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Is a Strong Economy Enough to Re-Elect Trump?

The odds of an economic downturn in the US this year remain low, which means that US President Donald Trump's prospects for re-election in November are strong. But with an approval rating still below 50%, Trump will have to navigate a difficult field of swing states and cross his fingers that the Democrats are hobbled by infighting.

STANFORD – With the US presidential primaries underway, everyone is wondering whether President Donald Trump will be re-elected in November. Opinion polls show that the ability to beat Trump ranks high among Democratic primary voters’ top priorities. Following Trump’s acquittal in the Senate on impeachment charges and a State of the Union address in which he could tout America’s strengths – first and foremost, the economy – the president’s approval rating, at 49%, is the highest since he took office.

But Trump has reason for concern. The acquittal may offer merely a transitory bump, and his approval rating should be much higher than it is, given the state of the economy.

Consider the precedent of President George H.W. Bush, whose approval rating rose to 91% following the first Gulf War, which had received congressional approval, succeeded in expelling Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces from Kuwait, and was partly paid for by America’s allies (including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, and Japan). In an Oval Office meeting at the time, I tried to persuade the president’s political team that, despite his recent successes, he needed a better strategy for responding to a mild recession that had begun in the latter part of 1990. I reminded them that even Britain’s victory in World War II had not spared Winston Churchill defeat in an election held less than three months later.

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