Thanks Fusion
Thanks Fusion

Around the lunch table yesterday, we talked about the US elections. Yes, Donald – even here, just off Simon Mazorodze Road on the outskirts of Harare. In Zimbabwe. That’s in Africa. No, not Kenya – that’s quite far north-east of us, actually.

And one question that came up: why worry, because how would it affect us?

Well, here’s how two of the goings-on in the USA have impacted life in Southern Africa:

  1. The Federal Reserve has been playing with their interest rates and quantitative easing – which initiated the collapse of the commodities market and the dive of emerging market currencies, driving most of Southern Africa into near recession*.
    *Yes, I know China’s slowdown also played a role. But the fears of a Chinese slowdown have been around for ages – the sloshing around of all that extra dollar liquidity almost certainly caused those commodity price peaks in spite of the slowdown fears.
  2. Over the last few years, having a bank account got real regulatory. You have to supply KYC documents and proofs of residence – and I’m not sure about everyone else, but I get regular check-ups on those from my bank “relationship” manager. For this, we have FATCA to thank, and the American obsession with tax evasion.

The trouble is: what happens in America tends to rock the world. And the fragile economies in Southern Africa are particularly vulnerable to what goes on in the halls of Washington. So while I admit that there is a part of me that almost masochistically wants to see America elect Trump as our World Leader, I know that leaders with personality cults tend to join lists that are topped by Hitler, Stalin and Idi Amin.

So this morning, I went onto the awesome, and looked at charts from statisticians that know what they’re doing.

Sidebar: if you’re unfamiliar with the site, it’s run by world-famous statistician Nate Silver – and it’s rather famous for predicting US election results with astonishing accuracy. In 2008, fivethirtyeight correctly predicted the presidential results in 49 of the 50 States, and was right about the winners of every US Senate race. In 2010, he was right for 34 of the 37 Senate elections, and 36 of the 37 gubernatorial ones. In the 2012 presidential election, Silver’s prediction model was 50 for 50. Which is, you know, impressive.

The National Polls

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What I find so interesting here: in relative terms, Hillary is doing much better that Mr Trump in the nomination bid. And yet, it’s Mr Trump that’s causing all the media hysteria.

And even if we look forward to something like the Iowa primary on Monday…

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But that’s just dealing with the nomination. The bigger question is: what will happen if this does end up being a Clinton vs Trump election (which is looking increasingly likely)?

Sadly, the folks at fivethirtyeight are too smart to make predictions about that just yet. And instead, we get statements like this:

It’s hard to say exactly how well (or poorly) Trump might fare as the Republican nominee. Partisanship is strong enough in the U.S. that even some of his most ardent detractors in the GOP would come around to support him were he the Republican candidate. Trump has some cunning political instincts, and might not hesitate to shift back to the center if he won the GOP nomination. A recession or a terror attack later this year could work in his favor.

But Trump would start at a disadvantage: Most Americans just really don’t like the guy.


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And don’t be put off by the “Huff Post” label at the end there – the Huffington Post just collects all the poll data out there and aggregates it.

If you want to get an idea of how that level of unfavourability compares to the other Republican candidates:

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 8.41.20 AM

And compared to the Democrat nominees:

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So that’s not good for Mr Trump, as slippery as he apparently is.


I found this in the rummaging:

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 8.51.37 AM

Meaning that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are not best placed to fare well up against Hillary Clinton, and if Republicans really want a serious contender candidate, then it should be Marco Rubio.

A quote:

Trump and Cruz are more popular with conservative Republicans. But either could turn into the most disastrous GOP presidential nominee since 1964. Surveys conducted by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal in December and January tested Clinton against Trump, Cruz and Rubio among “swing” demographic groups — the groups that typically decide who wins key battleground states. Although polls that test general election matchups this far from Election Day (particularly before the nominees have been chosen) haven’t always been predictive, the relative differences between the candidates are telling; the “electability gap” between Rubio and Trump/Cruz was quite obvious.

So it can all still change.

But at the moment, it does look an awful lot like Hillary’s year.

Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at Or both.