If the headline sounds snarky, it’s unintentional. This is a good poll for Trump under the circumstances. Consider: Obama had eight years to shape the economy, he presided over a major recovery in both employment and stock-market growth, and he left office with a high approval rating. That’s a lot of political momentum for Democrats to claim credit for the current economic uptick. And Trump is unpopular to boot. If anything, Americans in the center may be looking for reasons to give Obama credit at Trump’s expense.
In spite of all that, they’re nearly even in terms of credit with Trump not quite yet having completed a full year in office. If this is how the public’s apportioning credit for the economy now, how much greater will Trump’s portion be by November as time rolls on and growth continues?
The numbers in each row don’t add up to 100 percent because the choices here aren’t either/or. You could give credit to both Obama and Trump if you like. It’s not that surprising that 18 percent of Republicans give Obama some credit, per all the points I made above. The surprise is how many Democrats give Trump some credit despite the ferocious dislike for him on the left. His average approval rating right now per RCP is 39.2 percent but he’s 10 points higher than that here, in being credited for economic growth. Americans aren’t letting their personal feelings about him entirely color their impressions of whether he’s succeeding in the most important metric for modern presidents. That’s cause for some hope in 2018 and 2020.
I wonder what these numbers would look like if the GOP hadn’t passed tax reform. Without that it’d be easy to point to positive economic indicators lately as mere residue of the Obama era. Republicans hadn’t passed any major legislation, right? What reason would there be to think that they’d changed the economic climate in a meaningful way? But then tax cuts passed, brand-name companies started celebrating by paying bonuses, Apple decided to repatriate a mountain of cash to the U.S., and now all good things can at least theoretically be attributed to the tax-cuts bill. Case in point:
U.S. filings for unemployment benefits plummeted to the lowest level in almost 45 years in a sign the job market will tighten further in 2018, Labor Department figures showed Thursday.
The drop in claims shows that companies are increasingly holding on to their employees amid a shortage of skilled labor. Businesses are struggling to find workers to fill positions, particularly in manufacturing and construction, as cited in some anecdotes for the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book released Wednesday.
The figures suggest the unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, already the lowest since 2000, could be poised to decline further.
Voters will read stories like that and naturally wonder what explains all the good economic news lately. Trump and the GOP have now given them a simple magic-bullet explanation. It’s a big deal. The point has been made by many people, including me, but it bears repeating: We’re setting up here for a dramatic midterm experiment in which the irresistible force of a Democratic wave is racing towards the immovable object of strong economic performance under a government controlled by the GOP. What happens when those two meet? Who knows.
Obama’s planning to be part of those midterms too, reportedly — as long as he can figure out a way to make sure that his appearances on the trail do more to spark turnout by his party rather than the other party. “He’s also aware, in a way that he and aides think some supporters don’t fully grasp, of his continuing resonance among people who hate him and would be riled up to vote against whatever he supports,” wrote Politico, which made me laugh. On his watch Democrats lost the House in 2010; they lost the Senate in 2014; they got blitzed in state-level races virtually from coast to coast for years; and then they lost the White House to a guy who made his bones politically by suggesting that Obama had perpetrated a massive fraud as to his origins in order to run for president. It’s still a surprise to some O fans that there are people who deeply dislike him and will come out to vote for Republicans just to spite him?