Democrats Kick Off Campaign to Undercut Trump’s Economic Record
(Bloomberg) -- Democrats are launching a campaign in seven battleground states to make the case against Donald Trump’s economy, seeking to neutralize the president’s strongest political asset as his re-election campaign heats up.
The effort will include events hosted by the Democratic National Committee and coordinated with state parties in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Arizona and Nevada, party officials said. Trump carried all of those except Nevada in 2016.
In Ohio, factory workers will gather on the two-year anniversary of Trump’s speech promising Youngstown that factories are “all coming back.” An event in Detroit before the second debates of Democratic candidates July 30-31 will include auto workers. Democrats contend that people in factory jobs are not experiencing an economic boom.
U.S. unemployment is near record lows while the stock market is at all-time highs, although the extent to which any president can take credit for a strong economy -- or be blamed for a weak one -- is open for debate.
The Democrats’ campaign will focus on the underside of the economic boom, highlighting the struggles working- and middle-class people face from rising costs of living, such as for health care and college tuition, that are outpacing wage gains. They’ll also emphasize Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and argue that his 2017 tax law contributed to rising inequality.
“Trump promised he’d fight for working families. Instead, he is putting their economic security at risk. Health care costs are out of control; factories are closing; and his tax scam is only helping the wealthiest few,” DNC Chair Tom Perez, a former U.S. Labor secretary, said in a statement. “As the rich get richer, working families have only fallen further behind.”
The state of the economy has been a predictor of whether an incumbent president will be re-elected, but even if a narrow majority in polls is pleased with Trump’s handling of the issue, he consistently earns poor scores on handling of other policy questions as well as for his personal character, which are also key factors in voter choice.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll published this month showed Trump’s job approval at 44%, a new high for that series, though 53% said they disapproved. Trump’s best score was on his stewardship of the economy, with 51% saying he was doing a good job. Still, he got net negative scores on eight other issues: immigration (-17), taxes (-7), health care (-16), women’s matters (-24), abortion (-22), gun violence (-16), foreign policy (-15) and climate change (-33).
“The economy is one of the only things that’s holding him up,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist and veteran of presidential campaigns. “A president with this economy should have favorable ratings in the 60s. They’re not. All the stuff he does on race, on immigration, on health care -- that’s what’s holding him down.”
The president trumpeted the good economic news again over the weekend.
“Economic numbers reach an all time high, the best in our Country’s history. Great to be a part of something so good for so many!” he tweeted on Saturday. He’s talked regularly about the low unemployment rate overall, as well as among groups including women and African Americans.
Trippi said some areas that voted for Trump in 2016 could be ripe for the Democrats’ message.
“Just like with Obama, where the stock market was doing well and jobs were being created throughout his presidency, there are still a lot of people, particularly in the areas Trump appealed to, that haven’t really felt a big change,” he said. “There aren’t tons more manufacturing jobs in Ohio.”
Those voters could make the difference in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where victories by razor-thin margins powered Trump to the White House. In the 2018 midterm elections, the Republicans lost races for governor and Senate in all three states, a potential warning sign for his re-election hopes. If Trump lost those three “Rust Belt” battlegrounds along with the other states Hillary Clinton won in 2016, he’d be defeated in 2020.
Also on the Democrats’ target list are Ohio and Florida, where Trump showed enduring strength in November’s midterms. Arizona, long a reliable red state, elected a Democratic senator in 2018 amid demographic changes that are making it more competitive. And Nevada, a diverse battleground with a large share of Latino voters, is the only one of the seven states where the DNC will hold events that was carried by Clinton in 2016.
One of Trump’s potential Democratic rivals, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, predicted an economic downturn could occur before the end of Trump’s term. She cited a declining manufacturing sector and rising household and corporate debt. She called for immediate investments in manufacturing and rules to limit leveraged corporate lending.
“Warning lights are flashing,” Warren said in a medium.com post on Monday. “Whether it’s this year or next year, the odds of another economic downturn are high -- and growing. Congress and regulators should act immediately to tamp down these threats before it’s too late.”
Over the last century, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover were the only elected presidents to lose a bid for a second term -- and they did so after a recession during their term. Others, like George W. Bush, won re-election after the economy rebounded from a recession early in their term.
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