While some pundits are ready to hand the presidential contest to challenger Joe Biden, Jeff Bush is not there yet.
Co-producer of The Washington Update, Bush said the race is looking similar to 2016 in a lot of ways. President Donald Trump can pull out another comeback win if he can just convince enough voters that the COVID-19 pandemic is getting under control.
"If these undecided voters could see a tangible light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, I think they'd start shifting their priority toward economic recovery," said Bush, who addressed the National Association for Fixed Annuities' virtual Annuity Distribution Summit.
Unfortunately for the president, that strategy is complicated by a sharp uptick in COVID-19 infections. On Thursday, Johns Hopkins reported the most daily infections, 88,521, since the pandemic began.
The idea would be to capitalize on a rebounding economy, Bush said, and remind voters of Trump's biggest strength. And undecided voters are a big key to Trump closing the polling deficit over the final weekend.
"Historically, there are about 10% of the electorate that are undecided, but for whatever reason, this year, that's already down to six or seven [percent]," Bush said. "In 2016, that 10% of the undecided voters broke late and heavily toward Donald Trump."
If Biden does win, Bush warned agents that his tax policy would hit "your best clients" the hardest.
Biden would raise the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%, restore the top individual tax rate to 39.6% from 37%, tax capital gains as ordinary income and at death for very high earners, limit deductions for high earners, and subject wages above $400,000 to the Social Security payroll tax, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Biden would scrap preferential treatment of capital gains and dividends for higher earners, and raise taxes on inheritance. Capital gains and dividends would be taxed as ordinary income, at a rate of 39.6% for individuals and couples earning more than $1 million.
Long-term capital gains are taxed currently at a top rate of 20% and earned income is taxed at a top rate of 37%.
Wanting to level out capital gains and ordinary income in the eyes of the taxman might sound good, but Biden would have to go through Congress to get it done, Bush noted.
"We actually debated that issue back two or three years ago and it couldn't even garner the majority of Democrats' support," he recalled. "Granted, Democrats have shifted a little bit over the last couple of years, but I tend to think that bullet point would not make it into a final tax bill."
All Eyes On Florida
Certain states are going to go to Biden, while other states are solidly in Trump's corner, Bush said, and the resulting electoral vote count gives the challenger a lead of 232-204. The first to 270 Electoral College votes wins.
"We believe there are six states that will decide the 2020 election," Bush said. "Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, with Florida being the big opportunity with 29 Electoral College votes."
Not surprisingly, both candidates were campaigning in Florida Thursday, where Biden maintains a slim lead in polling. Should Trump win the state, it sets off "a real dogfight" to win three of the remaining five states, Bush said.
"That's why we've said all along that Donald Trump has a singular path with the Electoral College going through Florida, while Joe Biden has a multitude of paths," he concluded.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH.
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