American voters usually make their election decisions on two factors, peace and prosperity. The first looks good for the president. The second is getting worse by the day.
Yes, I know, it is not his fault. This is true and irrelevant. Voters vote on results and Trump has always asked to be judged on results. If too many are out of work in the fall, if too many businesses close, if the national economic psychology is trending downwards then the president may have a rough going.
He is partially saved by the fact that Joe Biden is a weak candidate. You could call him a speech-impaired Dukakis. He will not know how to strike the right tone between sorrow over the virus and indignation at the president’s supposed shortcomings. Biden will just spew, and incoherently at that.
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True, an economic rescue package is on the way and the president is doing a good job in fighting the virus. But $1,000 per person will go quickly, may be a headache to distribute, and will be long forgotten by November. The virus should be mainly over by the fall and the president is liable to get much credit for his handling of the crisis.
But will that credit overshadow an empty pocket or the loss of a job and wages? Not likely.
The president has a sharp political team and they are no doubt factoring this in to their reelection campaign. They will emphasize the probable low virus mortality rate compared to other countries and argue the president deserves votes for saving the nation from possible mass death.
They will have a point. But they will not be starting from the halcyon time of only a couple of months ago, when exoneration over impeachment and a booming economy made reelection look like a sure thing.
Trump still has an advantage because the jury is out on the economy in the fall. If it comes back guilty, if unemployment is sharply up and GDP is down, if stocks are low compared to a year ago, if business closures are numerous, then the sentence of the electoral jury may not be to the president’s liking.