This morning, I moseyed over to Iowa Electronic Markets to see what the futures markets were saying about tomorrow’s election. (If you’re not familiar with IEM in particular, or prediction markets in general, click here or here.)

Not surprisingly, people investing real money in election futures contracts give Barack Obama a whopping 90% chance of victory tomorrow.

What’s more surprising, though, is the chart depicting contract prices over the last 2+ years. Take a look at it below and click it so you can see it fully. The vertical axis is price, which is essentially proxy for likelihood of victory. The horizontal axis is time. Red shows the Republican candidate, Blue the Democratic candidate.


Since June 2006, well before the particular candidates were even selected, the futures markets have never predicted a Republican victory in the 2008 presidential race. Never. The two lines get close a couple of times. But for the last 29 months, the collective intelligence of thousands of investors have always put blue on top — again, regardless of the Democratic or Republican nominee.

In the next few weeks, we’ll likely hear people bash John McCain for having been a lousy candidate and having run a stumbling campaign. But if we look through a different lens, we might glimpse an alternative conclusion: Maybe the poor guy never had a chance.

2 Responses to “Chart of the day: Did McCain ever have a chance?”

  1. Thanks for that… very interesting!

    Also interesting is the sudden ramp starting in early September. The only correlation I can think of is McCain’s announcement of Palin as his running mate on Aug 29th…

    The prediction market seems to clearly indicate that this was a really bad choice (I agree)!

  2. Just from a Marketing stand point of view, John McCain never had a chance with Barack Obama’s superb viral marketing tactics. Whoever is behind McCain’s marketing strategy, should be fired.

    There are several factors worth to be mentioned as key for Obama’s successful campaign, including a couple of Best-Sellers and the “1 vote” video Daniel shared with us, but since I want to keep this short, I’d like to compare the IEM prediction with some hard substantial evidence.

    Let’s take Twitter for example, since both candidates have an account with their own followers.

    John McCain has 4,618 followers and Barack Obama? An stunning 112,659 followers. That’s over 95% more followers!

    But wait, it wouldn’t be fair to use just one reference to measure the public’s preference. Maybe you are familiar with this site:

    As I write this post John McCain has 2,297 votes and if by any chance you clicked on that link before reading this you should see Barack Obama’s votes at only 12,356!

    The real test comes tomorrow on Election Day, and it shall be interesting to compare this unaltered numbers against the ‘real thing’.

    All The Best,

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