Betting on politics: Steer clear of Oprah

The notion of a President Oprah has been raised. But it's not a bet worth taking, says Matthew Partridge.


Could we see a President Oprah?
(Image credit: 2018 Getty Images)

Could President Donald Trump be followed by President Oprah Winfrey? Inspired by her speech at the Golden Globes, Betfair's odds of Oprah winning the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 have tightened to just 7.00 (14.3%). This puts her ahead of Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and second only to the current favourite, Californian senator Kamala Harris. Betfair is also offering 12 (8.3%) on her going all the way to the White House.

At first glance, the idea doesn't seem completely absurd. Many people initially felt that a former movie star like Ronald Reagan had no chance, while Trump never held public office before his shock victory. Polls also show Oprah near the front of the Democratic pack, and easily beating Trump in head-to-head contests.

Nevertheless, Oprah has never previously shown much interest in politics, and I'm sceptical about her ability to create a message that can resonate outside California. It's not even clear whether she actually wants to go through the time and expense of a long campaign.

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Most importantly, I'm convinced that by the time Trump comes up for re-election, voters on both sides of the spectrum will be sick of the idea of celebrity politics, and will be longing for some quiet competence. That's why I would advise you to stay well clear of Oprah. But I wouldn't bet against her either. With November 2020 nearly three years away, the potential return isn't great enough to justify tying your money up for that length of time.

One presidential election happening much sooner later this month, in fact is in Cyprus. It's in two stages, concluding with a run-off if no one gets a majority on the first ballot. Polls suggest that the incumbent president, Nicos Anastasiades, should get the most votes in the first round and go on to secure a comfortable victory in February's decider. You should therefore take Betfair's 1.22 (82%) on him being re-elected. I have bet £2 on Anastasiades.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri