Attorney General Barr held a press conference this morning as a prelude the to lightly redacted Mueller report that is being released today. Generally speaking, Barr stuck to his previous summary of the report, saying there was nothing that amounted to obstruction of justice or collusion. He did give some further details, however, mentioning that there were ten instances where Mueller highlighted possible obstruction of justice. As a response to the statements, the Democrats, led by Pelosi and Schumer, are calling for Mueller himself to testify as soon as possible.
FINSUM: The political chaos about this report will not abate until the text is released and Congress and the nation hear from Mueller. We think it will happen soon.
The field for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidency could hardly be more crowded. 18 candidates have already declared, and a handful more, including heavyweights like Joe Biden, are expected to announce their candidacy. The big question right now is “who is leading?”. It is hard to answer perfectly, but two proxies—google activity by region, and fundraising, tell an interesting story. So far, it is Bernie Sanders as a clear leader, as he has garnered the most search and media interest and also leads in both self-funding and external fundraising by a wide margin. Kamala Harris has also garnered significant interest and and stands third in total funding. Sanders also leads in another interesting area—the share of small donations as a portion of total donations, a demonstration of a candidate’s total following.
FINSUM: Elizabeth Warren is also in the mix, but just from the early data we still think Bernie is going to be the candidate who faces Trump.
In what seems slightly odd timing, Goldman Sachs is going on the record about the 2020 election. The bank is saying Donald Trump is likely to win re-election. Goldman says his lead is “narrow” but that his chances are improved by the crowded Democratic field and the success of the economy. What is so interesting about the call is that in runs in contrast to most polls, which Goldman points out, saying “While we believe the majority of market participants expect President Trump to win a second term, we note that prediction markets point in the opposite direction and imply that the Democratic candidate has a 56% probability of winning and the Republican candidate has a 44% chance”.
FINSUM: We have to agree with Goldman. Trump’s base seems to have grown in strength since his initial election, and the politics of the left seem more likely to fragment their base (including into third party candidates) that unite them behind a single leader.
Yield curves are widely known to be the best indicator of forthcoming recessions, hence why the market is spooked. However, a lesser known fact is that they are also good indicators of presidential elections. Looking historically, whenever the yield curve is inverted at the time on an election, the incumbent loses. This occurred in 1980 in Reagan’s victory, as well as in the 2008 election of Obama. Both times, the yield curves were inverted and the economy in recession. That said, flat yield curves don’t seem to have much effect at all and hold little advantage for either party.
FINSUM: Given that recessions usually take 12 to 18 months to start once the curve inverts, it is entirely possible that one could begin just before the 2020 election.
The Mueller report was finally released this weekend, and the early indications are that there is nothing in it that proves any wrongdoing on the part of President Trump. Attorney General Barr’s summary to Congress, given yesterday, said there was no collusion between Trump and Russia and nothing in the report amounted to enough for a criminal charge of obstruction of justice. Trump called the report a “complete exoneration”.
FINSUM: So this is far from a “put to bed” issue because Barr’s credibility is under attack. Democrats are pledging to press on. However, one of the things we are very happy about in these divisive times is that the Mueller team had the discipline to take a clear position on the case and did not seek to inflate charges that were not really there in an effort to validate their own work.
Beto O’Rourke, long expected to step into the race for the Democratic bid, has finally announced he will. The young Texan lost a close race to Ted Cruz in Texas in November, but is aiming to ride his surge in popularity to the White House. Unlike many other contenders from the Democratic party, he is more of a centrist, not adopting the now-common socialist platform. Commenting on his candidacy, Beto says “The challenges that we face right now, the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate have never been greater. They will either consume us, or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America”.
FINSUM: Outside of maybe Bernie Sanders, we think Beto is the biggest contender to Trump because he may be able to simultaneously get voters on the far left and some of Trump’s more centrist supporters.