With the November election fast approaching and the coronavirus pandemic still spreading across the country, Donald Trump is now faced with the prospect of hoping he can hang onto states he desperately needs for re-election when many of them are being hardest hit by the health crisis.
According to a report at Bloomberg, the president may be facing an uphill battle to stay in the Oval Office as states are buffeted by the twin hits of a deadly pandemic and the resulting collapse of the economy.
Noting, "The booming economy Trump hoped to ride to a second term is collapsing – with some forecasting a national unemployment rate as high as 30% – and the trifecta of states that delivered him the presidency will likely bear the brunt," Bloomberg's Gregory Korte and Matthew Boesler write that Pennsylvania and Michigan -- with their combined 36 electoral votes -- may be slipping away from the embattled president.
"Michigan, which Trump won in 2016 by 10,704 votes, now ranks just behind New York and New Jersey in the number of coronavirus deaths, with 1,479 fatalities as of Monday. Pennsylvania, which has the fourth-largest number of coronavirus cases, ranked first in the nation in percentage of new unemployment claims in the last two weeks of March. He carried the Keystone State by 44,292 votes in 2016," the report states.
According to Franklin & Marshall College professor Terry Madonna, those two states may turn out to be the most hotly contested as the election heats up and the president has his work cut out for him if he hopes to prolong his presidency.
“Presidents, whether they cause the economic downturn or recession or not, they’re in office. When times are good they benefit, when times are bad, they don’t,” Madonna explained. “Much will depend on the degree to which Trump is using the federal government to make improvements to minimize the cumulative economic damage from the coronavirus.”
According to the reporters, the economic fall-out from the pandemic is also hitting workers in those states in a way that could cripple the president's appeal for four more years.
"The economic damage is falling hardest on a key part of the Trump coalition -- blue-collar workers. Employment of those without a college degree declined 2.5% from February to the first half of March, according to seasonally adjusted Labor Department figures. Employment of those with college degrees actually increased by 0.4%, though the number of unemployed jumped by 28%," the report states. "The mounting bad news — both from disease and joblessness — has already ended the two-week 'crisis bump' Trump enjoyed in late March for his handling of the coronavirus."
"The second quarter of an election year is critical for a president running for a second term. While the exact time frame is open to debate, research shows that’s when many voters form their impressions of the economy that they take with them into the voting booth in November," the report continued. "If the election is a referendum on the economy, Trump’s position is more fragile than it’s ever been."
According to Washington University's Andrew Reeves, things don't look good for Trump unless there is a major sea change that seems unlikely with no end to the pandemic crisis in sight.
“When bad things happen, whether it’s the president’s fault or not, voters kind of look to the president. Part of it is irrational,” explained Reeves before adding, “‘I’m going to punish the president for it.’”
You can read more here (subscription required).