As early as January 2012, all political betting interest was focused on the gatherings in Iowa, the first state to vote in the race to elect the Republican candidate for Barack Obama.
Big news that night was that Mitt Romney had taken a win by just eight votes ahead of Rick Santorum, as pictured above. This was based on information from State Party headquarters, which emphasized that this was not a certified result. This would happen after the signed returns are received from the 1,700 counties – a process that would take fourteen days.
That uncertainty was reflected in what the viewer’s editor, Fraser Nelson, blogged on Wednesday morning at 7.53 a.m. GMT:
“Instead of white smoke, Iowa belches thick fog. Mitt Romney won by eight votes. At least we think so Republicans say they will have to wait for Certified Form E to be returned from all counties in Iowa, which will take two weeks for that razor-thin majority to potentially go away. “
Despite the lack of security, bookmakers – including Betfair – populated their markets that morning and paid off a Romney win. PaddyPower announced in a smart PR move that those who would bet on Santorum would get their stakes refunded.
Fraser Nelson and others were rightly cautious. Within 24 hours, the result was challenged by a typographical error in a county in Appanoose County. Nate Silver takes up the story:
“The dispute arose when a caucusgoer, Edward True, said in an affidavit that Mitt Romney received 22 votes in his Washington Wells precinct when he actually received only two votes there on caucus night. Mr. True is a supporter of Representative Ron Paul. “
When the result was final almost two weeks later, Santorum was the winner with just 34 votes. Unfortunately, Iowa didn’t give him the boastful rights that could have made a difference in the early primaries. Romney won the nomination but lost to Obama in the November election.
There was an outcry among the punters, and I just wonder if it was that experience nearly nine years ago that Betfair was extremely cautious about in US elections.