Brad Schiller, Tribune News Service
President Donald Trump isn’t that worried about potential impeachment hearings. He even tries to goad Democrats into starting the process, knowing that will enliven his base and distract Democrats from their legislative agenda. And he has emerged from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation seemingly unscathed, despite serious evidence of obstruction and unsavory behavior. The storm over Ms. Daniels has long faded way, with only her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, facing criminal charges.
Like him or not, Trump has proven to be a “Teflon president.”
As the 2020 election campaign gets underway, Trump is exuding confidence. He boasts that he can beat any of the potential challengers, including “Pocahontas,” “sleepy Joe,” “crazy Bernie,” “lightweight Kirsten” and, of course, “crooked Hillary.” He predicts that his 2020 margin of victory will exceed that of 2016.
While Trump may taunt his potential challengers and boast of easy victory, he surely harbours grave concerns about his reelection. He won in 2016 on economic issues. His promise to “Make America great again”reverberated with voters who had suffered through the worst post-recession recovery in US history.
Now he faces a similar dilemma. Yes, the economy is doing quite well and unemployment is at historic lows — as Trump constantly reminds us. But voters have short memories. In November 2020, voters will be focused on contemporary economic conditions.
An electoral prediction model constructed by Yale University professor Ray Fair highlights Trump’s problem. The Fair model says that people do vote their pocketbooks (“It’s the economy, stupid”). Further, their votes can be predicted on the basis of only two pocketbook variables: gross domestic product growth and inflation. History has shown that this simple model is one of the best crystal balls for foreseeing the next election. It correctly predicted Trump’s 2016 win.
Based on current economic trends, the Fair model predicts a resounding victory for Trump in 2020. But trends can reverse. The problem for Trump is that voters won’t be thinking about four years of economic performance when they assess the economy in November 2020. They will be thinking about conditions earlier that year.
If the economy grows well in the first three quarters of an election year, the incumbent gets credit — and many more votes. Fair calculates that an incumbent president picks up about two-thirds of a percentage point in the popular vote for every one point of per capita GDP growth in the first three quarters of an election year.
But if growth declines or turns negative, the same equation applies, except the president loses about two-thirds of a point in the popular vote. A president who lost the popular vote in 2016 with only a little more than 46% of the vote has to worry about such things.
Of course, Electoral College math overcame Trump’s second-place popular vote. But that has happened only five times in US history. Typically, the winning candidate needs at least 50% of the popular vote to win. Obama had 50.1% in 2012 and 52.9% in 2008. Bush had 50.7% in 2004. The Fair model puts Trump comfortably above that threshold, with as much as 54% of the popular vote in 2020.
What other policy lever is there? The Fed, of course. If the Fed cut interest rates again, that would give the economy another boost. But Fed policy has a long lead time. That’s why Trump and his economic team are relentlessly pressing Fed Chairman Jerome H. Powell to cut interest rates. Trump knows that Chairman Powell is more important than Chairman Xi Jingping of China to his reelection.
With a growing economy at his back and little resistance from Republicans, President Donald Trump has been free to impose tariffs on America’s trading partners with few political repercussions. Yet his protectionist approach — particularly his heavy-handed tactics with China,
As the US-China tariff war rumbles on, it has been a great year so far for free trade agreements (FTAs) involving Asian countries. In a remarkable reversal of trends, the East is responding to the West’s protectionist barriers by championing seamless flow of goods, services and investment.
Donald Trump’s national security chief John Bolton is an equal opportunity warmonger. If he had his way, the US would be at war with North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Iran — all at once. He supports a policy of exerting “maximum pressure” against these countries with the aim of achieving regime change,
Donald Trump appears to have recognised the rising threat of a conflict with Iran when last Thursday he called for Tehran to “call me” and negotiate a “fair deal” to defuse the increasingly perilous situation. He seems to signal that a new agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme would end sanctions
Theresa May never seemed to appreciate the importance of tempo in politics. She was not good at surprising, disrupting and confusing her opponents. Boris Johnson has learned from her mistakes.
What happens to a democracy when people stop talking to one another about what matters to them and the country? When people are afraid to speak their minds because they fear the personal blowback likely to come their way? Or worse,
The other day I saw a report of an airstrike hitting a medical facility in Idlib, killing a paramedic and an ambulance driver. Not a legitimate military target, but a medical facility. Then, shortly after, an airstrike hit again.