Eight Things Political Junkies Should Consider

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If you're a politics nut who's betting on the outcome of next week's midterm elections—and whose eyes are bleeding from all the bouncy-bouncy polls—here are a few other factors to consider:

— In his morning note today, veteran Washington observer Greg Valliere of Stanford Washington Research writes that he sees a "slight momentum shift toward Republicans," helped by John Kerry's botched joke. "This has been one of the toughest elections in years to handicap, thanks to Iraq, scandals, uncertainty over turnout, etc. Our final call: the Democrats pick up 19 House seats (15 are needed to gain control) and four Senate seats (five would create a tie)."

— Top Google News headline: "4.4 percent unemployment registers 5-year low," not something like "October job growth disappoints Wall Street."

— Today's job report showed that average hourly earnings increased 0.4 percent in October and are up 3.9 percent in the pst year—nicely above the 25-year average of 3.5 percent. (Number crunching courtesy of First Trust Advisors.) Real disposable personal income — DPI adjusted to remove price changes—increased a whopping 0.8 percent in September, compared with an increase of 0.2 percent in August.

— The S&P 500 is up 11.4 percent since mid-June but down 1.9 percent since October 26.

— The average U.S. gasoline price is $2.22 a gallon, down from $2.62 on September 11.

— The betting markets are predicting the Dems will take the House but not the Senate. Over at TradeSports, the bottom has fallen out of the HOUSE.GOP.2006 contract. It now gives the GOP just a 25 percent chance of retaining control. The SENATE.GOP.2006 contract, by contrast, gives Republicans a 69 percent chance of keeping the Senate. At the Washington Stock Exchange, traders give the GOP a 65 percent chance of retaining the Senate and a 33 percent chance of keeping the House.

— The Brandt-Brunell political forecasting model is predicting the GOP will win 219 seats—but with a 6.5-seat margin of error.

— On a bad day for stocks, shares of Sallie Mae stock were up nearly 1 percent, having risen 4.5 percent since October 20. Many analysts think the company could be hurt by a Democratic effort to cut student loan rates, and its stock has tanked since late May. The turnaround could mean investors now think such fears are overblown.