Thursday, June 25, 2020


The Washington Post's Greg Sargent published this today:
Trump is in deep trouble, new polls show. But he has one hidden advantage.

President Trump is trailing badly in the battleground states that will decide his reelection. Yet a sizable majority of swing state voters approves of his handling of the economy, which will pose one of our biggest challenges in the next four years.

What explains this continuing disconnect? What explains the lingering advantage on the economy underlying it?

That disconnect is clearly evident in new polling from the New York Times and Siena College. Joe Biden has double-digit leads in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, three states Trump snatched in 2016, and meaningful single-digit leads in three key Sun Belt states, suggesting an expanding map.

Yet this poll also finds that across these six battlegrounds, 56 percent of voters approve of Trump’s handling of the economy. This is glaring, given Trump’s terrible ratings on other epic challenges such as the coronavirus (41 percent) and race relations (34 percent).

Why is this advantage on the economy persisting for Trump, even as we’re mired in the worst recession in nearly 100 years, and even as Trump and Republicans are resisting new economic rescue efforts amid widespread misery?
I think Sargent is looking at this the wrong way around.

The key point is not that Trump still has this advantage -- the key point is that it clearly isn't an advantage anymore. It wasn't much of an advantage even in the world before the coronavirus, before double-digit unemployment, and before George Floyd was killed -- Trump was losing to Joe Biden long before all that, even though he consistently got good marks on the economy.

But now, when voters approve of Trump's performance on the economy, yet prefer his challenger by a 51%-to-41% margin, they clearly they have other things on their minds.

Obviously, I don't agree with the public's assessment of Trump's economic acumen. Sargent is right about why the public believes this is a strength of his:
One key reason for this advantage, strategists told me, is lingering perceptions of Trump as a competent businessman. The rub is that those perceptions fused with years of good pre-coronavirus economic news on Trump’s watch, the way mixing two epoxy substances transforms them into a solid.
Sargent says that Democrats are concerned.
Democratic strategists I spoke to say they’re taking this problem seriously. If approval on the economy is the only thing buoying Trump, then successfully eroding that would potentially doom him.

What’s more, if the best-case scenario for Trump is that the coronavirus and mass protests fade — leaving behind a more conventional economic argument — then undercutting this advantage is crucial.
Mass protests might fade -- but the coronavirus? It's raging -- the Covid Tracking Project reported 41,939 new positive tests today. Three weeks ago, the number was 20,788. Hospitalizations are increasing in Sunbelt states, where there seems to be no willingness to impose public health restrictions. An increase in deaths is almost certain to follow.

Americans wrongly believe that Trump is good with money -- but they know that the economy is in the virus's hands right now. They give Trump awful marks for his handling of the pandemic.

Trump's reelection numbers were poor when the economy was good and the rest of life in America didn't seem so bad. Now his reelection numbers are godawful. He'll probably still have positive ratings on his economic stewardship even if he loses in a landslide.

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