The Senate cleared President Trump in his impeachment trial this week, prompting an hour-long Trumpian screed proclaiming “total acquittal.” That’s not quite right, but nonetheless, Trump had one of the best weeks in memory. And acquittal was the least of it.
Employers created 225,000 jobs in January, a strong showing that exceeded expectations. Nothing seems to slow the overall pace of hiring, not coronavirus or Boeing’s woes or political battles in Washington. “JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!” Trump tweeted. He’s not wrong.
Trump’s approval rating also rose to 49% in Gallup’s monthly survey, the highest level of his presidency. That’s five points better than it was in early January. It’s hard to say if this is an “impeachment bump” showing a burst of public sympathy for Trump as his Senate trial got underway, or something else. But Trump will take it.
Gallup also found that a record 90% of Americans say they’re satisfied with the way things are going in their life. The next highest level was 88%, in 2004.
And Trump surely enjoyed the Democratic voting fiasco in Iowa, as the nation’s first primary-election tally broke down amid a technology flub, an overcomplicated caucusing process and downright incompetence. On top of that, former vice president Joe Biden, who Trump fears as an election opponent, came in fourth, his election badly sputtering. That all adds up to a BIGLY on this week’s Trump-o-meter, the second highest rating.
Why not a HUGE, the top Trump-o-meter score? Several reasons. Economic growth remains tepid, at around 2%. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this week that growth in 2020 probably won’t hit Trump’s goal of 3% because of the 737 Max grounding at Boeing. Ha, very clever. Most economists think growth is slowing down no matter what, and Trump’s lieutenants are proactively coming up with excuses.
The 2017 tax cuts haven’t produced the boom in business spending supporters said they would. Business spending, in fact, has flatlined instead of rising, with most of the tax-cut windfall going to stock buybacks and dividend increases that haven’t done much for the broader economy.
Trump and his supporters seem gleeful as the economy chugs along and Democrats stumble. But Trump remains endangered. He’s still unpopular, with nearly half the country saying he’s guilty of the charges House Democrats levied in the impeachment trial. An unexpected shock—coronavirus, or something else—could curtail spending and ding consumer confidence. The election is still eight months away, which is plenty of time for some new scandal to damage Trump or a compelling Democrat such as Pete Buttigieg or Mike Bloomberg to emerge as Trump’s November opponent.
“We're not inclined to predict a Trump re-election just yet,” strategist Greg Valliere of financial firm AGF wrote to clients on Feb. 7. “He still trails most of the leading Democrats by a few percentage points. More ominously for the president, his polling numbers are terrible among key groups -- college-educated women, suburbanites, young people, minorities, etc.”
The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics currently forecasts that each party will win 248 electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election, with a crucial 42 electoral votes up for grabs. That includes the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona. Trump may think he won the impeachment fight, but winning reelection is another big battle.
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. Confidential tip line: email@example.com. Encrypted communication available. Click here to get Rick’s stories by email.