A Recession Would Make It Harder For Trump To Get Re-elected

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The U.S. presidential election is more than a year away, but one topic that’s heading toward the top of the discussion list is the economy. With signs pointing to a downturn, how will American economic health impact the election?

Trump doesn’t seem concerned at this point. “The economy is phenomenal right now,” he told a New Hampshire radio station, according to a Wall Street Journal report. “With a normalised interest rate, we’re doing phenomenal. We had a couple of bad days. But we’re going to have some very good days.”

His opponents across the aisle aren’t likely to be so bullish about the state of the U.S. economy.

Democrat Elizabeth Warren wrote a blog post about “the coming economic crash” last month, and many of the other Democratic candidates have entire sections of their policies devoted to strengthening the economy, raising wages, and supporting the shrinking middle class in the country. And, as trade negotiations continue, candidates will be discussing the impact of new tariffs on consumer spending and business expansion.

Beyond debates and policy stances, Trump’s re-election chances will also be fighting against the history books: Republicans typically get elected when the economy is booming, and Democrats get elected when the economy is in a low period.

The Washington Post has some historical data that’s worth considering (or at least tucking in your memory bank for your next America-themed trivia night outing):

  • Since the Civil War, only one president has won re-election with a recession occurring in the final two calendar years of his first term: William McKinley in 1900.

  • Since then, all four presidents running for reelection who had such a recession lost: William Taft, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

  • Over the same span, all 10 who have sought reelection without such a recession have won: Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt (3x), Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Historical trends don’t guarantee that Trump will struggle to get re-elected. But they do indicate that an economic downturn will heat up campaign discussions even further. As the economic outlook evolves, so too could either party’s chance of winning the White House.


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