Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: A focus on the economy and the courts

Norman Eisen, Celinda Lake and Anat Shenker-Osorio/The New York Times:

A Trump Conviction Could Cost Him Enough Voters to Tip the Election

A trial on criminal charges is not guaranteed, and if there is a trial, neither is a conviction. But if Mr. Trump is tried and convicted, a mountain of public opinion data suggests voters would turn away from the former president…

The negative impact of conviction has emerged in polling as a consistent through line over the past six months nationally and in key states. We are not aware of a poll that offers evidence to the contrary. The swing in this data away from Mr. Trump varies — but in a close election, as 2024 promises to be, any movement can be decisive.

Jamie Dupree/”Regular Order” on Substack:

New York Times headlines. The bulls were right and the bears were wrong.

Biden tries to refocus voters on economy Migrant numbers remain high in November

One of the biggest challenges in 2024 for President Biden is to convince voters that the economy is doing better than many think. The numbers are certainly in Biden’s favor, after a strong year in the markets, no recession as predicted by many experts, and a drop in consumer prices. But the hangover from high inflation – and higher interest rates – is still in Biden’s way.

  • MESSAGE. On his way to Camp David before Christmas, Biden jabbed at reporters about stories on the economy – something he’s done more frequently in recent weeks. “What’s your outlook on the economy next year?” Biden was asked. “All good,” Biden answered. “Start reporting it the right way.”

  • NO RECESSION. The basic economic numbers would seem to favor an incumbent in the White House. We’ve seen all-time records on the Dow Jones, an unemployment rate under 4 percent for almost two consecutive years, and stronger than expected economic growth this year.

  • METRICS. “Consumer confidence is up and the economy grew 4.9% last quarter,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA). “Economic data show solid job growth, rising wages and consumer confidence, and falling unemployment and inflation,” added Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).

  • ELECTION YEAR. But the polls have repeatedly shown trouble for Biden on the economy. That’s not what you want when you are running for reelection. As James Carville said in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

CAMPAIGN 2024. Remember – evaluate almost anything that happens in the next few months through the lens of a campaign year. Biden will certainly try to hammer home a message of economic achievements, while Republicans will try to cast the current economy as one which is ready to go over a cliff.

Except the economy is not going over a cliff, and Republicans will overplay their hand if they say so. Joe Biden has the easier path to take, since what he’s saying is true.

Reuters:

US holiday retail sales grow 3.1%, down from prior year—Mastercard

“Consumers are still spending, but they’re still price conscious and want to stretch their budgets,” Sundaram said. He said the weeks between Cyber Monday and Super Saturday were a “soft period” for spending, but shoppers used the final weekend before Christmas to look for “big deals.”

Ecommerce sales grew at the slower pace of 6.3% compared to last year’s 10.6% as the popularity of online shopping came off pandemic highs, the report showed.

Last year was especially high (artificially, perhaps, due to a pandemic rebound).

The New York Times:

Holiday Spending Increased, Defying Fears of a Decline

While the pace of growth slowed, spending stayed strong because of robust job growth and strong wage gains

Spending increased across many categories, with restaurants experiencing one of the largest jumps, 7.8 percent. Apparel increased 2.4 percent, and groceries also had gains.

The holiday sales figures, driven by a healthy labor market and wage gains, suggest that the economy remains strong. The Federal Reserve’s campaign to rein in high inflation by raising interest rates over the last few years has slowed the economy, but many economists believe a so-called soft landing is within reach.

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Emily Cochrane/The New York Times:

The Covenant Parents Aren’t Going to Keep Quiet on Guns

A group of parents reeling from a mass shooting at their children’s private Christian school believed no one was in a better position to persuade the G.O.P. to enact limited gun control.

But the Tennessee legislature proved more hostile than the Covenant parents imagined. And when Ms. Joyce heard just one more gun rights supporter dismiss the parents’ concerns after days of restraint, her patience snapped.

The shooter at Covenant “hunted our children with a high-capacity rifle,” Ms. Joyce cried out, her voice cracking, as she confronted the gun rights supporter in the Capitol rotunda. He walked away, but not before suggesting she listen more closely to his arguments.

“I have held my composure,” she said, now openly angry despite the crowd that had gathered. “I have stayed calm. I have been silent and quiet and composed. And I am sick of it. Listen to me.”

Matt McNeill and Cliff Schecter on some post-holiday cheer:

The New Republic: 

Worst Employee of the Year: Ronna McDaniel

The chair of the Republican National Committee is simply terrible at her job. Fortunately for Democrats, she’s in little danger of being fired.

“Since Ronna McDaniel took over as chairwoman of the RNC in 2017, we have lost 2018, 2020, 2022—no red wave, that never came,” Vivek Ramaswamy said at a Republican presidential debate last month. “We have to have accountability in our party. For that matter, Ronna, if you want to come onstage tonight, you want to look the GOP voters in the eye and tell them you resign, I will turn over my, yield my time to you.”

I wouldn’t normally turn to Ramaswamy, the most conspiracy-minded of the GOP primary candidates (a true accomplishment), for a statement of fact. But he’s right on this point. As the head of the RNC for the past six years, McDaniel has overseen one electoral loss after another, and now she’s also losing the fundraising game. She is failing miserably at the core responsibilities of a party chair—and yet, her job seems as secure as ever.

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