Don Rogers: Economy, Dems buoy Trump |

Don Rogers: Economy, Dems buoy Trump

Don Rogers

Way more Americans report being better off financially this presidential election year than previous ones with an incumbent running, going back to 1992. That’s a bigger problem for the Democrats than Bernie Sanders.

This according to Gallup, which found 61% of us declaring so this year, compared to previous highs of 50%.

Here’s what else Gallup has found in recent surveys:

n President Trump’s approval ratings rose to his highest in office, 49 percent, after his impeachment acquittal and State of the Union address.

The Republicans have good cause for that bounce in their step. For the Democrats, well, it’s hard to imagine how things could go worse.

n Republicans, far from breaking with Trump, have only grown more supportive at 94% approval of his presidency.

n The Republican Party’s image is improving, too, with the public thinking a little higher of the GOP than the Democratic Party, which has slipped.

n Nearly two-thirds of the country now approves of the way Trump is handling the economy.

n American confidence in the economy has risen to its highest in two decades., a betting site, this month put the president’s odds of re-election at 60%.

National polls still show any of the Democrats running for the highest office outpointing him, though Stanford economics professor and Hoover Institution fellow Michael J. Boskin in an essay for Project Syndicate points out these polls don’t account for the Electoral College, where Trump has the advantage. And remember he trailed by more at this point in 2016.

Basically, the professor repeats President Clinton’s long ago declaration: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

If so, four more years look more probable then ever. The Republicans have good cause for that bounce in their step. For the Democrats, well, it’s hard to imagine how things could go worse.

Impeachment wound up boosting the president, with the additional benefit of sullying his main then rival, Joe Biden, more than anything Ukraine could do.

As for the House Democrats’ master strategy of skipping that constitutional third branch of government — the courts — then demanding the Republican-led Senate call first-hand witnesses and gather primary documents … well, how to describe that?

Not chess, exactly. Checkers might reflect too much forethought. Tic-Tac-Toe? More like it, but brain death looks closest to the brilliance on display here.

A case bungled with most of the election year left for the still very much standing president to crow. A healthy majority of the public feeling more flush than ever. The Democrats going for the most socialist choice possible.

Oh, boy.

Still, it’s early yet, as pundits keep saying, and far better numbers for incumbent presidents have vanished in a blink before.

Boskin ties those erosions to economic downturns, especially in the case of President George H.W. Bush. His 91% job approval following the first Gulf War collapsed during only a mild recession, costing him re-election. The professor, an adviser to H.W., recalls reminding the president’s team that even Winston Churchill, hero in World War II, lost his election three months after the war in the teeth of economic woes.

The president and Republicans happily plunging the country deeper in debt to historic levels doesn’t faze conservative voters. After all, the Democratic field, especially the frontrunner, would only go further, while complaining the rich are getting a pass and the economy isn’t working for everyone.

Really? Fully six of 10 Americans are feeling pretty good about their finances right now. More than ever. Even with the crazy income gap, housing prices soaring, stagnant wages, the digital age disrupting everything and ever faster, all the usual bleak facts.

Beginning to lift tariffs with China seems particularly well timed for the election year. The coronavirus looks like a hiccup that will pass soon enough, and we can still expect a sequential relaxing in the trade tensions as the year ticks toward November to bring further good news for the economy, and Trump’s campaign.

All-important swing voters unmoved by efforts to fund useless walls, outlaw abortion or appoint the right sort of judges seem similarly blind to environmental recklessness, rising nationalism, that swamp swelling instead of draining, deepening divisiveness, politicization of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies into something more recognizable as ministries of propaganda, a gleaming authoritarian edge to the democratic republic.

If it’s truly about the question Ronald Reagan famously asked in the 1980 campaign — the one Gallup just polled — the Democrats might as well pray for pandemic. Looks like their best chance.

Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at or 530-477-4299.

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