Why the Smart Money Is on Biden
Also: Why isn’t James Lankford acting like Joe Manchin?
Tonight on TNB I’ll be joined by Marc Caputo and Joe Perticone to talk about the week in Republican politics and man, it should be something.
The livestream starts at 8 p.m. in the East. Details here. Don’t miss it.
1. Good Mood(y)
You want some good news? I’ve got good news.
The financial research firm Moody’s has published an analysis of the 2024 election and it sounds a lot like my high-water mark for Trumpism thesis.
The entire paper is worth your time, but I’ll distill it for you here.
(1) Incumbents usually win re-election, unless there is a recession.
(2) Turnout is tracking to be high this year.
(3) Biden’s approval rating is low, but has not been noisy, which suggests that a precipitous decline is unlikely. In November, his numbers will probably be where they are now, or possibly a touch better.
(4) Economics are a net plus for Biden.
Gas prices are likely to be higher in November than they are now, but will still be lower year-over-year. Small net-negative for Biden.
Real household income growth is robust everywhere, but especially in states Biden needs to win: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. And household income is also growing, though more slowly, in Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, and North Carolina.
Mortgage rates are likely to fall by November and most forecasts see Fed rate cuts in the coming months.
Consumer confidence—which Moody’s acknowledges is disconnected from the objective measures—is still far above the recession threshold.
So what’s the final verdict? Moody’s model gives them the following:
On the margin, political factors favor Trump’s candidacy, while economic factors favor Biden’s.
More precisely, Biden is expected to win 308 electoral votes, 38 more votes than the 270 needed to win re-election. This is nearly identical to his tally in 2020, when he won 306 votes. But compared with the 2020 election, Biden picks up a new win in North Carolina and narrowly loses in Arizona, a state he carried in 2020.
I don’t think you should take I of comfort in this prediction. What impresses me isn’t the model’s output, but simply the raw facts of the inputs. They are objectively good for Biden.
Moody’s has two caveats.
The first is that a modest net increase in Republican turnout would probably swing the election to Trump.1 This is not especially concerning. I have a hard time believing that voters outside of the MAGA base—the soft-Republican and R-leaning independents—will be more likely to come out and vote for Trump than soft-Ds and D-leaning indies will be to come out and vote against him.
The other caveat involves third parties. Moody’s notes that, historically, third-party candidates underperform in swing states because voters understand that their votes matter. But net-net, Moody’s believes that if a third-party candidate takes a larger-than-average share, it hurts Biden.
I have more caveats for you myself, but you know them already:
Biden is currently losing.
Something needs to change the dynamic of the race.
If Trump is acquitted in any of his trials before the election, that likely helps him a great deal.
Even if the dynamic changes and Trump is found guilty (or no verdict is reached), Biden has to avoid both a health event and a third-party threat.
In other words: It’s good enough for Trump to simply continue on as a chaos agent, because chaos is his ladder.
Democrats, on the other hand, need to play perfect baseball—and then get a tiny bit lucky.
It’s harvest time on JVL’s asymmetry farm.
By now you have seen the Republican knifing of Sen. James Lankford.
Lankford was asked by his party to negotiate a Ukraine aid bill that also got them everything they wanted on immigration.
He did it.
Nearly all of his colleagues—including the minority leader!—then hung him out to dry. His career is over.
And yet today Jim Lankford is . . . still a Republican.
Why is that?