The Democrats may have won the House, but they are at a definitive crossroads. While the Republicans currently have a well-defined brand and agenda, the Democrats found themselves largely without a leader and without a clear agenda (other than being anti-Trump). That means they will have some big decisions to make in the near term as they try to mount a push for the presidency in 2020. There appear to be two major policy decisions the party is considering. The first is whether pursuing a fruitless impeachment against Donald Trump would be worthwhile, and the second, and frankly more intriguing question, is whether they will adopt a “Medicare for all” platform.
FINSUM: So much hangs in the balance right now. The Democrats have let themselves be overshadowed by the Republican party and will need to find their ideological and policy footing ahead of the next election. We expect the party’s agenda will move further left in order to serve as a mobilizing foil for its base.
For the first time in over a decade, Wall Street is giving more to the Democratic party than the Republican party. For the last ten years, big Wall Street banks and financial houses have leaned towards giving more to Republicans, who had a more favorable policy agenda. However, the pendulum seems to have swung the other way on the back of the kind of disruptions some current Republican policies may bring to bear (e.g. trade war). Bankers themselves are also giving more to Democrats.
FINSUM: Bloomberg framed this giving as an attempt by Wall Street to “soften a blue wave”. That sounds like a fair characterization to us—Wall Street wants to make sure to soften the hard edge of some possible forthcoming democrat policies.
The GOP seems to be on its back foot heading into the midterm elections and that has the party nervous. The political bombing attempts and the synagogue horror have both sent Trump’s approval rating sharply lower. Now the party is worried that pre-Trump Republicans in affluent suburbs may not show up to vote, which is making them worry they may lose more ground than forecast. According to polls, this group of affluent long-term Republicans has a lower overall interest in the midterms, which may sap much needed votes against the more motivated Democrats.
FINSUM: This is a problem in itself, but the fact that the midterms have become so much of a referendum on Trump at the same time as his approval rating is falling is not a good sign for the party.
President Trump has been complaining about the Fed’s hawkish behavior for several months. However, yesterday he seemed to escalate his discontent into something more specific. He told the media that he “maybe” regretted appointing Powell to lead the Fed. He said he was intentionally signaling the Fed that he wanted lower interest rates, but he acknowledged that the Fed was an independent entity. When pushed about the circumstances under which he would fire Powell, the President declined to comment.
FINSUM: Investors should keep an eye on whether Trump escalates his rhetoric into action. We doubt he will do anything about the Fed in the near term, but the market would certainly have a big reaction.
One of the things that has become transparent on the midterm campaign trail this Autumn is that the Republican tax cut of last year has not proved a big selling point with voters. Many voters in high tax states are frustrated with the near elimination of SALT deductions. However, Trump is responding to the frustration with a new pitch he debuted on Saturday in Nevada—that a big new tax cut is coming for the middle class in the next few weeks. Treasury secretary Mnuchin confirmed the new middle class tax plan, which Trump called “a very major tax cut”.
FINSUM: The lack of a SALT deduction is really hurting Republicans in some critical voting areas. This seems like a plan to win some of them back.
Republicans are feeling a lot of heat on the campaign trail because of one of their most contentious tax policy changes. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many voters says they will vote democrat in high-tax states because of the Republican-led change to greatly reduce SALT deductions, which has sent tax bills soaring for many affluent residents of high-tax states. Democrats have promised to abolish the SALT deduction limit.
FINSUM: The interesting thing here is that the most pain from the tax change is being in felt in some of the districts that went red in 2016. For example, there are many affluent suburbs in New Jersey that are now feeling the pinch from the changes, which could, in aggregate, change the outlook for midterms.