Make America Great Again 2.0 may be a tough sell. Calvin Coolidge was the last president to win as an incumbent during a recession — and that was in 1924.
History is full of those who lost. President Herbert Hoover ran on the slogan “prosperity is just around the corner” in 1932 during the Great Depression, but lost in a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Ronald Reagan beat President Jimmy Carter in 1980 after asking voters: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” And Bill Clinton used “It’s the economy, stupid” to push President George H.W. Bush out of office after a single term.
“From the days of Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama, you don’t get reelected if there’s a recession,“ presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said. “Trump would be shattering precedent if he could win reelection when the economy is taking this sort of downturn on his watch.”
And despite Trump’s claims of a swift economic rebound starting midyear, his hopes could be dashed if the virus returns in the coming months of reopening or spikes again in the fall as many public health officials predict.