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UI Student Bets on Bush in IEM

For Jonathan Sargent, any talk about a presidential candidate's political stock rising or falling is no mere figure of speech. The 21-year-old University of Iowa senior has bet $75 that President Bush will win re-election, purchasing stock in the incumbent in an online stock market that lets investors invest their money in shares of the candidate they think will win. Such online stock market schemes in which presidential futures trade like pork bellies do on the Chicago Board of Trade or shares of General Motors do on the New York Stock Exchange may be just for fun for people such as Bush-backer Sargent -- and a way to pick up a few bucks. If Bush wins, Sargent stands to double his investment. But to a cadre of academics and economists who believe markets are likely more telling than polls, the way people are betting with their money could be a tell-tale sign of who the likely winner will be come Nov. 2. "We're about twice as accurate as polls," said GEORGE NEUMANN, director of the Iowa Electronic Markets, or IEM, where Sargent invested in Bush futures. Run by the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business, the IEM is regarded as the grandfather of political betting sites. Yesterday, it recorded a 4 p.m. EDT closing price of 61 cents per share for Bush's stock and a 39-cent close for Sen. John F. Kerry's in a "winner take all" contest in which traders will receive $1 for each of their holdings if their candidate prevails.

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