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Online Gamblers Place Bets on Hillary

If the betting on Hillary looks remarkable, check out the action on the Republican betting slips.

John McCain came into the year being given around a 50% shot at the nomination. And the long-standing GOP front-runner was still there, holding steady, just two months ago. If anything, he was firming up his lead.

Today? Try 8%.

No, that's not a typo. Betting on the "straight talk" maverick has collapsed. The fast money says his support for the immigration bill has destroyed his chances with the Republican base. "The punters are saying McCain has no chance at all," says Cantor's Buik.

Instead, the money right now puts it at a two-way race between Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani, with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney running a decent third.

Although the prices vary a bit between markets, Thompson and Giuliani roughly average about 31% each, while Romney is about 24%.

Thompson's jump into the race has fulfilled the prediction made to me over drinks in a Boston bar by one of Mitt Romney's operatives two months ago. Thompson, a "personality" candidate, has taken more support from Rudy Giuliani than from Romney.

In the past, political futures markets have had a pretty good record of predicting outcomes. They have tended to do better than a simple headline reading of the opinion polls, especially at this sort of distance. Right now, the polls reflect name recognition as much as anything.

The question is whether the betting on Hillary Clinton is as smart as it is heavy.

The former First Lady carries a lot of negatives and a lot of baggage.

If you think there's a good chance she won't get the nomination, then now would be the opportune moment to go "short," hedge fund style, and bet against her.

My own two cents? If I were trading, rather than writing, I'd take this moment as "buying opportunities" for shares in Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. There is a long way to go before the primaries.

In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, Brett Arends doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Arends takes a critical look inside mutual funds and the personal finance industry in a twice-weekly column that ranges from investment advice for the general reader to the industry's latest scoop. Prior to joining in 2006, he worked for more than two years at the Boston Herald, where he revived the paper's well-known 'On State Street' finance column and was part of a team that won two SABEW awards in 2005. He had previously written for the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail newspapers in London, the magazine Private Eye, and for Global Agenda, the official magazine of the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland. Arends has also written a book on sports 'futures' betting.
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