Three weeks ago, the latest economic data pointed to surprisingly strong economic growth. A week later, the unemployment rate in the United States reached a 50-year low. It was around this time that some of Donald Trump’s media admirers started making the case that the president is not only on track to win a second term, he’s likely to do so with relative ease.
And if economic data were the only factor shaping the next election’s outcome, that might be a compelling argument. But it’s not nearly that simple.
For one thing, it’s difficult to say what economic conditions will be like a year and a half from now. For another, if the economy were the only metric that matters, Republicans wouldn’t have been shellacked in the 2018 midterms, losing control of, among other things, the U.S. House.
What’s more, if low unemployment were enough to bolster the president’s support, Trump’s approval rating would be 62%, not 42%.
But as important as these elements are, there’s also all kinds of polling evidence that suggests the Republican incumbent is nowhere near where he should be at this point in the process. The New York Times reported this week that the Trump campaign’s internal polling of 17 competitive states found the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in a head-to-head match-up.
A Fox News poll released yesterday pointed in a similarly discouraging direction for the Republican.
Among all registered voters, [Biden] leads Trump by 11 points (49-38 percent), up from a 7-point advantage in March. Biden’s is the only lead outside the margin of sampling error in the matchups tested – and he is the only Democrat to push Trump’s support below 41 percent.
[Bernie] Sanders tops Trump by 5 points (46-41 percent) and [Elizabeth] Warren is up by two (43-41 percent), while [Kamala] Harris ties Trump (41-41 percent) and [Pete] Buttigieg trails him by one (40-41 percent).
The same poll found 28% of voters saying they’re “definitely” prepared to vote for the president next year, as compared to 46% who “definitely” plan to vote against him.
These results come just two weeks after the release of a CNN poll that also found Trump trailing several leading Democratic candidates in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups.
All of the usual caveats still apply, of course. It’s very early in the process; much of the electorate isn’t yet engaged; it’ll be a long while before we can say with any confidence who the Democratic nominee will be; none of the polling reflects the possibility of third- or fourth-party candidates, etc.
But the fact remains that one week after the unemployment rate reached its lowest point since 1969, the White House’s favorite cable network conducted a national poll, which found Trump trailing the leading Democratic candidate by double digits.
This cannot inspire confidence at Trump HQ.