Investment Institute

Elections 2020

Factors to watch ahead of November

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Exploring 2020’s close, unpredictable races

The presidential and Senate races are likely to be closely contested; we believe they will be decided largely by how well the economy’s reopening is managed. But other, equally unpredictable factors could influence the results of the elections and thus steer the direction of fiscal and regulatory policy in the years ahead.
 
Here we explore three of those factors and what they could mean for the candidates.

 

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1. Campaign tools

Who is better able to reach and energize voters?

Illustration representing democrats and republicans
    • Has the advantage of the presidential podium and daily national media attention.

    • Republicans have had four years to work on personal canvassing.
  • Small field organization during the primaries was disadvantaged when shelter-in-place rules canceled large rallies.

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2. Turnout

Could the coronavirus suppress voter turnout?

Voter turnout of 56% or more has been associated with a one-party government since 1960

Chart showing one-party government election results vs. split government election results since 1955.
  • Voter turnout of 56% or more during presidential elections back through 1960 has been associated with one-party control of the White House and both houses of Congress.
  • Turnout below the 56% threshold has tended to produce split control of the government.
Sources: Dr. Michael McDonald, “United States Election Project,” University of Florida, Wells Fargo Investment Institute, as of February 26 2020. Data through 2016.

Strong turnout in the 2020 Democratic primaries strengthens the view that passions on both sides are sufficient to boost voter turnout above the 56% threshold. However, this may not be the case if a new surge in COVID-19 infections occurs in the autumn.


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3. Swing states

Who will carry the Midwest and the South?

If the recent past is any indication, this election may hinge more closely on how the electoral votes—not the popular vote—are distributed.

For context, in 2016 President Trump won the election despite losing New York and California, because he captured enough support in Southern and Midwestern states with mid-sized electoral vote totals (e.g., Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida). This time, the hotly contested swing states worth watching are likely to feature Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Together, these six account for 101 of the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

Map of the United States.
  • As of early June, Biden was leading President Trump in six swing states, accounting for 101 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.
  • Battleground states in the upper Midwest could again go for Trump, if the Democrats fail to motivate the progressive voters (or if Biden alienates moderates).

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Learn more about these and other factors that are likely to impact the 2020 elections, including getting tough with China and the effect of nationwide demonstrations, in our full report. The report also explores the issues that are most likely to affect the markets—and what actions investors should consider now.