This story was originally published in the November 27 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Sign up here to receive it every weekday morning.
Donald Trump has one big blessing to count this Thanksgiving, despite the scandals ricocheting around his White House. The US economy’s almost supernatural resilience is keeping him in the game with the 2020 election looming.
A new CNN/SSRS poll finds that 55% of voters approve of the President’s handling of the economy. And it’s not surprising. Unemployment is near record lows. And stocks, on which many Americans rely for their pensions, are roaring.
A general rule of US politics is that a strong economy all but guarantees reelection for a first-term President. And while Trump hasn’t consistently produced the 4% growth rates he promised, a projected expansion of around 2% for 2019 isn’t bad — in fact, it’s better than most US competitors. But 2020 might be a wild card.
Trump takes a victory lap every time the Dow leaps into new territory, but his approval ratings aren’t keeping up the way they should. The CNN poll pegged him at just 42% — perilous territory for a President seeking a second term. While the impeachment drama has not seemed to damage his viability, Trump has never enjoyed majority approval, largely because he alienates so many voters with his scorched earth approach.
Dark clouds are also looming. Several US regional Federal Reserve banks predict growth may dip below 1% in the fourth quarter. Experts warn Trump’s trade war with China is also a drag — meaning he may be tempted by a deal that he can bill as a big win, even if it’s fairly modest. And manufacturing, a vital economic driver in Midwestern states that Trump must win, is beginning to hurt.
If the economy stays strong, it can be a launchpad for a narrow Trump election victory. If it dips, he could be in trouble. If there’s a recession, he’s likely toast.