Happy New Year and welcome to 2024.
This year is already shaping up to be a big one here in America and my focus is on the three areas which, for me, define life here in the US: Sports, Politics and Business.
Predicting the future, particularly here in America, is tough.
As Donald Rumsfeld famously told a stunned White House press briefing, “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. “
There you go.
But here are some key moments we’ll be watching out for.
January: Trump Trials. The ex-President’s civil fraud trial in New York will conclude with a potential $250,000 fine and the Donald and his businesses losing their real estate licenses. As one cases closes, two more civil suits for defamation and fraud through a pyramid marketing scheme will begin, but most interestingly the Supreme Court – stuffed with Trump sympathisers – will wade in to the debate about whether the former Prez is “immune” from criminal charges or can be disqualified from the 2024 election under the 14th Amendment for “engaging in” an insurrection after the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine Secretary of State ruled he should be kicked off the ballot. But the big event – and subject of next week’s blog – is The Iowa Caucus on 15th January which formally kicks off the primaries for Republicans to choose their preferred Presidential candidate.
February: Super Bowl LVIII. The grandaddy of all sports events will take place in Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas. The AFC and NFC winners meet but the game is only a tiny part of the big day. Super Bowl Sunday generates more than $16billion in spending, not just tickets, flights, hotels and entertainment for the 65,000 fans attending, but food, drink and decorations for the vast TV audience at home. The halftime show – sponsored by Apple – will star ‘Grammy winning recording artist’ Usher but is also the world championship for big brand advertisers, launching their latest campaigns and revealing new products. My tip for most talked about ad – Mountain Dew Baja Blast.
March: Buy, Sell, Buy: After a year of interest rate hikes, investors and analysts are widely expecting the Fed to make the first cut in March. The key indicators to trigger this include slowing economic growth and a weakening labour market. Investors are hoping the first cut will boost consumer spending, make home and car loans more affordable and lead to another record surge in stock prices. In politics, we also get Super Tuesday when 17 states and territories hold their primaries, and we get a clearer picture of who the voters are favouring as their candidates.
April: Total Eclipse of the Sun: April 8th will see darkness descend in a belt from Texas to New York. While the 4-minute black out is easily explainable by any high school science student, the real fun is listening to all the portents of doom reading something more sinister into it, a global conspiracy, something to do with Israel, or a message from the creator to rally Trump supporters.
May: At The Post: While the political primaries rumble on, sports fans like me will be reaching for the seersucker, big hats and bourbon shakers as The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs offers the ‘two most exciting minutes in sport’. Early money is pouring in for Fierceness, but if you look for names that tie in with news and current affairs, Change in Command may be worth a flutter. Kentucky should be a happy place for all however, as European tariffs on Bourbon are likely to be lifted this year.
June: Housing and Shelter: Spring is the time that the housing market traditionally gets its groove on. If the Fed does cut interest rates earlier in the year, consumer confidence stays buoyant, and labour and supply chains are available then all eyes will be on the Residential New Homes Starts and Residential Sales reports published late in June. Although they are trailing indicators, the insights from the construction companies, home buyers and realtors will be a big reveal on the health of the economy.
July: America’s #1 Baby. The Paris Olympics kick off and the TV and advertising coverage will ramp up. Coke, a long-standing Olympic partner, will hope to steal a march on rival Pepsico which is widely tipped to have a strong growth year in 2024. American athletes from the track to the pool to the field will also be hoping to add to the feelgood factor by once again topping the medals table. And even if the games are in Paris, they will have a heightened US flavour with break dancing, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing all making a debut. It’s not the only must-see TV on offer – on the domestic front, The Republicans – and their lawyers – will be gathered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to see if Trump is anointed as their candidate for the 2024 Presidential Election.
August: I did that. If the Fed has made a cut in March then it is likely they will make a second cut now. This will cement the view that inflation is under control and the fabled soft landing is on track. Later in the month, the Democrat Convention in Chicago, will, as seems most likely, select 81-year old Joe Biden as its choice for re-election. The only declared opposition to him is Robert Kennedy Jr, but he is trailing miles behind – almost as likely as Hilary Clinton or Michele Obama being selected according to the bookies. If selected, Biden will claim the economic miracle of growth and inflation management as Bidenomics which may get him over the line.
September: Campaign ’24. With the two candidates in place, the campaign will dominate everything. News anchors and hosts will look to make their names, Piers Morgan will re-emerge with a tricky question or two, influencers and online analysts will set the agenda. And if Biden-Trump II is the ballot, expect plenty of name calling, slips of the tongue, stair stumbling, and other behaviours elderly folk excel at. This may also be the digital election we have been promised for so long, as both camps shelter their aged representatives from long days and sleepless nights with a flood of bizarre social media content. ‘Truth’ and ‘Honesty’ may completely disappear from the political lexicon and, with two months to go, most Americans may switch off and disengage.
October: It’s the Economy, Stupid: As we head into the final weeks of the Presidential Election 2024, all the sideshow stuff will fall to the wayside. In the final reckoning voters will look at their bank balance, their pension funds, food and gas prices and their job and salary security. They will ask themselves the question – Do I stick or twist? While those voices on the fringe – getting louder and wider – want to talk about the Middle East, The Border, Who’s Woke or Un-Woke, the electorate will do what it always does and focus on the money.
November: Fireworks over DC: November 5th is General Election Day here. At around 5am the next morning we will have the result confirmed once the key battle states of Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Nevada have allocated their electoral college seats. What do Trump’s loyalists do if he made it onto the ballot, avoided prison, but is again rejected by the American electorate? They already showed they don’t accept defeat well, may be best to lie low for a couple of days if you have a Biden Harris 2024 sign in your yard.
December: It’s over, Breathe: With a new Commander in Chief selected, the markets will stabilise and planning for Christmas will be the order of the day. If UK General Election is staged 14th November as I expect, we will see the start of dialogue between Kier Starmer and Joe Biden or, more unlikely, Donald Trump and Rishi Sunak, and see if the special relationship can survive without a formal free trade deal between the long-standing allies.
Roll on 2024. As Rumsfeld said, there is much we don’t know. We may have a government shut down next week and the US can’t settle its debts or pay its employees and military. The wars in Ukraine, Gaza and tension with China may escalate, and the two leading figures in American politics today may end up in very different institutions – one a maximum security federal one, the other with early dinners and an alarm button in the loo.