Wednesday, October 15, 2008



Julianna Goldman
October 15 2008

Barack Obama is likely to pick up 364 Electoral College votes, far surpassing the 270needed to claim the presidency, by winning battleground states including Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and Colorado, online traders say.

Bettors on the Dublin-based Intrade's political futures market believe Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, will prevail in all the states won by party nominee John Kerry in 2004, in addition to picking up other previously Republican strongholds such as Nevada and Missouri. Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, would pick up 174 Electoral votes, winning states such as Texas, Indiana and West Virginia.

As the economic crisis dominates the presidential campaign, Obama, an Illinois senator, has surged in national polls over McCain. Obama has opened a 10 percentage-point lead over McCain, 53 percent to 43 percent, among likely voters nationally in a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken Oct. 8-11. That's up from a 4 point lead in a Post-ABC poll taken at the end of September.

Still, the presidency will be decided state-by-state --with the candidate who wins the Electoral College, where votes are distributed by winner take all in most states. The two exceptions are Maine and Nebraska, whose votes are apportioned by congressional district.

Obama Expands Lead

Futures contracts at Intrade, a unit of Dublin-based Trade Exchange Network Co., show a number of the states that Democrats lost four years ago favoring Obama by at least 2-to-1 margins including Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Though Obama's chances are less in Missouri and North Carolina, bettors say both are leaning Obama and have factored the states' combined 26 Electoral College votes into the total.

Contract prices on Intrade reflect the odds of a candidate winning and are all-or-nothing wagers. A contract showing a 50 percent chance a candidate will win Ohio, for example, would cost $5 and would pay $10. If the candidate doesn't win, it would settle at zero.

By that measure, Obama's chances of winning the Nov. 4 election are 77.7 percent, according to the latest futures contract price on Intrade at 4:00 p.m. Dublin time.

Such markets have been more accurate than polls in past elections. In part, that's because people are placing money on what they expect to happen as opposed to what they would like to happen and who they plan to support.