According to most polls, the state of the economy is the most urgent issue facing the nation as the November election looms. As the Kaiser Family Foundation phrased it in a survey released September 10, “The economy has now secured a spot as the top issue in the 2020 election, with one-third of registered voters (32%) saying it will be the most important issue in deciding their vote for president.” This is good news for Donald Trump. Less than two months before Election Day, most voters trust the president on the economy more than his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, particularly in the battleground states.
Former Vice President Biden isn’t so far gone that he fails to understand that the candidate best suited to restoring the nation to its pre-pandemic prosperity will win the election.
In Wisconsin, for example, the latest New York Times/Siena College poll found that likely voters trust Trump on the economy more than Biden by a margin of 51-43. The same survey found that, even in Minnesota, likely voters trust Trump more than Biden on the issue by a three-point margin. In Florida, meanwhile, the latest NBC/Marist survey found that Trump holds a commanding lead of 53-40 over Biden among likely voters regarding his economic expertise. The same poll found that, by a 51-41 margin, likely voters in Pennsylvania consider Trump more qualified than Biden to handle the economy.
Nationally, Trump is also regarded by the electorate as better suited to manage the economy than Biden. A Fox News poll released September 13 found that a 53-46 majority of likely voters take this view. Likewise the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that its respondents agree by a 48-41 margin. According to the RealClearPolitics average, Trump has a net approval rating of four points on his management of the economy. All of which has inevitably led to claims by the Biden campaign to the effect that the president mismanaged the pandemic and is thus responsible for the resultant recession.
During his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Biden insisted that had he been president when the pandemic reached our shores he would have handled the situation more effectively because he immediately understood the true nature of the threat. Such prescience was absent from his first public statement about COVID-19 — a USA Today opinion piece devoid of any strategy for dealing with the immediate risk. His “plan” consisted of little more than waiting until 2021 to coordinate a response with Congress. Days later, when Trump imposed the China travel ban, Biden attacked him:
We have, right now, a crisis with the coronavirus.… This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia—hysterical xenophobia — and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science.
It goes without saying that Biden, as is his wont, later flip-flopped on this ridiculous position. CNN reported at the time that Biden had experienced a sudden epiphany:
Biden’s campaign said the former vice president supports President Donald Trump’s January 31 decision to ban foreign nationals who had been in China within the previous 14 days from entering the United States.
This is the brand of “integrity” that Biden brings to the debate about the economy. His claims that the president has somehow caused the economic damage wrought by coronavirus are even less credible than his claims about travel bans. When Trump advocated opening up the economy, Biden falsely claimed it was too dangerous. Later, he declared himself prepared to impose a national shutdown. “I would listen to the scientists,” he said. But scientists aren’t calling for such measures. As Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota wrote in the Washington Post in March, “A national lockdown is no cure.”
Nor are the draconian shutdowns imposed by many state governors. Yet Biden was, and still is, in favor of these economy-crippling charades. Why? For the same reason he is willing to recycle shop-worn stories about secret Republican plots to eliminate Social Security — it’s all about power. Former Vice President Biden isn’t so far gone that he fails to understand that the candidate best suited to restoring the nation to its pre-pandemic prosperity will win the election. Consequently, he must convince the voters that President Trump’s negligence is responsible for the nation’s economic woes:
This is a recession created by Donald Trump’s negligence, and he is unfit for this job as a consequence of it.… How many families are missing loved ones at their dinner table tonight because of his failures?
Biden is having trouble selling this tale. The voters praise President Trump’s economic performance prior to the pandemic, and it is why they still believe he is more qualified to manage the economic recovery than Biden. Moreover, no matter how many times the latter says so, they know it isn’t plausible that Trump is responsible for the depredations of a pandemic that originated in China and has affected over 200 countries. The economy is the most urgent issue facing the United States this fall, and it is the primary criterion the voters will use to select the next president. This is good news for Donald J. Trump.