Former Vice President Joe Biden has surged past President Donald Trump in online betting markets tied to the outcome of the 2020 presidential race as the U.S. continues to grapple with a deepening financial crisis, spreading pandemic and historic protests over police brutality.
Biden, the apparent Democratic nominee, has taken his biggest lead over Trump to date in Smarkets, a U.K.-based online gambling platform, as well as PredictIt, an online betting platform established by researchers in New Zealand.
Spokespeople for both companies confirmed that trading volume has risen to levels unseen since March, when the U.S. began shutting down major portions of its economy to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Betting markets are distinct from polls, which have for months consistently shown Biden leading Trump and currently show Trump behind by about 8 percentage points.
While polls typically ask voters which candidate they support, betting markets allow users to wager on whom they think will ultimately win November's election, taking into account factors such as the Electoral College. Trump, who won the Electoral College in 2016 despite losing the popular vote, has typically performed better in betting markets than polls.
Representatives for the campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.
The shifting contours of the race, as played out in online betting markets, are a marked contrast to the relative stability that has held in recent months.
Biden briefly led Trump in March, but Trump carried a stable lead throughout April and May, even as tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs, sending unemployment numbers skyrocketing past those reached in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
The change in the race comes as Biden positions himself as Trump's opposite when it comes to addressing grievances over historic injustices in policing black communities.
Trump, who has expressed some sympathy for the case of George Floyd, a black man who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis last week, has nonetheless called for police to "dominate" protesters with overwhelming force. The four officers involved in the arrest have been fired and one has been charged with murder.
A dramatic example of the tactic came on Monday, when police backed by the National Guard forcefully ousted peaceful protesters gathered at a park near the White House so that Trump could walk across the street to have his photograph taken with a Bible at St. John's Church.
Biden has accused Trump of "calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain for so many."
"Look, the presidency is a big job. Nobody will get everything right. And I won't either. But I promise you this. I won't traffic in fear and division," Biden said during an address to the nation on Tuesday. "I won't fan the flames of hate. I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country — not use them for political gain."
Biden's stance during the crisis has also apparently boosted his standing in the money race. Supporters and bundlers for the candidate have reported a massive surge in contributions, CNBC reported Tuesday.
"Nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing and Trump's response have seemingly had wide-reaching consequences for the 2020 election," Patrick Flynn, a political analyst at Smarkets, said in a statement.
Recent events have also shifted the odds for candidates to become Biden's running mate, boosting black women who have been suggested for the job, and taking a toll on Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., whose record as a prosecutor in Minnesota has come under renewed scrutiny.
Klobuchar, who ran against Biden for the nomination, saw her chances fall to 5% from a May high of 29% on Smarkets after critics accused her of failing to press for charges against police who used excessive force in her prior role, reprising criticism that surfaced during her own primary run.
Klobuchar has defended her record and said that ultimately the decision about who will be on the ticket is Biden's.
Meanwhile, black women lead betting markets for the role, with Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Florida Rep. Val Demings taking the top two slots as of Wednesday morning.
Harris, who feuded sharply with Biden during the campaign, endorsed him shortly after his victory on Super Tuesday in March. Harris has faced scrutiny for her own record on race as the attorney general of California but has sought to position herself as a progressive. She is the leading contender on Smarkets, with a 41% chance of being tapped as vice president.
Demings, who served as the chief of the Orlando Police Department, has seen her chances rise most precipitously in the wake of the protests over Floyd's death. She could face an uphill battle because of her low national profile, though coming from Florida, a key battleground, is an asset. Demings has confirmed she is on Biden's short list.
Demings' chances rose to 13% from 2% in May on Smarkets.