Trump won his impeachment trial and his approval rating is higher than before it. But as we wind towards the election in November, an Achilles heel might be appearing for Trump. That weakness is that many of the states who supported him—indeed those that actually sealed his victory—are actually doing worse economically than they were when they elected him. In other words, the spoils of the current economy have not flowed into much of Trump country. This is especially true across the rust belt states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan. All of those states can turn Democratic in any presidential year (some are reliably Democratic)—swing states.
FINSUM: This could be Trump’s weakness in the election—that the blue collar boom he references might not have reached enough of the critical part of his base.
Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, the ongoing “reporting issue” with the Iowa Caucus is highly embarrassing. Democrats were unable to report a winner after voting closed last night because of irregularities in reporting. The party’s new app, which voters and reporting areas used, did not fail. Nonetheless, there were inconsistencies and reporting issues (e.g. phone lines were down). Candidates were unable to comment on their success or failure, save Pete Buttigieg, who declared victory.
FINSUM: Trump jumped all over this, as one would expect. It does not look good for Democratic competence to have a big screw-up on their first trip out of the gate in 2020.
The Iowa caucus kicks off today and do not be surprised if market get blindsided by the results. Bernie Sanders holds a solid lead in Iowa and he is likely to win the day in the state. That said, markets have been dismissive of Bernie for a long time, and it seems quietly realistic that despite all the predictions of him winning, him actually doing so might spook investors.
FINSUM: We would not be surprised at all if we saw a mini “Bernie correction” when Iowa results come out.
If you are hoping a middle of the road Democrat wins the party’s bid, then yesterday’s poll is an alarming one. In a new CNN poll, Bernie Sanders completed a 9-point swing to overtake Joe Biden by 3% in polls of Democratic voters. He rose a full 7 points to 27% support versus Biden’s fall of 2% to 24% overall. The first votes for the candidacy start on February 3rd in Iowa and February 11th in New Hampshire.
FINSUM: Purely looking at this from a political perspective, we think it is hard to say which candidate has the best odds of beating Trump. On the one hand, Biden can certainly capture more of the centrist voters, but on the other, Bernie is a much more realistic embodiment of the current Democrat party and could galvanize its identity to voters.
Trump’s legal team put out a bold proclamation today. In a 171-page briefing that preceded the launch of his impeachment trial in the Senate, Trump’s lawyers argue that he cannot be removed from office for abusing power. They contend that since he did not break any laws, he cannot be removed from office. The team summarized their view, “House Democrats’ novel theory of ‘abuse of power’ improperly supplants the standard of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’ with a made-up theory that would permanently weaken the presidency by effectively permitting impeachments based merely on policy disagreements”.
FINSUM: This is a very interesting argument as the legal team seems to have changed tactics. Rather than arguing the underlying facts in the case, they are now trying to say that even if all the facts are true, Trump still cannot be removed from office.
It has been more than 18 months of brinksmanship in the making, but the US and China are apparently set to seal a phase one trade deal. The deal will be signed at 11:30 am in the White House. The deal leaves out a lot of the most difficult and contentious issues between the countries, but is a sign that things are improving. The FT summarizes the substance of the deal this way, saying “It commits China to making $200bn in additional purchases of US goods, including farm products, and other pledges on currency and intellectual property, in exchange for a small rollback in some tariffs and an indefinite hold on further punitive measures out of Washington”.
FINSUM: The key thing here is that both countries want this work out and this deal is a step in the right direction. We find this quite positive in the grand scheme of things.