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Political Longshots That Caught America by Surprise

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Millions of Americans rely on polls and the media to gauge the direction of political elections. Politics are sometimes unpredictable though, and on occasion, election outcomes can defy conventional wisdom.

These surprises, known as political longshots, are scattered throughout American political history. As time winds down to the 59th U.S. presidential election in November, today’s visual article from PredictIt goes back in time to showcase moments when polls, media outlets, and the American public were left stunned.

The Truman Show

PredictIt

What Happened?

As elections approached in 1948, incumbent Harry Truman led a struggling Democratic party.
Not only had they lost control of both chambers of Congress two years prior, they also faced internal divide over Truman’s civil rights initiatives. To make matters worse, Truman’s approval rating in June 1948 sat at just 39%.

Pollsters and the media were unanimous in declaring Republican Thomas Dewey the next president, but this didn’t discourage Truman from running a tactical campaign which featured:

  1. Clear demographic focus: Truman campaigned heavily in rural communities where working-class citizens felt neglected.
  2. Populist messaging: Truman often attacked Republicans, pinning them with the blame for a range of issues.

Despite being overlooked by many, Truman went on to claim a decisive victory. This caused one of the most famous media blunders in U.S. history—with high confidence in the polls, editors at the Chicago Daily Tribune prematurely reported Dewey as the winner of the election.

We stopped polling a few weeks too soon. We had been lulled into thinking that nothing much changes in the last few weeks of the campaign.

—George Gallup Jr.

Pollsters took a hit to their credibility, but used the opportunity to refine their methods. They extended the deadlines of polls and, over time, began using a methodology known as random sampling. This replaced quota sampling, a methodology prone to bias because it questioned a predetermined number of people from certain ethnic and age groups.

Murkowski’s Comeback

PredictIt

What Happened?

After losing the Republican primary to Joe Miller, incumbent senator Lisa Murkowski decided to run in 2010 as a write-in candidate. A somewhat unique aspect of American politics, a write-in candidate is one whose name does not appear on the ballot, and instead needs to be written in by the voter directly.

Miller, the Republican nominee, was supported by the Tea Party movement and former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin. All momentum seemed to be in his favor, according to polls conducted roughly a month ahead of election day:

PollDate AdministeredJoe Miller (R)Lisa Murkowski (R)Scott McAdams (D)
Raasmussen ReportsSept. 19, 201042%27%25%
Moore ResearchSept. 23-27, 201043%18%28%
CNN, Time, Opinion ResearchSept. 24-28, 201038%36%22%

Source: Rasmussen Reports, Moore Research, CNN/Time/Opinion Research

Despite Miller’s lead in the polls, Murkowski’s write-in campaign was able to capitalize on the state’s significant number of independent voters. On election day, Murkowski collected 101,091 write-in votes—a comfortable margin above Miller’s 90,839 votes.

[I]n our state, we have got over 54 percent of the electorate that chooses not to align themselves with any party at all, not Republican, not Democratic, not green, not anything.

—Lisa Murkowski

Miller challenged 8,000 write-in votes on the basis of name misspellings, but his claims were rejected by the Alaska Superior Court—perfect spelling on write-in ballots is not required if the voter’s intent is clear.

The Trump Train

PredictIt

What Happened?

Donald Trump’s 2016 victory will likely top the list as one of the most shocking political events of our time. As election day approached, many of America’s mainstream media outlets pointed to a decisive Clinton victory.

OutletClintonTrump
L.A. Times
by electoral count
352186
Fox News
by electoral count
274215
New York Times
by chance of winning
85%15%
CNN
by chance of winning
91%9%

Source: The Wrap, CNN

While Trump’s rhetoric was largely opposed in urban regions (which often lean Democrat), the media failed to recognize that his message was resonating in America’s industrial Midwest. One potential explanation for this is that the region’s manufacturing jobs had been drying up, causing workers to feel abandoned by the existing political establishment.

This led to a number of Democrat-controlled states flipping Republican, and was a critical force for propelling Trump to the White House.

PredictIt

In PredictIt’s market, Will Trump Win the 2016 Presidential Election, traders also underestimated Trump’s chances of winning. Throughout the entire campaign phase, Trump’s “yes” shares failed to break past the 50 cents marker.

Source: Predictit

Share prices climbed 64% after FBI Director James Comey released his letter regarding the Clinton email investigation, but these gains were erased in the days leading up to elections. It wasn’t until November 8th, election day, that the prediction market swung by an incredible 345% in favor of Trump.

The Rise of AOC

PredictIt

What Happened?

The biggest surprise from the 2018 midterm primaries was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (AOC) victory over incumbent Joseph Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District. That’s because the two candidates were nearly complete opposites of one another:

MetricAlexandria Ocasio-CortezJoseph Crowley
Age2856
Past Political ExperienceOrganizer for Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaignU.S. Representative from New York's 14th congressional district (1999-2019)
Fundraising$300,000$3,354,370

Source: abc news

AOC led a grassroots campaign appealing to the district’s ethnically diverse population, which many believed Crowley could not relate with. Her platform included:

PredictIt

Also lending to the surprise factor was AOC’s relatively sparse media coverage. Because her campaign was largely operated through social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, it flew under the radar of traditional political media coverage.

The traditional media pay attention to one metric—money—but there should be other considerations: number of volunteers, social-media engagement, small-dollar donations.

—Dave Weigel, Washington Post

AOC would go on to win New York’s 14th Congressional District in the 2018 midterm election, defeating Republican Anthony Pappas with 110,318 votes to 19,202, to become the youngest woman to ever serve in the U.S. Congress. More recently, she secured her re-election in the 2020 Democratic primaries. This time, however, it comes as less of a surprise.

What’s Next?

The very definition of a longshot means that they are difficult to quantify and predict.

However, one potential longshot in the making may be 21-time Grammy Award winner Kanye West, who announced his intention to run for president on July 4th. While he hasn’t taken any official steps towards running as an independent candidate, he has garnered the support of notable figures like Tesla CEO Elon Musk. West first declared his interest in the presidency during an acceptance speech at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards.

Looking further down the road, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has still not declared his running mate. Much is at stake for Democrats hoping to deny Trump a second term, and the VP nominee will likely play a significant role in how the party performs. Biden has a long list of candidates that, for the first time in history, predominantly features women of color.

Speculation is ramping up as the 2020 presidential elections approach. While it’s difficult to say when politics will surprise us again, more longshots are sure to be in store.

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Politics

Mapped: The Top Trading Partner of Every U.S. State

At the national level, Canada and China are top U.S. trading partners. While this generally extends to the state level, there are some surprises too.

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us states trading partners

The Top Trading Partner of Every U.S. State

The U.S. is highly dependent—perhaps unsurprisingly—on Canada and Mexico for trade. The country’s top trading partner is Mexico, making up 14.8% of total trade.

However, the country’s neighbors to the north and south are not the only trade partners that U.S. states rely heavily upon. This map from HowMuch.net uses flags to show which country each U.S. state is importing the most from. Below, there is an additional graphic showing where each state is exporting the highest amount of goods and services to.

Who are the States Importing From?

The U.S. has a few natural and obvious trading partners, whether due to geographical closeness or strong economic ties.

The obvious candidates for top trading partners have already been mentioned, Canada and Mexico—and these two do show up at the state level as well. For example, Michigan gets 40.9% of its imports from Mexico, and Montana receives a whopping 87% of its imports from Canada.

Some other interesting trade partnerships stand out, like the Carolinas and Germany. Trade ties between Hawaii and Japan also make sense for historic reasons.

StateTop CountryTotal State Import (Millions USD)Share of Total State Imports
Alabama 🇲🇽 Mexico$4,16116.3%
Alaska🇰🇷 South Korea$83635.0%
Arizona🇲🇽 Mexico$8,97835.0%
Arkansas🇨🇳 China$3,16036.6%
California🇨🇳 China$130,29132.9%
Colorado🇨🇦 Canada$2,92824.3%
Connecticut🇨🇦 Canada$4,03122.4%
Delaware🇨🇭 Switzerland$1,92721.1%
District of Columbia🇨🇦 Canada$7413.7%
Florida🇨🇳 China$11,21214.7%
Georgia🇨🇳 China$20,19420.4%
Hawaii🇯🇵 Japan$29115.1%
Idaho🇨🇦 Canada$1,19521.7%
Illinois🇨🇳 China$48,32431.0%
Indiana🇮🇪 Ireland$11,55818.1%
Iowa🇨🇦 Canada$2,38726.6%
Kansas🇨🇳 China$2,06419.7%
Kentucky🇲🇽 Mexico$6,88212.5%
Louisiana🇷🇺 Russia$2,61112.6%
Maine🇨🇦 Canada$3,16766.6%
Maryland🇩🇪 Germany$3,99313.0%
Massachusetts🇨🇦 Canada$7,77922.2%
Michigan🇲🇽 Mexico$47,47340.9%
Minnesota🇨🇳 China$7,57726.9%
Mississippi🇨🇳 China$3,93824.9%
Missouri🇨🇦 Canada$4,50024.0%
Montana🇨🇦 Canada$3,44287.0%
Nebraska🇨🇦 Canada$87623.5%
Nevada🇨🇳 China$4,10831.8%
New Hampshire🇨🇦 Canada$1,39420.1%
New Jersey🇨🇳 China$14,30212.4%
New Mexico🇨🇳 China$1,49332.6%
New York🇨🇭 Switzerland$33,12621.5%
North Carolina🇩🇪 Germany$9,20815.1%
North Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$1,78162.3%
Ohio🇨🇦 Canada$10,62416.2%
Oklahoma🇨🇦 Canada$4,35540.2%
Oregon🇨🇦 Canada$2,95117.0%
Pennsylvania🇨🇳 China$13,47015.9%
Puerto Rico🇮🇪 Ireland$9,06242.7%
Rhode Island🇩🇪 Germany$1,52517.3%
South Carolina🇩🇪 Germany$6,22015.5%
South Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$42833.9%
Tennessee🇨🇳 China$20,30524.3%
Texas🇲🇽 Mexico$88,72635.8%
Utah🇲🇽 Mexico$4,29427.6%
Vermont🇨🇦 Canada$1,67763.5%
Virginia🇨🇳 China$6,56622.7%
Virgin Islands🇵🇹 Portugal$17427.7%
Washington🇨🇦 Canada$12,77226.1%
West Virginia🇨🇦 Canada$1,02535.2%
Wisconsin🇨🇳 China$5,55420.7%
Wyoming🇨🇦 Canada$69563.7%

However, one country in particular stands out on this map—China.

While the USMCA trade agreement has created an easy gateway for necessary goods and services to flow across North America, no country—not even the U.S.—can escape the need for mass imports from the world’s top exporter.

China and the U.S. have an imbalanced trade relationship, with China buying much fewer goods from the U.S. than the U.S. buys from them. In fact, China’s monthly trade surplus with the country sat at $31.8 billion as of May 2021.

Who are the States Exporting to?

After looking at the top import partners by state, let’s dive in to where the U.S. states are exporting the most.

Trading Partner of Every U.S. State

One thing that is noticeable is that China shows up much less on this map, further exemplifying the trade imbalance. In other words, while many states’ top import partner is China, they are not reciprocating as the country’s top export partner.

The only states that export their largest shares to China are:

  • Oregon – 38.1%
  • Alaska – 25.5%
  • Washington – 22.1%
  • Alabama – 18.1%
  • Louisiana – 18.1%

The majority are exporting to their North American neighbors. For example, North Dakota sends 84.6% of its exports just across the northern border.

StateTop CountryTotal State Export (Millions USD)Share of total State Exports
Alabama 🇨🇳 China$3,10218.1%
Alaska🇨🇳 China$1,17625.5%
Arizona🇲🇽 Mexico$3635.5%
Arkansas🇨🇦 Canada$1,14822.1%
California🇲🇽 Mexico$24,07815.4%
Colorado🇨🇦 Canada$1,27815.4%
Connecticut🇩🇪 Germany$2,18915.9%
Delaware🇨🇦 Canada$61915.8%
D.C.🇶🇦 Qatar$89932.4%
Florida🇧🇷 Brazil$3,5387.7%
Georgia🇨🇦 Canada$5,14613.3%
Hawaii🇦🇺 Australia$5115.8%
Idaho🇨🇦 Canada$1,18434.8%
Illinois🇨🇦 Canada$13,26124.8%
Indiana🇨🇦 Canada$11,08031.4%
Iowa🇨🇦 Canada$3,46027.4%
Kansas🇲🇽 Mexico$2,07820.0%
Kentucky🇨🇦 Canada$6,55026.5%
Louisiana🇨🇳 China$10,77918.1%
Maine🇨🇦 Canada$1,22952.8%
Maryland🇨🇦 Canada$1,58112.5%
Massachusetts🇨🇦 Canada$2,74611.0%
Michigan🇨🇦 Canada$17,34139.4%
Minnesota🇨🇦 Canada$4,82824.0%
Mississippi🇨🇦 Canada$2,08220.3%
Missouri🇨🇦 Canada$4,45334.9%
Montana🇨🇦 Canada$54437.9%
Nebraska🇲🇽 Mexico$1,63923.5%
Nevada🇨🇭 Switzerland$2,25621.8%
New Hampshire🇩🇪 Germany$75113.8%
New Jersey🇨🇦 Canada$7,22919.0%
New Mexico🇲🇽 Mexico$2,19759.5%
New York🇨🇦 Canada$13,77322.3%
North Carolina🇨🇦 Canada$5,88120.7%
North Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$4,38884.6%
Ohio🇨🇦 Canada$17,27338.4%
Oklahoma🇨🇦 Canada$1,45227.0%
Oregon🇨🇳 China$9,52238.1%
Pennsylvania🇨🇦 Canada$9,69925.9%
Puerto Rico🇳🇱 Netherlands$2,88917.2%
Rhode Island🇨🇦 Canada$41017.1%
South Carolina🇩🇪 Germany$4,08213.5%
South Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$52438.0%
Tennessee🇨🇦 Canada$5,81820.7%
Texas🇲🇽 Mexico$89,04631.9%
Utah🇬🇧 United Kingdom$8,90650.3%
Vermont🇨🇦 Canada$91838.3%
Virginia🇨🇦 Canada$2,71716.5%
Virgin Islands🇳🇱 Netherlands$9015.2%
Washington🇨🇳 China$9,12622.1%
West Virginia🇨🇦 Canada$1,28328.1%
Wisconsin🇨🇦 Canada$6,22630.4%
Wyoming🇨🇦 Canada$22519.3%

Trade Going Forward

The trade war that started during the tenure of former U.S. president Donald Trump is still ongoing and tariffs set by the U.S. are not expected to be lifted by president Joe Biden, as tensions have expanded beyond just trade issues.

These tariffs, however, have not helped to rectify the significant trade imbalance between the two countries. The states are still extremely reliant on imports from China, and it is not a reciprocal relationship.

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Money

Ranked: The Richest Veterans in America

There are over 18 million living veterans in the U.S., but how many are ultra wealthy? This visual ranks the richest veterans in America.

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Ranked: The Richest Veterans in America

The U.S is home to 724 billionaires, many of whom have taken on immense risks in the financial world. 16 of these wealthy individuals have also taken on the risks that come with serving in the U.S. military.

These veteran billionaires are worth a collective $81.4 billion and have served in posts ranging from Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) to infantrymen in the Second World War. This visual, using data from Forbes, ranks the richest living American veterans.

This visual categorizes the individuals by either the military branch or war served in depending on what was applicable or determinable.

I Want You for the U.S. Army

According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, there are around 18 million veterans in the U.S. Of these 18 million, less than 0.01% can claim the title of billionaire.

NameNet Worth (Billions, USD)Industry War / Unit Served
Donald Bren$15.3Real Estate Marine Corps
Edward Johnson III$10.3Finance & InvestmentsArmy
Ralph Lauren$7.1Fashion & RetailArmy
Richard Kinder$7.0EnergyVietnam War
Charles Dolan & family$6.1Media & EntertainmentWWII, Airforce 
Fred Smith$5.7Logistics Vietnam War, Marine Corps
Charles B. Johnson$4.9Finance & Investments Army
Ted Lerner & family$4.8Real Estate WWII
Julian Robertson Jr.$4.5Finance & Investments Navy
John Paul DeJoria$2.7Fashion & Retail Navy
H. Ross Perot Jr.$2.7Real Estate Airforce
Bob Parsons$2.2Technology Vietnam War, Marine Corps
David H. Murdock$2.1Food & BeverageWWII
S. Daniel Abraham$2.0Food & BeverageWWII, Army
Charlie Munger$2.0Finance & InvestmentsWWII, Army Air Corps
George Joseph$2.0Finance & InvestmentsWWII

Six of the above veteran billionaires served in WWII. They are some of the last surviving veterans of the historic war which was fought by 16 million Americans—today, only around 325,000 WWII veterans are still alive.

George Joseph, of Mercury Insurance Group, piloted a B17 Bomber plane in WWII, and completed around 50 missions. Warren Buffett’s business partner at Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger, served in the Army Air Corps in the early 1940s.

Richard Kinder (Kinder Morgan Inc.), Fred Smith (FedEx), and H. Ross Perot Jr. (Hillwood Investment Properties) each served in the Vietnam war.

One notable figure, Ralph Lauren, whose name is synonymous with his clothing products, served in the Army branch for two years in the early 1960s.

Taking on Financial Risk

Billionaire wealth continues to grow in America. Most of these veteran billionaires saw their net worths increase from 2020 to 2021, as, typically, wealth begets wealth. Here’s a look at the changes in net worth of the top five richest veterans who experienced increases:

  • Edward Johnson III: +$4.9 Billion
  • Ralph Lauren: +$1.4 Billion
  • Richard Kinder: +$1.8 Billion
  • Charles Dolan & Family: +$1.5 Billion
  • Fred Smith: +$3.0 Billion

The majority of these veteran billionaires are in the finance industry and some are tied to well-known companies, but they didn’t always have billions on hand to help them exponentially grow their fortunes.

David Murdock was a high school dropout, and after serving in WWII, had no money to his name. He took over a failing company called Dole, and eventually gained the moniker of ‘pineapple king’ after reviving the business.

S. Daniel Abraham, who was an infantryman in WWII, went on to found Thompson Medical. Their main product was Slimfast, which he later sold to Unilever for $2.3 billion in cash in the early 2000s.

Bob Parsons, who received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, started out his professional career as a CPA. He later founded the enormous domain giant, Go Daddy. He has claimed that his time in the military helped him succeed in business.

Peace and Prosperity

We currently live in one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in history, with wars like WWII feeling to many like a story from the past — but for others these conflicts were defining moments for their generation.

While many veterans struggle to readjust to civilian life, on average pre-9/11 veterans have reported fewer difficulties compared to post-9/11 veterans, and some have even managed to reach the highest levels of financial success.

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