US Democrats’ gains stall six weeks before midterm elections; UK Labour seizes huge lead after budget

The United States midterm elections will be held in six weeks, on November 8. All 435 House of Representatives seats are up for election, as well as 35 of the 100 senators. Democrats won the House by 222-213 in 2020, and hold the Senate on a 50-50 tie with Vice President Kamala Harris’ casting vote.

Currently the FiveThirtyEight forecasts give Democrats a 68% chance to hold the Senate, but Republicans have a 69% chance to gain control of the House of Representatives.

That means there’s about a 31% chance of either Republicans or Democrats sweeping both chambers of Congress, and a 38% chance of Republicans winning the House while Democrats retain the Senate.

Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate are up from 67% when I last covered US politics four weeks ago, but down from 71% on September 20. Their chances of holding the House are up from 24% four weeks ago, but Democrats’ gains have slowed.

In the national vote for Congress, Democrats lead Republicans by 1.3% in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, up from 0.8% four weeks ago. President Joe Biden had gained much ground in my last article, but his ratings gains in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate have stalled since: he’s now at 52.2% disapprove, 42.0% approve.

The 35 Senate seats up for election at this year’s midterms are 21 Republicans and 14 Democrats. As Republicans are defending more Senate seats, the FiveThirtyEight forecasts give Democrats a greater chance to hold the Senate than the House.

At the last two presidential elections in 2016 and 2020, polls overstated Democrats. But Donald Trump’s name won’t appear on the ballot paper this year, and polls at the last midterm elections in 2018 were accurate. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver said on September 16 that the polls at these midterm elections could be wrong in either direction.

Democrats had been gaining in the FiveThirtyEight House and Senate forecasts since the US Supreme Court struck down a constitutional right to an abortion in late June.

But September’s economic data on inflation was poor. And from an August 16 peak over 34,000, the Dow Jones has suffered falls this month to crash to just over 29,000 on Tuesday – about a 15% decline.

In my opinion, a greater focus on the economy is stalling Democrats’ gains in the FiveThirtyEight forecasts.

At every midterm election since 2006, the non-presidential party has easily won control of the House. It will be difficult for Democrats to defy this history.

Economic data: jobs and inflation

The US August jobs report was released September 2. While 315,000 jobs were created, the unemployment rate rose 0.2% from July to 3.7%. The increase in unemployment was due to a 0.3% increase in the participation rate, with the employment population ratio – the share of eligible Americans employed – up 0.1% to 60.1%.

However, both the participation rate and employment population are about 1% below their levels in February 2020, before the COVID pandemic began.

The US August inflation report was released September 13. Headline inflation increased just 0.1% after an unchanged July; the last two months were far below the 1.3% increase in June. However, headline inflation has moderated due to falls in energy prices.

Inflation excluding food and energy (“core” inflation) increased 0.6% in August after a 0.3% increase in July. Core inflation is what central banks focus on controlling, so this high reading increased interest rate expectations.

Real earnings account for inflation. In August, real hourly earnings were up 0.2% after a 0.6% increase in July, though these gains followed a 0.9% drop in June. Real weekly earnings decreased 0.1% in August after a 0.8% increase in July. However, in the 12 months to August, real weekly earnings are down 3.4% and real hourly down 2.8%.

Are Trump’s legal woes significant?

Former US President Donald Trump has been experiencing legal woes. Trump’s problems may assist Democrats in the midterms as he is still unpopular, with the FiveThirtyEight aggregate giving him a 54.0% unfavourable, 41.9% favourable rating.

Trump has continued to be heavily involved with politics, making it difficult for voters to move on from him.

For the 2024 presidential election, I don’t think Trump’s troubles with the law matter so much. If he’s unable to run, Republicans will nominate someone who is also very right-wing – the favourite would be current Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

UK Labour seizes huge poll lead after ‘horror’ budget

On September 23, new United Kingdom Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng delivered a budget that would greatly reduce taxes to the benefit of the already well-off. Rather than cut spending, the tax cuts would be funded by borrowing. Owing to this borrowing, the UK pound plummeted on the financial markets.

Financial market turmoil has continued this week, and has been responsible for the Dow tanking.

Read more:
Mini budget 2022: experts react to the new UK government’s spending and tax-cut plans

There were four UK national polls conducted between Tuesday and Thursday this week. In three of these polls, the opposition Labour led the governing Conservatives by 17 to 21 points.

In the fourth, a YouGov poll, Labour led by 33 points, 54% to 21%. Labour’s lead is up from high single to low double digits before the budget.

The good news for the Conservatives is that the next UK general election isn’t due until late 2024.

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