From the beach towns of Pinellas, Florida, to the suburbs of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Wall Street will be closely watching a few dozen counties on Tuesday night for hints on who will win the US presidential race.
Investment firms, faced with the prospect of a chaotic election complicated by an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, have hired political analysts and crunched voting data to try to identify crucial counties and Senate races that might tell them which way the vote is headed.
Pinellas, home to St Petersburg-Clearwater, has picked the winner of every presidential election since 1980 except for the disputed 2000 vote. Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, is seen as an indicator of suburban enthusiasm for Democratic contender Joe Biden.
The calculus is by no means definitive or comprehensive.
With Democrats more likely than Republicans to vote early, for example, initial results from some counties could show a strong Biden lead that gets tempered or reversed as in-person ballots are counted.
“They are trying to find the signal from the noise. It can seem overwhelming,” said Andy Lewin, who works with financial services clients for Washington lobbyist BGR Group. He sees Pinellas and another county in Florida, Sumter, as bellwethers for older voters. If Biden outperforms Hillary Clinton — the Democratic candidate in 2016 — in Pinellas, or if President Donald Trump loses his margin of victory from 2016 in Sumter, the Republican is unlikely to be re-elected, he said.
“They are great proxies for investors on where the election is headed,” Lewin said.