Presidential politics in 1992 are intriguing, the most complex possibly since 1824, and their impenetrable complexity means months of not knowing what lies ahead for the economy, interest rates, and financing activity.
In addition, bright effective legislators are resigning from the Senate and the House of Representatives in frustration, and old pols are being dumped by voters incensed by Washington's ineffectiveness, causing enough ferment to make the new Congress difficult to assess. How this change will affect securities markets legislation and regulation is also impossible to tell.
Into the bubbling political stew has come Ross Perot, the populist billionaire from Texas who, according to a May 16 poll done by Time magazine and CNN, is running first nationwide, with 33%, ahead of President Bush, with 28%, and of Bill Clinton of Arkansas, with 24%. Moreover, Mr. Perot seems to be picking up adherents daily, making it less and less likely that his popularity will fade as voters get to know him better.
With Mr. Perot in the race, it's possible that none of the three candidates will receive 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win the presidency. If that happens, the vote will be thrown into the newly-elected House of Representatives, something that has not happened since 1824. In that year, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William Crawford had a four-way race, no one won a majority of electoral votes, and the House elected Adams.
It could well happen again in 1992. Under the 12th Ammendment the House then must choose the new president from the top-three electoral voter-getters, but the Representatives do not vote on a one-person, one-vote basis. The House casts ballots on a one-state, one-vote basis, with each state voting by a caucus of it Representatives. A majority of 26 states is needed to elect a new Chief Executive,and the vote of sparsely-populated Wyoming counts as heavily as California's. This prospect makes the political outlook for 1993 even more nebulous because the make-up of the 103d Congress, with anti-incumbent fever rising, is tough to predict.
This opaque outlook is fascinating for political scientists and punits, but makes running a municipal bond business difficult, and it makes issuing municipal bonds tougher to plan wisely. Urban decay, long-term economic productivity, improved public schools, government fiscal policy, and other important current concerns won't see much movement until the great political debates of 1992 are settled. An effective government in Washington may not be set up for nine more months, if then, and this interval ahead is likely to be frustrating time, notable for Washington posturing and inaction.