02/07/2011 07:44 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Palin Pales in Presidential Betting

Political chatter is heating up. Ditto political betting. So let's look at some of the latest and newsiest nuggets on the next U.S. presidential race through the betting odds at the United Kingdom's William Hill, one of the word's largest and most influential bookmakers. In brief:

- The big political duel of 2012 will be Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney for the presidency of the United States.

- Sarah Palin, who has been as mum as a mummy on whether she'll toss her bonnet into the 2012 White House race, is proving to be a conspicuous betting influence, but she isn't making much political hay.

- Forget about Mike Bloomberg. The media may hype him, but he's now out of the running.

This is a follow-up to a piece I did last November in which I zeroed in -- based on the odds and the tempo of the betting activity -- who William Hill envisioned as the favorite to win the next presidential election, as well as be the likely Republican standard bearer.

After hearing recently from a London money manager that the bookmaker was experiencing a Palin betting blitz, I decided an update was in order. Indeed there is such a blitz, with Palin attracting more bets at William Hill than all other presidential candidates put together, Rupert Adams, the bookmaker's director of media operations, tells me.

What makes William Hill's betting odds particularly noteworthy is that they sport a pretty impressive record in picking the winners in the U.S. presidential sweepstakes. "We get it right about 80% to 90% of the time," says Adams.

Although Palin is drawing crowds, plenty of media attention and her fans say you can't sell her short as a legitimate presidential candidate, the latest odds show otherwise. Despite the UK betting blitz, she shows little momentum, versus a few months ago. In other words, she's no political powerhouse, but a political powder puff.

The odds document her powder puff position. For example, in November, she was quoted at 5 to 1 to capture the Republican nomination and those odds have now slipped to 6 to 1. At the same time, her chances of winning the presidency have only improved a bit, according to the betting, with the odds narrowing from 14 to 1 to 12 to 1. Personally, that sounds excessive to me since I've never met anyone who said they would vote for her. Still, Palin, as a potential GOP standard bearer, is second only to the Republicans' betting leader, Mitt Romney, who is quoted at 11 to 4 (meaning you put up $4 to win $11, for a total return of $15).

Like all political candidates, Palin has her boosters and her detractors. Some say she's a true patriot with a strong ability to communicate with the masses, especially so with the disenchanted and those hard hit economically. On the other hand, her critics say she has diarrhea of the mouth, often recklessly shooting from the hip with absurd and distasteful comments and seemingly oblivious to what the reactions might be, as was the case following the Tucson shootings.

New York attorney Allen Wooster of Wooster and Wooster, who usually votes Republican, strongly opposes Palin. He views her as "politically dead as a presidential candidate, assuming," he says, "she was ever politically alive. "She's shallow, inept, a political lightweight and is probably the least qualified President candidate over the past 100 years," he observes. "How could any thinking person possibly vote for her?"

Still, the national election is nearly two years away, and who knows what could happen in that period? Further, a 6 to 1 contender in any race, Adams says, has to be viewed as a somewhat of a contender.

Palin has publicly said she thinks she could beat President Obama in a national election. Judging from William Hill's latest betting odds, it looks like she would have an easier time parting the Red Sea. The odds show Obama strengthening his position as the overwhelming favorite to recapture the presidency by gaining modestly in the betting since November from even money to 5 to 6 (meaning you now put up $6 to win $5, versus before $5 to win $5).

In Obama's case, you have strongly mixed views. For example, a few months ago University of Maryland economist Peter Morici described Obama to me as "unqualified to be President." At the moment, though, Obama is looking more potent, say political watchers; he's off the roller-coaster, he's been gaining in the polls since December (now above 50%), and it looks like he could be in for four more years, barring some major new downturn in the economy or the stock market.

Romney, Obama's current chief rival, who is quoted at 8 to 1 to win the White House, also gets mixed reviews. Some market watchers rate him a bore and a flip-flopper who can't connect with the American people and insist he'll never be the G.O.P. nominee. Martin Janis, a Chicago public relations man active in the Nixon campaign, disagrees, noting "Romney has tremendous business strength, a presidential appearance and presence and he's what's what we need in the White House."

Rounding out the odds on other G.O.P. candidates for the Republican nomination, South Dakota Senator John Thune is quoted at 6 to 1, followed by Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, 13 to 2; Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, 8 to 1; Mike Huckabee, 10 to 1; Newt Gingrich, 14 to 1; Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, 14 to 1; Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, 16 to 1, and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, 22 to 1.

Concluding odds on snaring the presidency itself are Daniels and Thune, 14 to 1; Huckabee, 18 to 1; Hillary Clinton, 22 to 1; Gingrich and Pawlenty, 25 to 1; Barbour and Biden, 33 to 1; Jindal and Ron Paul, 50 to 1, and Lady Gaga, 500 to 1.

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