The biggest obstacle to Trump’s victory in 2020

Why is a strong economy, usually an incumbent’s greatest asset, failing to lift Trump more? One reason, strategists in both parties say, may be that many voters who see positive signs in national indicators, such as the unemployment rate and the stock-market averages, still say they are struggling to keep pace with their expenses. Another reason is that public opinion remains equivocal to negative on the most visible elements of Trump’s economic agenda: the tax cuts he signed in 2017, his tariff offensive against China and other countries, and his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In the latest national Quinnipiac survey, only about 60 percent of the voters who consider the economy strong said Trump deserved credit for it.

Most important, many voters satisfied with the economy recoil from his polarizing style and volatile behavior as president. That problem is most visibly manifest in his unusually weak showings among white voters holding at least a four-year college degree. These are among the Americans at the top of the economic pyramid: Fully 89 percent of them in the latest Quinnipiac poll described their personal financial situation as “excellent” or “good.” (That’s significantly more than the share of non-college-educated whites, African Americans, and Latinos who expressed similar optimism.)

Yet in the same survey, less than half of those white college graduates say they approve of Trump’s job performance. And the share who strongly disapprove (45 percent) far exceeds the share who strongly approve (30 percent.)