2020 House Elections: Consensus Forecast

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Dems Gain Ground In Race For Control of U.S. House

By Steve Rensberry
EDWARDSVILLE, IL - July 8, 2020 -- All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be up for election on Nov. 3, with most forecasts showing a tight battle in many states, while leaning toward continued control by the Democrats. Significant uncertainty remains, however, with a full 118 days left until the big day.
The 2020 Consensus map compiled each election by the site 270toWin shows, as of June 2, the Democrats with a likely 223 seats and the Republicans with 193, with 19 seats forecast as “toss-ups.”
Of the 223 forecast for the Democrats, 181 are designated at “safe,” 27 are designated “likely,” and 15 are designated as “leaning.” Of the 193 forecast for the Republicans, 158 are designed “safe,” 21 as “likely,” and 14 as “leaning.” The Democrat currently control the house and will need to win 218 seats to maintain that advantage.
Rachel Bitecofer of the Washington D.C. Niskanent Center posted an update of the center's projections on June 7, speculating that the Democrats would capture 50 Senate seats to the Republican's 47, with three considered toss-ups. In the House, the Niskanen projects the Democrats will capture 241 seats to the Republican's 182.
“Whatever 2020 turnout is, barring something extraordinary that disrupts the election, if more Democrats and left-leaning independents vote than did so in 2016 and pure independents break against Trump and congressional Republicans, Democrats will not only hold their 2018 House gains — they are poised to expand on their House majority and are competitive to take control of the Senate,” Biecofer stated in her report.
She cited the rising Covid-19 death toll, a leveled economy, and the significant impact polarization is having on the process. She draws an interesting parallel with Jimmy Carer's reelection campaign in 1980, not facing a polarized nation did face an economy in a downward spiral from oil shortages, inflation and unemployment, then was hit with the Iranian hostage crisis.
“Sound familiar? It should, because in the electoral bloodbath that followed, down-ticket Republicans flipped control of the Senate from Democrats for the first time in 25 years. They also used the chaos to remake the American economy, but that is a story for another day,” Bitecofer stated.
For a look at the full Niskanent Center update and report, see Negative Partisanship and the 2020 Congressional Elections.

Report: United States Misery Index Hits High of 13.42

By Steve Rensberry
   EDWARDSVILLE, IL - July 5, 2020 -- Recent data from the U.S. Misery Index, compiled in May 2020, lists the current U.S. economy at 13.42 on the scale, just one step behind the last major high of 19.72 during the Jimmy Carter Jr presidency. To be fair it has not been a normal year, but the numbers are sobering nevertheless.
   The Misery Index is calculated by combining the unemployment rate with the inflation rate, with the most recent rate derived from an April unemployment rate of 13.3 and an inflation rate of 0.12.
   The Trump administration has fared better in terms of yearly Index averages since 2016, benefiting from an economy on the upswing, but this year has not been good. The first three years of Trump's presidency saw Index values of 6.49 (2017), 6.34 (2018), and 2019 (5.44).
   One group critical of the current administration, in particular its handling of the coronavirus threat, has created a Trump Misery Index, which it says is a composite measure of the current unemployment rate, the current inflation rate, the aggregate number of COVID-19 cases in the United States and the aggregate number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
   "The Trump Misery Index is calculated by combining the total number of COVID-19 deaths and cases divided by 1,000 and then adding the sum of the current unemployment and inflation rates," the group states. See: Lincoln Project Trump Misery Index
   The last four years of the Obama administration averaged 8.83 on the Index, with the numbers for each year as follows: 8.86 (2013), 7.80 (2014), 5.40 (2010), and 6.13 (2016). The Obama administration gets credit for reducing the index from 10.15 in 2012 to 5.4 in 2015, before rising to 6.13 in 2016.
   Administrations with the five highest Misery Index numbers have included four Republican administrations and one Democrat, those being the administrations of Gerald R. Ford (12.66), George H. W. Bush (10.07), Richard M. Nixon (17.01), and Donald J. Trump (13.42). The Index hit its highest however, under Jimmy Carter Jr., (19.72).
   The Index's all time high was in June 1980 at 21.98. The all-time low was in July 1953, at 2.97.

Retail Group: Rise in Covid-19 Cases Cause for Concern

By Steve Rensberry 
   EDWARDSVILLE, IL - July 4, 2020 -- National Retail Federation (NRF) Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz cited a number of positive economic signs this past month, even as the country continues to battle the Covid-19 health emergency, but expressed concerns about a prolonged recovery given the rising number of cases in the country.
    “Before we prematurely celebrate the return of the consumer, the wave of new coronavirus outbreaks spreading throughout the country are a major threat to the recovery,” Kleinhenz stated in a July 1 news release. “These outbreaks are alarming, and if they accelerate will certainly sway consumer and business confidence, taking a toll on output and employment and prolonging the time it takes to achieve a true economic recovery.”
  Kleinhenz's concerns were published in the July edition of the NRF's Monthly Economic Review. Among other things he noted:
  • The U.S. economy officially entered a recession in February according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, a declaration that has usually taken from six to 18 months.
  • The stock market just ended one of the best quarters it has seen since 1998, recovering almost all of the losses that it saw in the first quarter.
  • Payrolls were up by 2.5 million jobs in May.
  • Consumer spending was up that same month by 8.1 percent, and retail sales by about 18 percent.
  • Despite the economic high points, all are below last year's levels.
“Will this recession be briefer than earlier recessions?” Kleinhenz stated. “No one has a crystal ball. And just as it can take months to be certain a recession has begun, it can take time to declare when one is over. While it would be unusual for a recession to last less than six months, it is possible that the current one could have already ended with May’s rebound. The good news is that the recession may have ended as fast as it started. The bad news is there is plenty of uncertainty on the shape of the reopening of the economy, and the recovery will be slow even if we are no longer in recessionary territory.”
   The CBIZ Small Business Employment Index (SBEI) meanwhile, showed June business hiring was “strong,” all things considered, though we're not there yet.
   A June 2 news release shared a word of cautious optimism from CBIZ Executive President Philip Noftsinger: “The June data displays the first real signs of hiring growth since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted nationwide business closures and pullbacks in March. There is a long runway for recovery, but the June data shows positive momentum. Notably, June 2020, which falls on the CBIZ SBEI's 11th year anniversary, denotes the highest reading for the index history for June.”

Other key points:
  • ADP and Moody's employment report data shows private-sector employment up by 2.37 million from the previous month (seasonally adjusted)
  • Small business employment was up 937,000 jobs.
  • With the exception of the information industry sector, “positive hiring trends” were seen in almost every industry.
  • Relatively half of the nation's small businesses, 51.4 percent, held steady with respect to employment; roughly one-third, 30.1 percent, showed gains; and the remainder, 18.5 percent, had lower employment levels.These positive trends, however, are likely to see lowered momentum in the coming weeks or months, according to the June report, with rises Covid-19 cases in certain states, forcing further restrictions on business operations.
“Before we prematurely celebrate the return of the consumer, the wave of new coronavirus outbreaks spreading throughout the country are a major threat to the recovery,” the NRF stated. “These outbreaks are alarming, and if they accelerate will certainly sway consumer and business confidence, taking a toll on output and employment and prolonging the time it takes to achieve a true economic recovery.”

Further Reference:

Senate Election Consensus Map Cites 18 As Contested

By Steve Rensberry
EDWARDSVILLE, IL - July 2, 2020 -- The latest U.S Senate Election Map produced by the site 270toWin rates four senate seats as being toss-ups in the upcoming election in November, those being seats held by Martha McSally in Arizona (R), Corey Gardner in Colorado (R), Thom Tillis in North Carolina (R), and Susan Collins in Maine (R).
Of the total 35 seats up for election, the report rates 18 as contested and 17 as “safe for the incumbent party.” This includes special elections in Arizona and Georgia.
As of June 18, the date of the report, the consensus forecast shows the Democrats with 46 seats, the Republicans with 50, with the 4 toss-ups uncalled. In other words, it's going to be very close.
The Republicans currently control 53 seats and the Democrats 47 (two are independent). “Democrats will need to gain three or four seats to take control,” the site states.
Contested races
Republican: Dan Sullivan (AK), Martha McSally (AZ), Cory Gardner (CO), Kelly Loeffler (GA), David Perdue (GA), Joni Ernst (IA), Pat Roberts, incumbent (KS), Mitch McConnell (R), Susan Collins (ME), Steve Daines (MT), Thom Tillis (NC), Lindsey Graham (SC), John Cornyn (TX).
Democrat: Doug Jones (AL), Gary Peters (MI), Tina Smith (MN), Jeanne Shaheen, Tom Udall.
Races rated safe for the incumbent party
Republican: Tom Cotton (AR), Jim Risch (ID), Bill Cassidy (LA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), Ben Sasse (NE), Jim Inhofe (OK), Mike Rounds (SD), Lamar Alexander (TN), Shelley Capito (WV), Mike Enzi.
Democrat: Christopher Coons (DE), Dick Durbin (IL), Ed Markey (MA), Cory Booker (NJ), Jeff Merkley (OR), Jack Reed (RI), Mark Warner, not running in 2020 (VA).