Friday Edition

Will the debates swing the 2024 election? Plus: Why MSNBC can't quit Trump.

1. The Impact of Presidential Debates

Now that President Biden and Donald Trump have agreed to square off in June and September, it’s a good time to assess how much the upcoming presidential debates will move the needle. (Politico)

Polling experts like Nate Silver say debates do have an effect on voters, but it’s usually fleeting, and may be more so this year considering how many Americans have made up their minds about the two candidates.

What Silver told Politico: “Perhaps the paradigmatic example being the first debate in 2012, when [Mitt] Romney got a boost in the polls that faded after a couple of weeks. … With that said, it’s all relative: Almost nothing moves the polls these days because the candidates are so well known and everybody is so partisan. So, they don’t matter that much, but they still matter more than most process-type things.”

Signs of Trump-Biden fatigue: 84 million people watched the first debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

  • Only 73 million tuned into the first Trump-Biden debate in 2020.

  • Roughly 1 in 5 voters qualify as “double haters,” Americans who dislike Biden and Trump.

What history tells us: An analysis of U.S. presidential election polls from 1952 to 2012 found candidate’s standings post-debate usually mirrored their pre-debate standings.

  • A 2019 study of 56 televised presidential debates across the U.S. and six other countries found debates had little to no impact on voting decisions.

Bubba’s Two Cents

There’s a lot working against the idea that debates will have a major impact on the 2024 election. However, if anyone can defy expectations, it’s Trump.

2. Why MSNBC Needs Trump

MSNBC has doubled down on partisanship, which has led to a ratings boost and headaches for the network’s parent company, NBC. (NYT)

Over the past year, MSNBC, which some critics refer to as “Fox News for Democrats,” has overtaken CNN as the second-most watched cable news network.

  • That milestone came after MSNBC leaned into its liberal identity by hiring former Biden White House aides Jen Psaki and Symone Sanders in 2022.

  • Earlier this year, a number of MSNBC personalities publicly criticized NBC’s hiring of RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel (NBC ended up cutting ties with McDaniel).

  • MSNBC’s anti-Trump coverage has been key to driving up viewership.

New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg: “NBC’s traditional political journalists have cycled between rancor and resignation that the cable network’s partisanship — a regular target of [Donald] Trump — will color perceptions of their straight news reporting. Local NBC stations between the coasts have demanded, again and again, that executives in New York do more to preserve NBC’s nonpartisan brand, lest MSNBC’s blue-state bent alienate their red-state viewers.”

The audience for network news has been declining for years, making viewership harder to come by these days.

It’s easy to see why MSNBC is incentivized to go after Trump: Americans’ engagement with news plummeted once President Biden took office.

Bubba’s Two Cents

Here's a theory: TV networks may no longer be a great medium for delivering journalism that’s focused on facts and hard news. With so many better ways to get this type of information, (for instance, a handy newsletter delivered to your inbox each day) cable TV needs to focus on commentary and partisanship to keep viewers engaged. The question is how long you can ride that train before it gets played out.

3. Gen Z Goes for Government

Gen Z workers are opting out of the tech industry and into government jobs. (Fortune)

A new survey from the college recruiting company Handshake: Only 21% of applications from the class of 2024 went to tech companies, down from 23% in 2023.

  • Applications to government jobs increased from 5.5% in 2023 to 7.4% in 2024.

  • Between 2021 and 2023, the number of tech majors applying for government jobs more than doubled.

The trend is partially explained by the cooling job market: Nearly 84,000 tech employees have been laid off this year.

Younger generations are becoming more pro-government:

  • A plurality (44%) of Americans aged 18-29 say they have a positive view of socialism, per a 2022 Pew Research Center survey.

  • A 2018 Pew survey found nearly 60% of millennials would prefer a bigger government.

  • Compared to their older counterparts, the youth are far more supportive of installing government surveillance cameras in citizens’ homes.

4. The Future of Taxes

Our next president will likely play a big role in shaping the future of U.S. tax policy. (Semafor)

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is set to expire at the end of 2025, alongside a key piece of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

  • Donald Trump wants to extend and expand his 2017 tax cuts.

  • Biden proposes raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, while keeping the TCJA’s cuts for the middle class.

  • About 62% of households could see their taxes rise if the TCJA expires.

Trump's extension of the TCJA and Biden's plan to retain some of the cuts will both impact the deficit:

Chart: Semafor

Related: An American Enterprise Institute report from March took a look at the TCJA’s impacts on the economy.

  • Companies benefiting from the TCJA increased their domestic investment by about 20% compared to firms that didn't experience tax changes.

  • U.S. companies saw a 6% rise in domestic investments and a 9% increase in total investments.

  • After the TCJA passed, GDP, consumption, business investment, and nonfarm payroll growth rates exceeded the Congressional Budget Office's pre-TCJA predictions.

Chart: American Enterprise Institute

Bubba’s Two Cents

The TCJA was labeled a “bust” in the media, and Americans felt ambivalent about it. But now, with the law about to expire, even the Democrat in the White House wants to keep parts of it.

5. One for the Road

While we’re on the subject of the 2017 tax cuts, here’s a blast from the past that shows how much Congress and the Republican Party have changed.

Before he became a constant thorn in the side of GOP leadership, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., was full of kind words for Paul Ryan (a giant “RINO,” according to populist Republicans).

Gaetz in 2018: “Paul Ryan has done a yeoman’s job getting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed. He really is the guy who wanted to rewrite the tax code during his time in Washington. I’m proud he was able to succeed in that endeavor.”

Gaetz last year:

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