This time, it’s not the economy. This presidential election will turn on the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dan Clifton, head of policy research at Strategas Research Partners, an institutional brokerage and advisory firm.
“COVID is having a far larger impact on the [presidential] race than the economy itself,” said Clifton, who spoke at a recent BNY Mellon Wealth Management webinar. He explained that presidential elections are usually decided based on the strength of the country’s economy and stock market, but this time around the economy — and economic outlook — depend largely on what happens with the pandemic and the vaccine that could slow its spread and potentially end it.
To date, more than 8 million people in the U.S. have been infected by COVID-19 and more than 220,000 have died of the virus as the nation is hit by a third wave of infections.
Four “transformational events” are happening this year: the pandemic, recession, mass protests and election — a number that never happened in any single year over the past 100 years, Clifton said. “We are clearly in unchartered territory heading into the 2020 election.”
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Clifton’s framework combined with the latest election polls gives Biden about a 60% odds of winning the presidency with the caveat that more strange events could happen in this unusual year, including a contested election.
Ultimately the swing states will determine the election, and Florida is the most important one among them to watch, Clifton said. He explained that the Sunshine State has become “very good” at administering elections following the Gore-Bush debacle in 2000 and is one of the states that will count mail-in votes early. Most political analysts note that Trump is very unlikely to win the election if he loses Florida, which has the fourth largest number of electoral votes.