This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, October 22, 2018:
Political operative James Carville helped engineer Bill Clinton’s victory over George H. W. Bush in the 1992 president campaign. In the campaign’s “war room,” Carville posted three dicta on the wall to remind him and his staff of the strategies to focus on:
Change v. more of the same;
Don’t forget health care; and
The economy, stupid.
Carville is now known for popularizing the third point: “It’s the economy, stupid!” and it has become standard fare in political warfare: people vote their pocketbooks.
In June, Morning Consult, a political polling firm with liberal-left tendencies, decided to test the thesis ahead of the November Midterms. It asked 1,061 registered Republicans and 1,202 registered Democrats “What would you say is the top set of issues on your mind when you cast your vote [in November]?” The top three were health care (#3), the economy (#2), and President Trump (#1).
Even though Mr. Trump isn’t running for anything, he is the issue in November, turning standard political strategy on its ear. According to American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the continuing flow of astonishingly good news about the economy should bode well for Republicans in maintaining control of both houses of Congress in the November midterm elections. It said, “Numerous studies have found evidence that these … measures are effective at predicting voters’ preferences for incumbent lawmakers.” AEI cited the fact that, so far in 2018, 15 states have reached their lowest unemployment rate ever recorded, adding that, as a share of the overall labor force, these initial unemployment claims are “roughly 30 percent lower than at any other point on record (going back to 1967).”
In covering the latest report on initial jobless claims showing not only a decline for the week ending October 13, but its four-week average the lowest in 50 years, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash said “It just can’t get a whole lot better in the U.S. job market. Openings just hit a record high, the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to a 49-year low of 3.7 percent, and hiring remains robust. The demand for labor is so strong it’s pushing up the cost of worker compensation – wages and benefits – and giving an economic growth cycle that’s now more than nine years old the staying power to become the longest expansion ever.”
The only people hurting are staffing agencies, which can’t find enough qualified people to fill positions being sought by employers. Said ManpowerGroup finance chief Jack McGinnis, “It is clear that the demand is good … but it is more difficult to find that talent.”
Part of the problem is that so many companies are needing workers that they have set up full-time departments to find them on their own, competing with agencies like ManpowerGroup.
The economy is so strong and the demand for skilled labor is so great that, for the first time in years, labor-force participation among women has risen to 75 percent as their unemployment rate has dropped to the lowest level since the 1950s.
All of which should bode well for Republicans in maintaining control of both houses of Congress in the November midterm elections, according to standard political strategy. But Morning Consult’s results are forcing political strategists to look both at the economy’s numbers and Mr. Trump’s. The economy is going gangbusters, but, until very recently, Mr. Trump’s numbers weren’t. Most pollsters have his public approval rating in the low-to-middle 40s. But, according to Rasmussen Reports, the president’s polling numbers started to improve in October, and in six of the last 15 days his public approval numbers are at 50 percent or higher.
It would be reasonable to assume, therefore, that if the top two issues are the economy and Mr. Trump, and both are doing better, then gaps in generic polling should also be closing. And again according to Rasmussen, they are. Republicans have closed the gap (which earlier this year was in the double digits) to neck-and-neck: 45 percent of those polled favor generic Republican candidates and 45 percent favor generic Democrat candidates.
In politics, of course, the 15 days to the midterms is, or can be, an eternity. With Democrats focused on the president and Republicans focused on the economy, the issue will be decided, as it usually is, by independent voters. According to Rasmussen, seven percent of those polled are still undecided.
With the Mueller investigation’s final results not going to be released until after the election (probably because there’s no “there” there), the politically-inspired “caravan” is the most obvious wildcard in the deck. With thousands of faux-refugees shortly threatening America’s southern borders, and with Mr. Trump threatening to use military forces (and not just National Guard troops) to protect them, the confrontation could be the event that swings the election. Commentator Gary North has suggested that Mr. Trump could use the phony crisis to his advantage by putting on his military cap and cape and showing up on the border, directing the troops. As Commander-in-chief, Trump would have his actions covered by the media, including the anti-Trump voices. If Trump is able to come off as capable, able, determined, and successful in thwarting this latest attempt by the left to embarrass him, the midterms could add half-a-dozen Republican seats in the Senate and perhaps a dozen or so Republican seats in the House.
In other words, this could be one more attempt by the left to damage the president that ends in utter failure.
The Wall Street Journal: In a Tight Labor Market, Even the Staffing Firms Struggle
The Wall Street Journal: Strong Economy Draws Women into U.S. Labor Force
MorningConsult.com: What Democrats and Republicans Are Prioritizing Ahead of the Midterms