For anyone interested in how the fiscal cliff talks are going to unfold on a given day, here’s some free advice: Stake-out Speaker John Boehner’s Capitol Hill apartment right around dawn.
First, bring a coat, and introduce yourself to his security detail.
Then wait and watch.
If Boehner leaves in casual clothes for his breakfast departure, it’s a sign that serious budget negotiations aren’t taking place, according a financial services lobbyist.
If the Speaker is wearing a suit and tie (and self-iron shirt) it’s an indication that talks — either with President Barack Obama or members of Boehner’s leadership team — are at a more formal level, says the lobbyist, who asked to remain anonymous.
In that case, it’s time to notify clients up in New York: The principals are marching towards a deal. Markets will respond. Alert the trading desks.
Last week, we tested the lobbyist’s theory on three different mornings. Sure enough, when Boehner left his apartment in his trusty red baseball hat, negotiations with the president deteriorated. One can spot that hat from 60 yards, right outside a local gym that’s popular with lobbyist who got their start as congressional staffers.
Washington is a city of symbols. When the Marines are stationed outside the West Wing, it indicates that the president is in that building, not the residence. When the light is on atop the Capitol dome, one of the chambers is in session.
So we present the Boehner red hat omen. Sell on a red hat. Buy on a suit.