Marco Rubio Is Better Than Even Money to Be the GOP Nominee

Marco Rubio Iowa, Marco Rubio GOP nomination, Marco Rubio vs. Donald Trump

Marco Rubio had plenty to cheer about Monday, when he finished with a surprisingly strong 23 percent of the vote in Iowa. (Getty)

As is often the case after caucus and primary nights, there will be plenty of stories Tuesday about the winners and losers of Monday night’s first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

Ted Cruz won in the most traditional sense: The Texas senator was the only candidate in either party who was able to take the stage and declare victory, having won the GOP caucus with 28 percent of the vote — 4 percentage points ahead of Donald Trump and 5 ahead of Marco Rubio.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who finished in a virtual tie on the Democratic side, can each claim some semblance of victory — Sanders for having made the race a virtual dead heat after trailing Clinton by double digits for most of 2015, Clinton for at least avoiding what would have been an embarrassing defeat.

By any measure, GOP candidates not named Cruz, Trump or Rubio were losers. That may be especially true of Jeb Bush, whose Super PAC flooded the airwaves with all sorts of ads, only to see Bush finish with 3 percent of the vote.

In terms of where the money is going, though, there was one big winner and one big loser. The big winner was Rubio, whose stock in betting markets monitored by Predictwise skyrocketed after his surprisingly strong third-place finish. The big loser was Trump, whose stock plummeted, reversing substantial gains it had made over the past month.

As we noted on Sunday, the conventional wisdom among bettors had gradually soured on Rubio over the past two months. The Florida senator was the betting favorite to win the nomination throughout the fall, topping out at 48 percent at Predictwise on November 18. Bettors began to sour on Rubio when his polling numbers failed to catch up to underlying factors such as his high favorability ratings and broad appeal to disparate elements of the GOP coalition.

On the other hand, bettors gradually warmed to Trump over the same timespan, as he continued to own the media spotlight and his national polling numbers proved resilient and his favorability ratings among GOP voters steadily improved. The New York billionaire was at 22 percent at Predictwise in November. By the time Monday rolled around, he was all the way up to 52 percent — the odds-on favorite to win the nomination.

After one night of voting, however, bettors reversed the movement they’d made over the past two months, and then some. Rubio’s stock skyrocketed early Tuesday morning all the way up to 52 percent. It’s the first time he’s been better than even money to win the nomination. Trump’s, on the other hand, fell all the way to 26 percent, all but completely erasing the forward movement he’d made since November.

Here’s a look at the movement:

GOP betting odds, Rubio vs. Trump odds, odds to win the Republican nomination

(Heavy graphic)

Trump’s performance, of course, was decent by most traditional metrics. He finished second place in a crowded field, as a brash Northeasterner in a rural Midwestern state dominated by social conservatives. Bettors, though, were not impressed. Trump’s stock plummeted, from 52 percent all the way to 26 percent. The Donald still has plenty going for him. He entered Monday with a commanding lead in New Hampshire, which hold’s the nation’s first primary on February 9. His uncharacteristically humble concession speech Monday night in Iowa was well-received.

There are plenty of ways for Trump to put a positive spin on that kind of performance. But a candidate whose entire campaign has been about “winning” and “making America great again” has lost. That — and Rubio out-performing his polling averages by about 5 percentage points — has caused a slew of bettors to change their minds.

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