Business_news Experts say there is still a clear route for Trump to win reelection in 2020 even if a recession strikes


With signs emerging of a slowdown in the US economy, commentators and analysts have been nearly unanimous about one thing: that it could be disastrous for President Trump’s chances for reelection in 2020.

Trump has staked his reelection appeal to swing voters on the strength of the US economy during his presidency, and if that is removed, few see other signature achievements the divisive president can cite to convince voters to give him another four years in the White House.

After asking “what happens in a recession?” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote that “First, the easy part: Donald Trump loses re-election … there is no way a president so widely disliked survives the evaporation of his boom.”

Read more: Former Trump officials reportedly say his erratic behavior and recent outbursts are linked to fears that a recession could sink his reelection campaign

Trump himself is reportedly rattled by the prospect of a recession as his reelection campaign gears up, lashing out at opponents and the media, who he has accused of trying to precipitate a recession to hasten the end of his presidency.

But some analysts aren’t so sure, and say that even if Trump’s worst case scenario comes true and the American economy contracts, there remains a clear path the president could take to victory, becoming the first president since William McKinley in 1900 to win reelection in the face of a recession in the final two years of his first term.

President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping arrive at a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017.
Thomas Peter/Reuters

Economists are pointing to the role played by Trump’s trade war on China as key in precipitating the current slowdown, and some analysts say the tariffs he has imposed on China and the price US consumers are paying will dent his popularity.

Read more: Trump says it doesn’t matter if the US has a recession because the trade war is more important

But Ioana Mariescu, a public policy professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said that Trump’s hardline stance towards China was popular among voters in Rust Belt states which have lost jobs to China and which were key to Trump’s 2016 election victory.

“Imposing tariffs on Chinese goods may increase Trump’s support among this constituency of trade-impacted workers. The net result of the tariffs depends on how the upset over price increases will play out against the cheers from the anti-trade Trump supporters,” she wrote for Vox.

Trump on Wednesday was unrepentant about waging trade war on China, claiming it had to be done despite likely “short term” economic pain.

Farmers have been among those most impacted by Trump’s tariffs war with China, but their support has not wavered, with 79% of farmers approving of the president, according to a recent Farm Pulse survey.

“Most farmers in the rural parts of the U.S. have conservative values” and align with the GOP, Republican political strategist Ray Zaborney told MSNBC.

“Between their values and the president standing up for them, they’re willing to give him some leeway.”

Read more: Trump appeared to misunderstand the definition of a recession while arguing that the US having one is a price worth paying

A Donald Trump supporter holds up a sign reading, “FINISH THE WALL” during a campaign rally on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018 in Elko, Nev.
Alex Goodlett/AP Photo

The economy usually ranks as among the top concerns of voters in the US.

However, Trump’s huge popularity among Republicans — he has an approval rating of 89%, according to a Gallup poll— is about something else as well: The increasingly divisive and racially-charged culture war he is waging against those whom he claims are out to disenfranchise ordinary Americans.

His supporters love it, and are unlikely to abandon him even if the economy falters, say some observers.

“Despite some Trump backers citing economic anxiety as a top reason for supporting him, his willingness to respond to his supporters’ cultural anxiety is the hallmark of his reelection campaign,” wrote the Washington Post’s Eugene Scott.

And with Trump’s strategy in 2020 as it was in 2016 premised on maximizing turn out from his core voters, it could yet be a winning strategy.

Read more: Trump is anxious a recession could tank his reelection chances, but officials aren’t openly bracing for one because they’re worried about fueling the fire

Joe Biden is one of the frontrunners to win the Democratic nomination for next year’s presidential election.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Some Republican strategists believe that even in an economic downturn, the president will be able to paint his Democratic opponent as a radical socialist whose policies would likely further imperil America’s future prosperity.

Though it remains far from clear who will emerge as the winner among the crowded field of Democratic hopefuls, the party membership has pulled to the left in recent years.

“Swing voters believe lower taxes are better for them and higher taxes are worse for them,” GOP strategist Brad Todd told Bloomberg.

“As Democrats move further toward socialism, that will not help them take advantage of any deterioration in the economy, because anybody in America who’s not a raging liberal believes socialism makes the economy worse.”

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