If you let the polls tell the story, President Donald Trump is slightly less popular than Jimmy Carter when he lost his reelection bid to Ronald Reagan in 1980. But a recent Goldman Sachs chart suggests he is still the favorite to win a second term in office on the strength of his economic numbers.
Since its inception, Trump is the only president to never hit 50% approval in the daily Gallup poll, and a wide range of recent surveys show he trails a number of potential Democratic opponents.
FiveThirtyEight’s polling gave Trump about a 29% chance of winning the 2016 election, and Nate Silver’s polling models offer an aggregate score of all presidential approval polls, which supposedly weeds out the most biased outliers.
And what FiveThirtyEight’s numbers show is that pretty much no matter what he says or does, how great the economy is or low unemployment is, his approval numbers never stray far above about 42%, with his disapproval rating consistently hovering around 52% — and this basically goes back to the start of his presidency.
Trump also recently fired a number of his own pollsters after internal numbers leaked showing him trailing Democrats in a number of critical swing states.
Even Fox News, the president’s favorite news outlet, has him trailing a number potential Democrats.
— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) June 16, 2019
Polls of course have a margin for error, and none are 100% correct all of the time, as we saw in 2016. And it’s far too early to even consider polling numbers now — we don’t even know who the Democratic candidate will be at this point.
So this latest chart from Goldman Sachs is a clear warning for those hopefuls who might be feeling a tad overconfident.
Trump’s Economic Health
Goldman Sachs measures economic health by averaging GDP growth over a two-year period, leading up to the quarter before the election. Of course, we don’t have those numbers for Trump yet, but Goldman was able to use its forecast of 2.2% GDP growth.
By their numbers, Trump is currently presiding over as healthy an economy as Bill Clinton in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2004.
In Trump’s back pocket, he’s also presiding over an S&P 500 index that has returned better than 36% since his inauguration, an annualized return of nearly 14%.
Using popularity vs. GDP growth dating back to Lyndon Johnson shows that Trump is doing well enough economically to more than make up for his low approval ratings.
As far as swing states and the electoral map, Trump’s biggest problem is he hasn’t done much to win over any new voters, choosing instead to focus on making his base happy at all costs. That makes the chances of winning the popular vote slim — but, as history shows, he doesn’t need to win the popular vote.
As long as he keeps it close, he’ll win the electoral college yet again.
The biggest hurdle for Trump will occur if the economy were to weaken, as many experts say they see a recession on the horizon. But, according to Goldman’s chart, which already includes a 0.7% slowdown, it will still likely be enough for Trump to win a second term.
Voters will continue wanting to see America’s economy prosper, and a Democratic candidate just running as “not Donald Trump” likely won’t be enough to take him down in 2020.