November 12, 2020 - This week the LSTA hosted the penultimate session of its eight part Virtual Annual Conference featuring prominent political analyst Charlie Cook, publisher and editor of the Cook Political Report and Phillip Black, a member of the LSTA Public Policy Group.  Mr. Cook opened by stating the obvious: the election was “weird” and analysts will be breaking it down for months to come.  While admitting that the polling was very off in many respects, the vast majority of polls and prognosticators (including himself) predicted a win by president-elect Joe Biden.  He noted that elections involving a sitting president historically tended to be referendums on the incumbent rather than a choice between the two nominees and suggested that president Trump’s historically low job approval ratings were a strong indicator that winning a second term would be challenging.  And, while president Trump did much better in the popular vote than expected (losing by approximately 3% rather than double digits), of the seven swing states Trump targeted, he was able to win only Florida and North Carolina. What explains the better-than-expected result?  Mr. Cook believes the Trump campaign’s effort to register many new voters early on was very successful and that there was, to some extent, a “shy-Trump-voter” phenomenon; some people would not admit to pollsters that they planned to vote for president Trump.

Much more surprising, according to Mr. Cook, was the performance of the Republicans in “down-ballot” races.  Whereas some pundits predicted the Republicans would lose as many as 15 seats in the House and lose control of the Senate, they actually gained at least 6 seats in the House and won no fewer than 50 seats (and possibly as many as 52 depending on the results of a double Georgia runoff) in the Senate.  Mr. Cook attributed this to a segment of the Republican base that, unhappy with president Trump, was willing to “hand the keys to Joe Biden” but “spooked” at the prospect of “giving him a full tank of gas and a credit card” and decided to stick with their party down ballot.  When asked what he thought would happen in Georgia, Mr. Cook suggested that while the Republicans probably had a slight advantage, it would come down to the sentiment of the voters in reaction to the presidential election.

So what happens now?  Mr. Cook expects that the president-elect will be hampered by a very small majority in the House and, at best, a 50-50 split in the Senate.  He expects any legislative action to focus on the Coronavirus-impaired economy, fixes to Obamacare, and infrastructure but does not anticipate more aggressive steps such as the abolition of the filibuster or the packing of the Supreme Court. He posited that Joe Biden is an “institutional guy” who spent decades on Capitol Hill and might be able to work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Continuing with the political theme, the last (bonus) session of the LSTA’s Virtual Annual Conference will take place on Thursday, November 12th at 4:00 p.m. featuring a discussion with political experts Reg Brown and David Cohen of Wilmer Hale on “The New Political Environment:  What Does it Mean for the Loan Market?”.  To register, please click here.

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