If it’s still “the economy, stupid,” Donald Trump has positioned himself well for re-election. CNN reported this morning that the president hit a new high for approval on the economy, with 56% of respondents giving him good grades. It’s the best rating for Trump in more than two years, and this time economic performance justifies the optimism, CNN notes:
The result comes on the heels of the announcement that the US economy grew at a much better rate than expected in the first quarter, and Trump’s performance on the economy becomes one of his prime selling points for next year’s general election.
Trump’s previous high mark in CNN polling on handling the economy came in March 2017 when 55% approved. Since then, he’s edged above 50% four times, but this is the first time it’s been meaningfully over the 50% line.
The results look so good that it had chief of staff Mick Mulvaney channeling his inner James Carville. The next election won’t get decided on personal likability, Mulvaney argued, but personal assessment of improving economic power:
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney spelled out Trump’s 2020 economic message on Tuesday — suggesting voters would still be willing to support the President even if they don’t like him personally.
“You hate to sound like a cliché, but are you better off than you were four years ago? It’s pretty simple, right? It’s the economy, stupid. I think that’s easy. People will vote for somebody they don’t like if they think it’s good for them,” Mulvaney said during a talk at the Milken conference in Los Angeles.
Mulvaney and Trump had better hope that argument works. Trump’s overall approval rating in the CNN poll — nominally a job approval question but almost always freighted by personal like/dislike — hasn’t budged much over the past year. His RCP average now (43.3/52.8) is nearly what it was in the summer of 2018. As Allahpundit likes to point out, Trump’s got his 43% and that appears to be more a ceiling rather than a floor, although the floor over the past year is also pretty close to that level.
In fact, there’s not a plethora of good news for Trump in the rest of this CNN poll either. His favorable rating did tick up slightly since the release of the Mueller report, going from 41/54 to 45/54 as the few undecideds on Trump shifted favorable in this iteration. That’s his best favorable rating since March-April 2017 (45/53) too, and it’s almost certainly not a coincidence. He scored a narrow win on keeping promises, 50/46, down a bit from his October 2018 high of 52/42 but still a slight majority. Otherwise, majorities disapprove of Trump’s work in every policy arena except the economy, including 42/54 on immigration. Maybe the 2020 message should stick to the economy, stupid.
It’s far too early to take head-to-head polling seriously, but CNN asked the questions anyway. Trump manages to edge out Elizabeth Warren 48/47, but he trails all other comers — by plurality with Pete Buttigieg (44/47) and Kamala Harris (45/49), but by majorities with Bernie Sanders (44/50), Joe Biden (45/41), and especially Robert “Beto” O’Rourke (42/52). When the Democrats consolidate behind one candidate, it might start getting very ugly for Team Trump.
Nevertheless, it’s still way too early, and the economic numbers are undeniably good news. Which prompts a question: why, as of 11:37 this morning, did Trump’s Twitter feed remain entirely silent about it? If “it’s the economy, stupid,” then Trump had better shift focus away from William Barr and Robert Mueller.