The political landscape has reversed since 1992. When Republicans sought their fourth consecutive presidential victory that year, California and New Jersey were still reliable reds. The realignment of post-civilian voters remained incomplete.
Freer partisan attachments have given changing economic conditions more power to change the political position of a president. First President Bush saw his Gallup approval rating rise to 89% when America triumphed in the First Gulf War, then dropped below 40% when voters’ attention turned to the recession at the same time. economic in progress.
The Americans decidedly rejected Bush’s leadership, even when the recession had turned into a recovery. Elected in 1988 with 53% of the vote, Bush obtained only 37% during his re-election in a three-way game that included an independent offer from Texas businessman Ross Perot.
“It didn’t matter what Bush said,” recalls Daron Shaw, who worked as a young data analyst in the Bush campaign and who now helps to probe Fox News directly. “As soon as you put Bush and economics in the same sentence, people have just tuned in.”
This made Bush only the third president of the last century to lose re-election, all three with deep economic responsibilities. The discouraging stagflation of 1980 helped Ronald Reagan drive out the Democrat Jimmy Carter; the Great Depression fueled the defeat of Franklin Roosevelt by Republican Herbert Hoover in 1932.
The sharply divided political world that Trump inhabits reduces the importance of economic issues. Strong growth for most of his tenure did not push approval of Trump’s job up to 50%, nor did he stop his democratic opponents from regaining the House in 2018.
Nor have the fearsome coronavirus victims changed the President’s chronically weak approval ratings much. Polarization gives it a solid political base. Voters may also be uncertain as to how responsible it is for a disaster affecting the whole world.
This is how Trump saved Friday’s depression-level unemployment numbers. He recalled the solid economy of just two months ago – and the deliberate choice to shut it down as the coronavirus spread.
Typically, the voting quota of an incumbent president looks a lot like his degree of approval of the job. Trump’s 45% endorsement last month in CNN’s poll survey corresponds to almost 46% of the popular vote it received defeating Hillary Clinton four years ago.
But Trump faces two major obstacles to recreate his 2016 magic.
First, his share of the polling vote matchup against Biden has dropped significantly since his approval rating. This also shows some otherwise pro-Trump voters tired of the incumbent’s split and erratic behavior.
In last month’s national Fox poll, for example, 49% approved Trump’s job performance, but only 41% planned to vote for him against Biden. Fox’s polls on the battlefields of Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania narrowed the gap to eight, six and five percentage points respectively. Biden has driven in all three states.
“I haven’t seen a gap of this magnitude,” notes Shaw, who also teaches political science at the University of Texas.
Second, the coronavirus’ health and economic budget complicates Trump’s ability to recover ground. Yes, surveys show that Biden works particularly well among the elderly, the group most vulnerable to coronavirus.
Shifting his message on the economic reopening, Trump aims to identify with the rebound the White House expects to arrive later this year as Americans head to the polls – although health experts are already warning of a second wave of infections in autumn this could shut down the economy again.
If the United States escapes that fate, it will be up to Biden to convince the Americans that stopping the Trump coronavirus response made their economic pain worse than it should have been. this argument could appeal to the modest group of oscillating voters and push others normally disaffected by politics to participate in the ballot box.
“Democrats have to make the case,” says Paul Begala, one of the leading architects of Bill Clinton’s 1992 economic offensive. “The narrative must be:” He’s doing a horrible job for you. It is hurting you. “