Saturday, April 1, 2023

Look for Biden-Trump rematch, expert says

Could the country be headed for a repeat presidential election in 2024? Veteran political analyst Greg Valliere says that is very likely.

New polling data establishes Donald Trump as the GOP frontrunner and when President Joe Biden looks around. He sees no one on the Democrat side to take his place, says Valliere, the chief U.S. policy strategist for Toronto-based AGF Investments, a global management company.

Valliere’s comments came Wednesday morning before about 80 at the annual PNC Economic and Political Forecast Breakfast at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club.

Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist for AGF Investments, spoke Wednesday at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club as part of the PNC Economic and Political Forecast Briefing.

On Trump, Valliere says, “His base is fanatically loyal, and his base has maintained their support for him, and I think that none of the challengers have really been quite as good as advertised.”

Valliere predicted last year Biden wouldn’t seek a second term. He says he was wrong. Vice President Kamala Harris has been a disappointment, and voters would deem California Gov. Gavin Newsom as “too liberal,” and faces plenty of problems in his home state related to crime. Biden’s bid is likely despite a majority of Democrats preferring he not run again.

“He knows that he’s getting frail, and his gait is unsteady and the words don’t come out quite as easy as they used to, but I think deep down, he worries that there’s no logical successor,” says Valliere.

The presidential election remains more than 18 months away, and a lot could happen. Trump faces a host of legal issues and another candidate has time to emerge, says Valliere.

Biden would be 86 at the end of a second term, while Trump is 76. Former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, 51, made it clear when she announced her candidacy last month that she will make age an issue in her campaign.

“The magic attribute that a lot of candidates may have in this upcoming election is youth,” says Valliere. “Age is going to be a big issue. Nikki Haley brought it into the limelight.”

Many pundits see Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, 44, as Trump’s major challenger, but Valliere says the unannounced candidate seems “a quart low” on charisma. He also noted a recent New Hampshire poll showed Trump 41 points ahead of DeSantis. 

“He’s not real warm and fuzzy and I think he has to improve his campaign skills,” Valliere says of DeSantis.

As for someone to watch, Valliere says Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has proven himself a skillful politician and has Republican credentials on social issues. “He has the most important thing a politician can have and that’s $500 million and that will help his cause.” Youngkin was a co-CEO for the private-equity firm the Carlyle Group before quitting to run for governor in 2020.

As for N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, Valliere described him as an “intriguing player” who lacks name recognition nationally.

Valliere also hit on other topics, including the debt ceiling debate, the war in Ukraine, and U.S. relations with China.

Debt ceiling

The stock market will become anxious this summer as the U.S. nears its debt ceiling. A government shutdown could occur, and Valliere believes there’s a 40% chance the U.S. could default on its debt, which he says would be catastrophic for the global economy.

“I think there will be a deal. I don’t think we’re going to default on our debt, but I would argue that the markets are going to be quite uneasy in June and July until this thing comes to a resolution.”

The U.S. Treasury predicts it will hit its debt ceiling between July and September unless Congress passes a debt ceiling increase. The county has a total debt of $31.4 trillion, and is expected to add at least $1 trillion more per year for the next decade. There is no easy target to reduce spending, with spending on Social Security, Medicare, veterans’ benefits  and defense spending increasing.

Valliere expects little change in fiscal policy over the next two years given the divided Congress, with little chance of Biden’s calls for higher taxes to be approved

But coming out of the debt ceiling crisis, Valliere predicts that the increase in overall spending will slow down.

Russia and Ukraine War

“There’s no way Russia can win this war under any definition of the word win,” says Valliere. He calls the response by Ukrainian troops one of the most “uplifting” stories in recent memory.

“Russian troops are not willing to die for Vladimir Putin. Ukrainian troops are willing to die for their country,” says Valliere. “I think that’s a tremendous difference.”

NATO and allies have stuck together in support for Ukraine, including Germany sending the country tanks and the U.S. providing massive financial support. Russia has demoralized troops who have shot their own generals.

He gave five scenarios of what may happen.

  1. Putin could double down by either using chemical weapons or a tactical atomic bomb. Valliere views this as unlikely, considering opposition from both India and China.
  2. Ukrainian troops could launch a counter-offensive and move into western Russia. That represents a whole new scenario.
  3. Someone assassinates Putin or his health fails him.
  4. A stalemate. Russia has already lost 200,000 troops. Ukrainian troops have lost 125,000.
  5. A truce is the most likely option, maybe this summer. “A truce would be very exciting for the markets.” A sticking point may be the peninsula of Crimea, an area occupied by Russia since 2014, but also claimed by Ukraine.

U.S. and China relations

One of the first things House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did when he took over leadership was form a committee to investigate China, from its treatment of dissidents to lack of transparency on COVID, its spying and threats to Taiwan.

“I have a hard time being optimistic about US.-China relations. I think they could get worse before they get better.”

China’s threat to aid Russia by sending arms would make things worse. “There’s remarkable unity from both parties against China.”

These issues have led Valliere to change his opinion on defense spending, which he expected last year to face cuts. Instead, defense spending will increase dramatically, he predicts.

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