December 5, 2019 | By: Greg Valliere

Greg Valliere's Guide to the U.S. Election

5 min read

AGF’s Chief U.S. Policy Strategist gives his take on the presidential race and what to expect on the campaign trail.

 

Key Battlegrounds

For the White House

Our early assessment is that Trump will win Texas, Ohio and probably Florida, while the Democrats’ nominee will win the West Coast – California, Oregon and Washington – while also capturing the Northeast – New York, Massachusetts, etc. The race may come down to three states Trump narrowly carried in 2016 – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If the Democrats “flip” these states, they would have a path to the White House.

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For Congress

Most observers (including us) feel the Democrats are likely to maintain control of the House of Representatives, where they have 233 seats to the Republicans’ 197 (there are four vacancies and one independent). The important race is for the Senate, where the Republicans have a 53-47 majority. They have 23 seats up for re-election, mostly in safe states for them, while the Democrats will defend 12 seats. The Senate is considered a “firewall” that blocks liberal legislation coming from the House, so this will be very important for the markets.

 

Key Players

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Key Dates

Super Tuesday—Voting for the Democratic leadership begins with the Iowa caucuses on February 3, followed by the New Hampshire primary on February 11, but the biggest day of all is March 3 – super Tuesday with contests in 14 states and two territories. California is the grand prize – whoever wins there probably will become the frontrunner.

The Conventions—The Democrats will hold their party convention on July 13-16 in Milwaukee. It’s possible that no candidate will have enough delegates to win a first-ballot nomination. The Republican convention, on August 24-27 in Charlotte, should be a coronation for Trump.

The Debates—The presidential debates will be held September 29, October 15 and October 22. There will be one vice-presidential debate on October 7.

Election Day—The campaign will really heat up ahead of the November 3 election; 270 Electoral College votes are needed to win. Trump won 304 against Hillary Clinton in 2016; she won 227, with scattered votes from independents.

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Key Issues


  • No question, the economy almost always eclipses all other issues. If the unemployment rate stays below 4%, Trump will have a major advantage. He also needs to resolve the China trade dispute, and we expect progress on so-called Phase One of that this winter.
  • Taxes will be very controversial; Trump may seek still another tax cut – which the Democrats will reject unless there’s a tax hike on corporations and the wealthy.
  • Climate change is an increasingly important topic, especially among young voters. It could be a sleeper issue in 2020.
  • Health care is always a dominant issue; Democrats want to expand Obamacare or adopt a “Medicare for all” plan. This will be scrutinized by health care providers and the drug industry, which would be vulnerable if more left-leaning programs prevail.
  • The tech industry, which is increasingly unpopular because of privacy issues, will be a ripe target of both parties, but we don’t anticipate Washington breaking up the industry or imposing harsh penalties.
  • There’s widespread support for infrastructure improvements, but no one can figure out how to pay for it.
  • The U.S. budget has surged passed US$1 trillion a year, and with some Democrats espousing Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and even more spending, there seems to be no enthusiasm in either party for deficit reduction.
  • Scandals could be dominant; we expect Trump will be acquitted in an impeachment trial sometime in early 2020, but his very controversial personality could be a liability for the Republicans.
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Greg Valliere is a Chief U.S. Policy Strategist at AGF Investments. 

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