When an incumbent president is running for reelection, the number one issue for voters is very straightforward: How’s the economy doing? Or, to borrow a phrase from the late President Ronald Reagan: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?
And that question is the one keeping both Donald Trump and his campaign advisers up at night, because the coronavirus pandemic has destroyed all of the job gains made since 2008, sent the stock market into a free fall, and placed 26 million Americans on the unemployment rolls over the last five weeks.
But the even more terrifying data regarding jobs and economics is taking place in key states that were essential to Trump winning in 2016, according to an eye-opening report from Politico:
“Job losses are piling up in places like Michigan, where more than one in four workers applied for unemployment benefits in the past five weeks, according to a POLITICO analysis of Labor Department data. In Pennsylvania, another key Rust Belt state that voted for Trump in 2016, nearly one-fourth of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim since mid-March. Ohio is seeing more than 17 percent of workers filing jobless claims, outpacing the national average of 16.1 percent, as is Minnesota, a state Trump narrowly lost.”
Michigan. Pennsylvania. Ohio. Those are three states Trump managed to squeak out wins in four years ago. Those states — along with Florida and Wisconsin — were the electoral margin Trump rode to victory. And those four states are hurting mightily as a result of coronavirus.
The 2020 election will come down to one issue: The economy. And Democrats intend to make the election a referendum on Trump’s failed leadership and the economic pain the president’s being totally unprepared for the pandemic has caused.
Even if the U.S. economy does begin to bounce back in the months leading up to Election Day, unemployment, according to Heidi Shierholz, senior economist for the Economic Policy Institute, will still likely hover at 8 to 10 percent:
“The damage that has been done to the economy is just really, really dramatic. It’s going to take some time to get back.”
Time is something the Trump 2020 campaign doesn’t have the luxury of. The clock is running out on the Trump presidency.