contrarian play.
What will Mike Pence’s tie look like?
The choices: “Solid color” or “Not a solid color.” Four years ago, Pence went solid blue when he took on Tim Kaine.
Who will be the first candidate to say “China”?
There’s a “neither” option along with the choice to pick Harris or Pence, and it can’t be ruled out on this one. In general, making China a talking point tends to be more of a GOP strategy than a Democratic objective.
Will “$750” be said by a candidate or the moderator during the debate?
The options are “Yes” or “No,” and boy is this a fascinating case study on how quickly the news cycle zooms along. Did The New York Times’ reporting on Trump’s tax returns really come out just a week ago?
Which of the following terms or phrases will be said first by a candidate during the debate?
The choices here are “Supreme Court,” “COVID,” “Social distance,” “Unprecedented,” and “None of the above.” Any of the first four would seem to be in play, although SCOTUS, the first topic introduced during the initial presidential debate, is no longer top of mind. Clicking “None of the above” to be contrarian is about as advisable as building a DFS tournament lineup around a min-priced, third-string quarterback.
Will either candidate wear a mask on stage?
This is a “Yes” or “No” question, and note that “on stage” is not the same as “during the debate.” There’s a case to made that Harris will make a statement by wearing a mask as she makes her entrance, although Biden — before his opponent’s COVID diagnosis was known — did not wear a mask as he walked onto the stage last week.
Wear a mask, not just for yourself but for those around you and the people you love.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 5, 2020
Will either candidate say the word “Dog” during the debate?
We’re as confused as you are by this question. Might it have made more sense if Elizabeth Warren, who compared Pence to a dog earlier this year, were Biden’s running mate? It’s all a bit odd. Note that the assumption here is that “underdog” doesn’t count.
Will Kamala Harris say “Momala” during the debate?
Well, Maya Rudolph said it in portraying Harris on Saturday Night Live. Up to you whether to include that in your advanced analytics calculation.
How many times will Trump tweet between 9 and 10:30 p.m. ET (not inclusive of retweets or replies)?
The options are “Two or less,” and “Three or more” (and we won’t get hung up on FanDuel’s editorial team using “less” where “fewer” is appropriate). If you’re taking the under, you’re parlaying Trump’s COVID symptoms being strong Wednesday night with his team not taking over his Twitter account if he’s unwell.
Biden widens where election odds are offered
Although you can’t place legal straight-up bets on the November election in the U.S., PredictIt.org offers a different sort of betting market, in which customers can, essentially, trade shares of various outcomes, with modest limits. As of Monday morning, Biden was trading at 65 cents, meaning a 65-cent “bet” on Biden returns $1 if he wins. That translates to him being a -186 favorite using normal American odds.
Trump, meanwhile is trading at 38 cents, so he’s a +163 ’dog.
It might look like PredictIt is baking in a “vig” there, but the site isn’t. Rather, the space between is filled with the suddenly not-so-crazy possibility of Harris or Pence winning the presidential election. Pence is trading at 4 cents (+2400), and Harris is at 3 cents (+3233). There’s also the baffling option to buy shares of Hillary Clinton at 1 cent.
Election betting is legal for sportsbook operators in some other countries, and on Friday morning, after Trump’s COVID announcement, Betfair quickly suspended wagering. Those bets remained off the board as of Monday morning.
But other operators, like the UK-based Smarkets, are still taking bets. Biden elevated to 65.8% to win, according to Smarkets on Friday, and continued to trend upward over the weekend, sitting at 67.11% at last check.
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