Trump couldn’t win in November even if he were to recover the standing he had with voters before the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn hit in March
Perhaps the biggest mistake that Trumpsters have made and continue to make is the assumption that before the pandemic hit and the economy tanked everything was great for Trump and that he would coast to an electoral victory.
That Trump had a great record to run on and a solid standing in the polls that the pandemic and economic downturn damaged temporarily, but since all of that was exogenous, a return to greatness is surely possible now.
All that Trump needs to do is convince voters that things are on the way back to the status quo ante. If that happens, they think, voters will be happy to give Trump another chance to work his magic.
All this is nonsense.
It’s not just that the virus will not be defeated and the economy will not be fully restored before November 3. It’s that Trump couldn’t win in November even if he did recover the standing he had with voters before the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn hit.
That is because Trump has always had very low approval and very high disapproval ratings — from Day One. (No other president before Trump has ever failed to reach even a 50% approval rating in his first term.)
At the end of February, just before the pandemic really hit, Trump had a job approval rating of 43.4% and a job disapproval rating of 52.1%.
As his political strategists tried to explain to him, Trump had to turn this around somehow, because an incumbent president is seriously underwater if only 43% of voters approve of the job he is doing and 52% disapprove.
The 2018 midterms had already made it clear that it would be difficult for Trump to get close to the minimum 50% approval rating he needed to ensure his reelection — especially, but not only, because of the defection of white suburban women, who before 2018 had voted overwhelmingly for the GOP.
The pandemic and the economic recession did not, as Trumpsters like to believe, create an entirely new electoral reality for Trump and the GOP. What has really happened since March is that the pandemic and economic downturn have moved the electorally necessary for Trump from “very difficult” to “it will be a miracle if he pulls this off.”