According to the PredictIt betting odds, there is an 84 percent chance that Republicans will capture the House in November, a 77 percent chance that the GOP wins a Senate majority, and a 72 percent chance that Republicans end up controlling both.
Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of the betting markets as indicators, and there are at least a dozen experts who follow congressional elections for a living whose opinion I would value more. But as a way of quantifying the conventional wisdom, the odds are helpful. At least at this point, all three sound more or less right to me, acknowledging that there are seven months between now and the midterm election.
Obviously, no one has a fully functional crystal ball, but the collective conclusions of rank-and-file bettors currently match most election experts, reflecting the nature of midterm elections, the increasing nationalization of our elections, and turnout. Either a president’s fellow party members vote in reasonably high numbers or they don't (usually it’s the latter). Either those in the opposition party turn out in strong numbers, or they don't (they usually do). Either independents are favorably disposed towards the party of a sitting president or they aren’t (usually they are not).
As the governing party, Democrats face myriad challenges this year. The latest: the publication last week of an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco showing that “since the first half of 2021, U.S. inflation has increasingly outpaced inflation in other developed countries. Estimates suggest that fiscal support measures designed to counteract the severity of the pandemic’s economic effect may have contributed to this divergence by raising inflation about 3 percentage points by the end of 2021.”
The report showed that the combined stimulus from spending in the CARES Act enacted by the previous Congress and signed into law by then-President Trump in March 2020 and the American Rescue Plan passed by the current Congress and signed into law by President Biden in March 2021, plus monetary policies put into place by the Federal Reserve, effectively overfilled the bathtub, causing an increase in demand that resulted in, to continue the metaphor, a flood of inflation. There wasn’t much of a sign that the ARP plan was carefully calibrated to match the economic shortfall caused by the coronavirus. We were told that the danger was going too small, not going too big.
Politically speaking, though, polls are quite clear that voters remember—and resent—the insistence by the president and his administration that any inflationary pressures would be both minimal and transitory. For presidents, issue contamination can be a problem. That is, once voters get mad at you for one issue, it colors their assessment of you on nearly everything else.
As long as we are looking at the betting odds, the current PredictIt book shows that punters are giving Trump a 39 percent chance of winning the GOP nomination in 2024, versus a 29 percent chance for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, presumably leaving a 32 percent chance for someone else. On the Democratic side, Biden is also given a 39 percent chance of winning his party’s nod, and Vice President Kamala Harris a 19 percent chance, suggesting a 42 percent chance for another candidate. Republicans are given a 55 percent chance of winning the White House just over 30 months from now.
If Biden and Trump face off in the November 2024 election, it would be the seventh rematch in American history between the general-election foes from the previous election.
In my mind, the odds are pretty good that there will not be a rematch of 2020, that one or both will not make it onto a general-election ballot. Though Biden has said he will run again, he has no choice but to say that unless he wants to govern as a lame duck for almost three years. The decision probably won’t really be made until after the midterm election. Trump’s behavior certainly suggests that he will run, but I have a hunch he may not end up on primary election ballots.
All of this is idle speculation with a big-time midterm election seven months away (218 days to be exact). But that doesn’t mean it’s far from people’s minds.
The article was originally published for the National Journal on April 5, 2022.
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