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Grading Trump’s policies right before the election

Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman joins The Final Round to break down Trump’s report card, which grades President Trump’s policies compared to former presidents’ first terms as the November election is set to take place in just over two weeks.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Welcome back to "The Final Round," the final pre-election update of the Trumponomics report card, where we grade President Trump's performance in six key categories. Rick Newman, with a look at this with just two weeks to go until election day, where do things stand for President Trump?

RICK NEWMAN: Well, President Trump on our Trumponomics report card, he gets a C on the economy. And some people might wonder why he doesn't get a D or an F. And part of the reason is, he actually compares OK with prior presidents on some of the things we measure.

That's how we do the Trumponomics report card. Moody's Analytics provides the data for us. And we compare the Trump economy to the economy of six prior presidents at the same point in their first term. So on three of those metrics, Trump is dead last. He is now doing the worst on employment. He's doing the worst on GDP per capita. And he's doing the worst on exports.

He's actually doing the best on average hourly earnings, believe it or not. That was-- you know, earnings were finally going up toward the end of the labor market expansion, just because workers were getting scarce and companies were having to pay them more. And that has actually remained intact.

And then Trump is doing OK in terms of the stock market performance. And he's actually doing-- he's in the middle of the pack on manufacturing employment, which is down over the course of his first term. But it was actually a lot worse under some of the prior presidents.

So I think Trump is in very perilous territory on the economy. If you went back and graded Obama when he got reelected, he was at a B minus. But I think important back then, the economy was on an upward trajectory, and a lot of people felt like, well, things are getting better maybe slowly, but they are getting better. I'm just not sure if people feel that way under Trump. So, obviously, tough environment for him right now.

SEANA SMITH: Well, especially right now, as we see the number of cases continue to decline, like we were talking about with the doctor here in the last segment and just, potentially, what that means for the economy, at least in the short-term.

But Rick, you and I know and everyone knows here just how President Trump has tried to flip the script almost on anything, anything where he is subpar, any category where he is feeling some pressure. And he has done it with success in the past. So of course, that's the big question as voters do head to the polls, whether or not he is effectively able to sell that message.

RICK NEWMAN: Well, he likes to-- he still likes to talk about the economy. But he talks about the economy before COVID. You know, he says we had the greatest economy in the history of the country. That's not even remotely true. But he does-- yeah, I mean the economy was pretty good before COVID.

So you could-- voters have to ask themselves, do I blame Trump for the fact that COVID-- excuse me, that COVID has torpedoed the economy? Maybe not. But voters do blame Trump for handling the crisis poorly.

The other thing Trump wants to talk about is the next economy. You know, Joe Biden is going to create a depression. We've all heard about this hyperbole. And only Trump can restore the economy to its former greatness. That is about as coherent as his pitch for a second term gets. Otherwise, he just wants to trash Joe Biden and talk about Hunter Biden's emails.

SEANA SMITH: Well, Rick, that's so interesting because, I mean, we talked about this numerous times, just in terms of President Trump's policies when it comes to his re-election campaign. And they certainly lacked detail, and it's not just in the economy. It's almost across all aspects of his re-election campaign.

Yet, it doesn't seem like-- he obviously still speaks to his base. He's really, really good at rallying up the crowds, very, very good at rallying his supporters. But there hasn't been that much talk about the fact that there isn't that much substance when it comes to his re-election campaign.

RICK NEWMAN: Well, you know, we see the people cheering at Trump rallies. But I don't think the Trump rallies are the same as they were in 2016. And I'll tell you one important thing I think Trump has stopped talking about. Back in 2016, he talked a lot about the forgotten men and women of America. That's middle and working class people who politicians just weren't talking to anymore.

And he is no longer talking about rebuilding factories and trying to lift up people who've been left behind by the global economy. Mostly, he's just on a grievance tour. And he complains about how unfairly he's been treated in Washington. And he tries to convince people that Joe Biden is a socialist.

So I think Trump actually had a meaningful message on the economy in 2016, whether you agreed with it or not. I don't think he has a very meaningful message on the economy in 2020 and for what he wants to do for the next four years.

ANDY SERWER: Hey, Rick, if you look at what's happening in China right now where their economy is seemingly off to the races again, is it possible that whoever the next president is, is set up to succeed pretty well?

RICK NEWMAN: Well, I mean, I think what China has shown-- I mean, they've obviously been extremely aggressive in ways that a totalitarian country can be and we cannot be in terms of just telling people what to do. Wear a mask. You know, they just say wear a mask, and you have to wear a mask, or you go to jail, right? You have to follow what the local governments or the national governments say.

Obviously, we don't do that here. So and it's in the usual, weird, ironic way that China sometimes makes us think about ourselves. I mean, they are possibly showing a better way economically through the coronavirus. And when are we going to have performance like that?

I mean, you know, China just reported about 5% GDP growth low for them, but still meaningful growth. You know, when are we going to have a number like that? We're going to get a big rebound in the next quarter, but that's from a deep hole we're in.

We're still not going to be up to where we were in February, probably not until well into 2021 or later. So would some different policy on a pandemic make a difference? We might find out if Biden wins because he does say he would do it differently.

ANDY SERWER: We'll have easy comps in Q2 of 2021, Rick.

RICK NEWMAN: That's right. That's when the real growth is going to come.

ANDY SERWER: Right.

SEANA SMITH: Again, the last Trumponomics report card here ahead of the election, with President Trump getting a C rating from our very own Rick Newman.