Ballotcraft Proud to Announce Public Launch of its Fantasy Politics Game

We’re excited to announce the public launch of Ballotcraft today.

Ballotcraft is a new way for people to engage with politics in a fun but meaningful way. There’s never been anything quite like it, so we’re excited to launch for the 2016 US elections.

Our goal at Ballotcraft is to boost voter engagement, particularly among millennial voters. Through our fantasy politics game, Ballotcraft helps spark voter interest in the political process. It’s similar to the way that fantasy football has boosted interest in the NFL, particularly among people who previously only had a marginal interest in football. By creating a new way of engaging with politics that is both fun and social, we believe Ballotcraft will have a similarly profound impact on political engagement.

This new version of Ballotcraft builds upon our beta with several new features:

Forum
Ballotcraft players are knowledgeable and opinionated about politics, and the Forum is a place for them to connect with one another. Have thoughts on the 2016 election? Post them to our Forum and start a conversation!

We will also be hosting Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions with various political figures on our Forum soon. Stay tuned!

Status Tiers
Players now earn a Status Tier of either Gold, Silver, or Bronze based on their performance in Ballotcraft, and they can join “skill” games that consist of only players in the same Status Tier. This makes the games more fun and competitive.

Election Odds Explorer
You can now easily browse the historical odds of events on Ballotcraft.

Redesign
We’ve completely overhauled the design of Ballotcraft to be cleaner and more intuitive to navigate.

We hope you enjoy Ballotcraft. If you have any feedback, we’d love to hear from you. Shoot us an email at contact@ballotcraft.com.

Debate Analysis: Bernie Seizes Big Victory From Tight Debate

By Noah Lieberman

It was a mixture of old and new, familiar and unexpected tonight in Charleston at the Democratic debate, and a similarly mixed night on the Ballotcraft market. As many predicted, the moderators largely avoided Martin O’Malley (much to his chagrin) and instead focused on the now fierce race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Our market reflected that dynamic, with a tight, shifting battle between the two for top price.

As one would expect, Senator Sanders quickly gained the upper hand in the market, dominating during the opening portion of the debate which focused on economic and domestic policy. He hit the same notes as usual, and saw the same rise we had seen in these portions of previous debates. As the debate shifted to foreign policy, Secretary Clinton’s forte, so too did the markets shift back to a tossup race between the two candidates. Clinton was helped by Sanders’ fumbling of a question on stopping domestic terrorism, and his insistence on linking foreign issues to domestic ones, especially Wall Street reform. As the debate closed, Sanders led Clinton by the slimmest of margins, 49.0 to 46.3, by far the closest difference we’ve seen thus far in the Democratic debates.

Which makes the result even more confusing. Sanders won in an absolute landslide, capturing two-thirds of our focus group vote, easily trouncing Clinton’s 25 percent. Such a slaughter would make you think Clinton barely showed up, so why did the market have such trouble separating her from Sanders? I believe the answer lies in the senator’s numerous calls to campaign finance reform and the impact of big banks on our politics. Alone, they make little impression on a trader, who see them as simply more of the same policy talk from Sanders. But to a focus group member, who takes the debate in more as a whole, they build a strong case against Clinton, without dirtying Bernie’s image since he never used an overt attack. Sanders figured out how to get back at Clinton without risking his reputation as being above the usual political attacks, whereas Clinton’s attacks on Bernie were more direct and obvious, and made her come across as desperate to take the Senator down. It remains to be seen how this will affect the vote in Iowa, but this strategy is certainly worth looking out for in future debates.

Insights from Our Focus Group

Our focus group declared Bernie Sanders the winner of the January 17 Democratic Debate. We asked members of our focus group for insights into their decision making process. Here’s a selection of their responses:

Bernie effectively attacked Clinton for her ties to Wall Street, making her seem compromised from all the money she’s taken from them. He took the high road several times, particularly when asked about the behavior of Bill Clinton. I think he won himself more fans tonight.

It seemed like Bernie was the frontrunner, brushing off attacks from Hillary. He was at his strongest when he was discussing health care, and it’s clear that he has a lot of momentum that Hillary is looking to quash, based on his surging poll numbers and how he’s faring with the youth vote.

Hillary’s attacks on Bernie’s healthcare proposals came across as calculated and disingenuous. Bernie had a strong defense, that he helped write Obamacare and fully supports it.

The whole debate seemed to revolve around Bernie: what he said, what he proposed, what he thinks about so and so. For voters only tuning in now, that plays to his advantage.

Sanders has really improved his fluency on foreign affairs, which was a weak point for him in the past. Although Clinton sounds more knowledgeable overall, it’s less of an advantage for her now, especially since Sanders can always bring back up the Iraq thing.

Even though much of the debate revolved around issues that Sanders has emphasized prominently throughout his campaign, I think Clinton was effectively able to rebut his arguments, and made her own stance sound more pragmatic and effective in contrast.

I think O’Malley’s chances improved the most because he was able to make pertinent points, and drew on his record as governor in a few key instances that bolstered his credibility. More importantly, though, he had nowhere to go but up. He probably gained a few percentage points in likelihood, but still sits far behind Clinton or Sanders.

Thanks again to our focus group for their help!

Bernie Sanders Wins Jan. 17 Democratic Debate

Bernie Sanders is the winner of the January 17 Democratic Debate, as he was deemed by our focus group as the candidate to have “best improved his or her chance of winning the Democratic nomination”.

This is the breakdown of our focus group’s voting:

Jan 17 Dem Debate Result 2

We will be regularly updating this blog with commentary from our focus group and analysis of trading behavior during the game, so check back again soon.

Special thanks to our focus group!

Debate Preview: Clinton And Sanders Fight For Iowa

By Noah Lieberman

As the last debate before the Iowa Caucus, tonight’s proceedings could have a significant impact on the course of the Democratic primary. Though three candidates will take the stage tonight, only two have a chance at standing victorious in the Hawkeye State, so here are the questions which will determine success for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Questions For Sanders

Will he match Clinton’s attacks?

The biggest development in the race since the last Democratic debate (aside from a few new polls showing a closer matchup in early states) is that the Clinton campaign finally seems to be treating Sanders as a legitimate threat for the nomination. Hillary and her squad have started to go after Sanders, attacking him for his more radical voting record, and Clinton herself has supposedly expressed disappointment in not starting this barrage sooner. It seems fairly obvious that she’ll continue this during tonight’s debate, but Sanders’ reaction is anything but.

In the past, his reactions to Clinton’s barbs have ranged from defensive to passive-aggressive, but Bernie has never met fire with fire, though perhaps the former Secretary of State has finally crossed the line. If he does, he’ll have to make it a measured response since anything too aggressive might not jive with his supporter’s vision of him, which is largely based on his ability to put politics aside for policy. Still, a response too limited may make him appear weak to undecided voters, or worse give implicit credence to Clinton’s charges. This is going to be more of a snap judgment on your part, but if Sanders starts to look out of his element, it might be time to dump his stock.

Can he close the race gap?

Though Sanders has started to look downright dominant in early primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa, he still lags behind nationally and in the South because of his poor numbers with African American and Hispanic voters. The Vermont senator’s message just hasn’t resonated with minority voters the way it has with other democrats, and this debate is one of his last chances to reach out to them before South Carolina and the other so-called SEC primaries. Sanders will have to clearly demonstrate why he is the better candidate on issues relevant to minority voters, and, more importantly, why Clinton is not.

Questions For Clinton

Can she show her passion?

Clinton’s biggest weakness thus far in the campaign is not a new one, and has many political commentators seeing flashbacks to 2008. Clinton, who again has more experience, endorsements, and money than her challenger, has failed to seal the deal because she just can’t get voters as excited as her rival. She’s been described as cold and robotic, seemingly going through the motions of the campaign to get to her long-prophesized presidency. In order to improve her chances at this debate, she’ll have to break from the script, break from her sometimes monotonous delivery, and give us some show of real emotion.

Can she make a case for moderateness?

Similarly, Hillary has spent the entire primary process drifting to the left, slowly adopting the more progressive positions of Bernie Sanders. This has left many wondering why they should vote for the more moderate Clinton if the party, including her, is destined to end up at Sanders’ positions. Clinton is going to have to separate the ideology from the policy and make the case for why her more centrist brand of liberalism has its merits compared to Bernie. Lately, she’s tried to reverse the narrative and emphasize the issues, like gun control, where she is more liberal than Sanders, but to truly put his campaign in the rearview, she’ll have to attack him at the core of his ideology.

Post-Debate Analysis: Ted Cruz Emerges Victorious While Donald Trump Surprises

By Noah Lieberman

Just like last month’s debate and just as many predicted, tonight’s debate was only ever going to be won by one of two candidates, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz. Though each candidate on stage had their moments in the spotlight, the market never wavered, holding these two far above the rest of the crowd (though Christie and Trump both made runs at double-digits). More importantly, the market never wavered on its ordering of the two candidates, holding the Florida senator far above his Texan counterpart.

The two largely avoided each other for the night, with Cruz being more occupied in fending off attacks from Trump than anything else. But at just past 11 PM, already leading by double digits on the market, Rubio pulled out all the stops and began a full assault on Cruz, critiquing his record on everything from defense spending to pandering and flip-flopping for Iowans. The risk proved to be too much for Rubio, who allowed Cruz the opportunity to respond harshly without it seeming overly cruel or unprovoked. Cruz built on this with a strong closing statement after the break, pulling to within seven points by the end of the night, his smallest deficit of the day.

This error would prove to not only be Rubio’s undoing on the market, but also the final vote, where he not only did not win, but failed to even claim sole possession of second place. Senator Rubio finished tied with Governor Chris Christie and, surprisingly, Donald Trump, who all ended the night with 20% of our focus group’s vote. The biggest news out of these results is that Donald Trump’s bravado and swagger finally earned him some respect on the market, which was quite a surprise given his lackluster night on the market, complete lack of votes in past debates, and the barrage of boos he faced from the raucous South Carolina audience tonight. We’ll have more on what this means for future markets and perhaps the state of the race in our full analysis next week. Governor Jeb Bush earned a small amount of love from the focus group, a solid 10 percent.

But the big winner tonight was indeed Senator Cruz, who took the remainder of the focus group vote and first place for the second straight debate. This should lead him to continued success in Iowa, where he is possibly poised to win the first vote in this primary campaign. Our focus group praised how we handled himself against all attacks, and against Trump in particular, which should bode well for him as he faces increased challenges from his rivals as the new man to beat in the Hawkeye State.

The big takeaway tonight is that even though the market was quiet for much of the night, Ted Cruz was by far the best performer of the last twenty minutes. If you’re waiting until the last minute to place your bet on the night’s ultimate winner, it isn’t always wisest to go with the candidate on top. Go with the candidate with the most momentum, who will be leaving the freshest impression in the focus group’s mind.

Ballotcraft Portfolio

End of Debate: 12,125 (+2,125)

End of Night: 18,500 (+8,500)