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Expand chart
Data: Historical changes in House seats from the American Presidency Project, approval ratings from FiveThirtyEight, and views of the economy from AGC Research LLC. Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Here's why it's so hard to predict whether Republicans will actually lose the House in November: It depends whether the election turns on President Trump's low approval ratings or the booming economy.

Between the lines: As this interactive graphic shows, the party in power tends to do well in the House during midterm elections when voters are happy with the economy, but it does poorly when the president's approval rating is low. There's no recent precedent in which the economy is doing well but the president's approval rating is underwater.

What they're saying: I asked Darrell West of the Brookings Institution his thoughts on these trends:

  • “Generally, it’s been 'the economy, stupid,' that’s been the major issue. But this year it could be, 'It’s Trump, stupid.' Because Trump just dominates everything. He dominates news coverage, he dominates social media activities. He’s a very inviting target for Democrats.”
  • “Generally, there’s a strong tie between the state of the economy and presidential approval ratings, but it's not true in regard to Trump because many people simply don’t like him personally."

The bottom line: Anyone who talks about the election as if it's only about Trump, or only about the economy, is only telling you half the story. We won't really know what's going to happen with the House until we know which half matters the most to the voters.

Go deeper:

Trump ramps up his political travel before midterms

There are now more job openings than people unemployed

Go deeper

13 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.