Several thoughts came to me the other day as I pondered the calendar and discovered it was mid-February. Of course I thought of Valentine’s Day and was glad I had already purchased a gift for my wife. (She guessed what it was before she ever saw it. The good news is that she liked it.) Being a baseball fan I thought about pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. The thing that intrigued me was that to my recollection not one Senator up for reelection in 2018 had yet announced their retirement. That is strange indeed and I’d like to explore it with you today.
Regardless of Party, a lot of what we hear from elected officials is malarkey (haven’t forgotten you Joe). Almost every Senator cites wanting more time to spend with their family as their main reason for retirement. In reality whether they think they will spend much or all of the next several years in the majority or minority is a bigger factor in their decision. Regardless, Christmastime is the popular period to reflect on the future – in fairness, often including a family discussion – and deciding whether to pull the pin or not. My theory is that Washington is in such a state of flux that even the most seasoned pros can’t predict the future.
For many Senate Republicans they are experiencing power like never before with their Party in control of both chambers and the White House. The problem is that Trump and his future are so unpredictable. By all normal standards the Republican are favored to keep control of both chambers through the end of at least 2020. Normally that would mean that many Democrats would opt for retirement rather than go through the expense and risk of a 2018 campaign, especially when the “reward” would seem to be several more years in the minority. The reality is that our national politics is currently anything but normal or predictable.
If things keep progressing at the current pace my suggestion to Democrats (especially challengers) is to try to make their election a referendum on Trump. He was elected by a minority, is incredibly unpopular, increasingly more so with each passing day and is prone to making both bonehead statements and mistakes. I am far from alone in these observations and conclusions.
The risk in adopting that strategy early is that it is highly questionable just how long Trump will last. I’m not a betting man, but I found it interesting that the legal bookmakers in the UK and Ireland have made Trump an even money bet to make it through the conclusion of his four-year term. This early in his presidency and according to the bookies he has just as good a chance of resigning or being booted as serving the term he was elected to.
We are dealing with a high level of uncertainty. That is not good for the long term in many ways including the economy. Regardless of economic philosophy we all agree that markets hate uncertainty. If the uncertainty continues it will inevitably be reflected in the markets.
If you like me are somewhat confuse don’t feel bad. The most politically wired appear unsure as to what the near term political future holds in America as evidenced by the lack of retirements. Anyway, that’s my nerdy observation today.
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