Trump is one of the most unpopular presidents to have ever run for re-election with average ratings throughout his first term stuck mostly in the low 40s. He has never achieved an average of 50% approval or higher. History tells us that such low approval ratings are a disaster for incumbent presidents seeking a second term. Since Eisenhower, no sitting president with an average approval rating like Trump’s has won a second term. Yet, Trump seems to have a shot of doing just that. Why? Largely because the economy is in pretty good shape.
Trump has earned an average approval of 50% or better on the economy throughout his first term. It does not matter that Trump really hasn’t improved the economy during his term. He inherited a good economy from Obama and the positive trends have continued largely despite and not because of Trump’s policies. There is little doubt that Trump’s average approval rating overall would probably be close to the lowest, if not the lowest, of any president running for a second term if it were not for his positive ratings on the economy. See the following on Trump’s approval ratings:
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trump-is-the-most-unpopular-president-since-ford-to-run-for-reelection/ and. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval_economy-6182.html#polls
So, what would happen to Trump’s chances if the good economy suddenly collapsed between now and election day? For example, what would happen if we had a repeat of 2008? Trump would probably be in big trouble. Many people who now give him credit for the good economy could change their minds. See the timeline for the 2008 crisis here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_crisis_of_2007–08
Until now, there has been little sign that the U.S. economy was likely to change that much over the remainder of 2020. Everyone expected a recession eventually but it did not look like that will happen this year. At least, it did not look like that could happen until now.
Why are some people becoming less confident about the economy in 2020? One word:
The U.S. Stock Market just took a big hit on fears of the impact of the Coronavirus on the world economy because the coronavirus, which started as an epidemic now may be turning into a Pandemic like the Spanish Influenza of l918, the Asian Influenza in 1957 and the Hong Kong Influenza of 1968. See: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/stock-market-news-live-updates-february-24-2020-123446614.html
Pandemics, in addition to being health disasters that can lead to the death of millions, can have a significant impact on the world economy. For example, the World Bank estimated that the Hong Kong Influenza of 1968 that killed 71 million people, caused a recession that cost over $3 trillion and resulted in a global reduction in the gross domestic product of between 3.1 and 4.8 percent.
Why do Pandemics harm the economy? Douglas Holtz-Eakin at American Action Forum explains the impact this way:
“On the supply side of the economy, the pandemic harms the supply of labor, both temporarily – some workers get ill but recover – and permanently – sadly, there will be fatalities. With fewer workers and hours, the economy shrinks. The second area is reduced spending, that is, a drop in demand. The prevalence of the disease leads people to “self-quarantine” – they stop going to movies, restaurants, malls, and other public places. There are severe reductions in the entertainment business and smaller impacts elsewhere in the retail economy.
We are already seeing this reduction in supply and demand caused by the Coronavirus which could lead to a collapse of the Trump economy. If that happens, Trump’s approval, already bad, will worsen. His approval may collapse altogether once Americans realize that his policies have made fighting the spread of diseases like the Coronavirus more difficult.
The Coronavirus pandemic will not be nearly as bad as previous pandemics. Maybe a treatment or vaccine will be found in time. Maybe (hopefully) the death toll will be far below other pandemics due to better medical care and governments taking action to prevent or, at least slow, the spread of the virus. If that happens it will be no thanks to Trump.
Most Americans don’t know, but Trump has made the fight to stop the spread of Coronavirus-type diseases harder. Since he took office, Trump has sought to cut funding for research on the spread of infectious diseases. For example, in 2018 he tried to cut funding for the spread of infectious diseases like the Coronavirus by 10%. He sought a 19% reduction in 2019 and a 20% reduction in the 2020 budget. Each time Congress reinstated the funding, but funding for such CDC programs is currently 10% below 2016 levels when adjusted for inflation. See: http://theconversation.com/the-trump-administration-has-made-the-us-less-ready-for-infectious-disease-outbreaks-like-coronavirus-130983
The United States and the world are less prepared and less capable of fighting the spread of the Coronavirus due to Trump’s healthcare policies.
If the Coronavirus becomes a full-blown pandemic, many people will suffer or die from the disease and almost everyone will feel its economic impact whether they contract the disease or not. Trump will pay a price.
The Coronavirus may cost Trump re-election regardless of who becomes the Democratic Party candidate.