The Moody's Analytics election model has been updated to reflect the March economic forecast, and the needle has moved further in the direction of the Democratic party.
On strength in the president's approval rating and low gasoline prices, Nevada has moved from the Republican column into the Democratic column. This brings the projected electoral vote count to 332 votes for the future Democratic nominee and 206 votes for the Republican nominee. However, several important swing states remain extremely close. Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Florida and New Hampshire could all swing very easily with only small changes to the underlying economic drivers.
The two drivers giving the most support in the model to Democrats are gasoline prices and the president's approval rating. In fact, without gasoline prices in the model, Republicans would be projected to win. Prices have rebounded in the last few weeks, but chances are remote that they could move enough by November to alter the projected outcome in and of themselves.
The president's approval rating, on the other hand, is a variable that could move quickly enough, even with our smoothing process, in concert with higher gasoline prices to change the forecast. President Obama appears to be benefiting from the chaos in the primary elections over the last few months, boosting his approval rating by almost three percentage points since our first projection in August 2015.
The economic variable most beneficial to the Republican challengers in the model is household income growth, which has come in below expectations much of the year. As we near full employment toward the end of the summer, we'll have a better idea how large a role slower growing wages will be on the election. But as of today, the forecast is clearly in favor of the incumbent party.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.