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Fred Thompson's campaign for president has collapsed.

Well, at least, among the bookies.

I've been giving readers regular updates on the betting in the presidential election, but absolutely nothing has been more dramatic this fall than Thompson's market meltdown. According to the betting at the Iowa Electronic Markets, the TV actor's chances of winning the GOP nomination have slumped in just six weeks from nearly 30% to less than 10%.

As recently as June, just after the former Senator announced he was running, he was the favorite in the betting, at nearly 40%.

The numbers are similar over at Dublin-based betting exchange InTrade. Thompson was at 35% in July. Today? 6%.

Credit the old Wall Street saw: Buy on the rumor, and sell on the news.

Before Thompson jumped into the race, conservative columnist George Will compared the anticipation to "Tulipmania." He questioned whether the

Law & Order

star really offered either the charisma, or the Mr. Conservative credentials, that his boosters claimed.

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Maybe Thompson could never have matched the elevated expectations that greeted him. But his lackluster campaign and weak debate performances have brought him down to earth with a thump.

The betting now puts the Republican race between two people. The markets give Rudy Giuliani a 40% chance of winning the nomination, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney a 30% chance.

I've been writing up Romney's prospects for over a year. Back then, people were laughing at his chances. Not any more.

Romney's people told me earlier this year that they always saw the race coming down to him vs. Giuliani, and the betting markets now seem to agree.

The bookies put McCain's chances at just 10%. His numbers collapsed in the spring following his support for an immigration reform bill that was deeply unpopular among many conservatives.

There's some minor interest in Mike Huckabee, which is hardly surprising. He's running a terrific grassroots campaign. If Republican primaries worked like Democratic primaries, he'd probably be the front runner.

At InTrade, Huckabee's being given a 32% chance of getting picked as the vice-presidential nominee.

Over on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton's odds continue to defy gravity.

The media insists she's been on her back foot since last week's debate -- but somebody forgot to tell the people betting on the race. Markets continue to give Senator Clinton around a 70% or even 75% chance of winning the nomination, and around a 50% chance of winning the White House. Neither has fallen noticeably in a week.

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.