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CNN  — 

The 2020 election is shaping up to be the rare one that isn’t almost exclusively about the economy. More Americans, 45%, say Covid-19 is the most important problem facing the country than they have about any non-economic issue at any point since 2001, except for terrorism in October 2001.

We’ve only seen a few elections since polling began where the incumbent was eligible to run for reelection and the economy wasn’t clearly the most important issue, but these elections tell a consistent and worrisome message for President Donald Trump. Whoever is most trusted most on the non-economic issue is likely to win the election.

Right now, voters trust former Vice President Joe Biden over Trump on the coronavirus. In a new Marist College poll, Biden is more favored among voters on handling the coronavirus by a 56% to 40% margin. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from earlier in April had Biden favored by 9 points.

The advantage Biden has on leading the effort against the virus comes at the same time his swing state polling has improved. He’s up in key swing states like Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Trump probably wishes he had the type of polling Franklin Roosevelt had going into the 1944 election. By a 42-point margin in a National Opinion Research Center poll, Americans thought Roosevelt was better equipped to win World War II than Republican rival Thomas Dewey. Roosevelt would go on to win an unprecedented fourth term.

Trump likely would settle for the numbers George W. Bush had ahead of his successful 2004 re-election effort. Bush was more trusted than Democrat John Kerry on the Iraq war and terrorism. The final Fox News poll, for example, found that Bush was more trusted on Iraq by 6 points. The same poll had Bush up by 12 points on who would do a better job on terrorism.

You’d have to go back 40 years to find an incumbent president who lost on the big non-economic issue of the day. In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan was ahead of Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter by an average of 4 points on who was best to handle the Iranian hostage crisis. Remember these pre-election polls tended to underestimate Reagan’s overall support, so the true margin on this issue was likely higher. Combined with job losses, this all proved too much for Carter to overcome.

Right now, the economy is shrinking. That Marist poll is one of the first I’ve seen where Biden led Trump on who would better handle the economy. Trump is very likely to get blown out if he loses to Biden on both the economy and the coronavirus pandemic.

But let’s say the economy is viewed as being in better shape by the time of the election. A look at the 1952 and 1968 elections suggests that may not be enough for Trump.

Democratic incumbents Harry Truman in 1952 and Lyndon Johnson in 1968 didn’t even run for re-election during the Korean War and Vietnam Wars respectively. The Republican candidates, Dwight Eisehower and Richard Nixon, were trusted by double digits in Gallup polling over the Democratic candidates, Adlai Stevenson and Hubert Humphrey, in those races to handle the war efforts. Republicans won both races.

The economy was strong ahead of both of these elections. Even so, the incumbent party lost the general election because they couldn’t win on the big non-economic issue of the day.

Four years after Nixon took office, he was able to win a second term because he was trusted more on handling the Vietnam War by about 30 points than his Democratic opponent, George McGovern.

For 2020, these elections suggest Trump probably needs Americans to think he has a good handle on the coronavirus in order to beat Biden. Otherwise, he’ll likely end up like Truman and Johnson: out of office.