Here’s a great headline for Donald Trump as he turns toward his 2020 re-election bid: “CNN Poll: Trump’s approval rating on the economy hits a new high.”
And the story, which details new poll numbers out from CNN, is equally good news for Trump. Wrote CNN’s Grace Sparks of the numbers:
“The result comes on the heels of the announcement that the US economy grew at a much better rate than expected in the first quarter, and Trump’s performance on the economy becomes one of his prime selling points for next year’s general election.
“Trump’s previous high mark in CNN polling on handling the economy came in March 2017 when 55% approved. Since then, he’s edged above 50% four times, but this is the first time it’s been meaningfully over the 50% line.”
Big deal, right? After all, if past is prologue, the state of the economy is perhaps the biggest indicator of a president’s chances of getting re-elected. “You hate to sound like a cliche, but are you better off than you were four years ago? It’s pretty simple, right? ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ I think that’s easy,” White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said earlier this week in Los Angeles. “People will vote for somebody they don’t like if they think it’s good for them.”
Except … there’s this: In the same CNN poll, Trump’s overall job approval rating is just 43%. While that’s better than previous findings that had the President in the upper 30s, it’s not exactly a comfortable place to be heading into a bid for a second term. Especially when you have an economy that a) is widely perceived to be booming and b) that a majority of Americans give you credit for.
The delta between 43% and 56% is obviously huge; in terms of the 2020 presidential election it’s the difference between losing in a landslide and winning in one. Neither outcome is likely for Trump, largely because our current polarization makes a blowout – on either end of the win-loss spectrum – very, very hard to imagine.
But what’s clear from those two numbers is that Trump and his team have their work cut out for them between now and November 2020. They need to figure out how to convert a chunk of people who disapprove of Trump but think the economy is doing well and credit him for that fact. It’s of course doable, but the fact that Trump’s approval rating hasn’t moved upward – as views on the strength of the economy (and his role in it) have – has to be somewhat concerning for the Trump team.
The Point: Trump is an atypical president by virtually every measure. Might he break the longtime correlation between strong economies and presidents winning reelection come 2020?