Tuesday night, President Donald Trump delivered his third State of the Union Address to the United States Congress. It could have been his final State of the Union, but after nearly an hour and a half of touting his record and drawing searing contrasts with Democrats, he’s likely to have four more.
Trump is already in a decent position to be reelected later this year. His approval rating is at 49% according to a Gallup poll — the highest it’s been during his presidency. He was elected in 2016 with a 41% approval rating at the end of his campaign. And among Republicans, his approval rating is at 94%.
Aside from ratings and polls, it’s what Trump has done in three years — and what the Democratic Party is proposing to do — that sets him up best to be reelected in November.
“From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the United States economy, slashing a record number of job-killing regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements,” Trump said. “Our agenda is relentlessly pro-worker, pro-family, pro-growth, and most of all, pro-American.”
Trump has the numbers to back these claims up, and he was sure to highlight all of the key ones during his address. Unemployment among African Americans, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, young Americans, disabled Americans, and veterans are all at all-time lows in Trump’s economy.
When Bill Clinton was running to unseat George H.W. Bush in 1992, his campaign hammered the now well-known line “the economy, stupid” to spearhead its messaging during the campaign cycle. The same has been true since then, and will continue into the 2020 election season.
While Democrats have tried numerous lines of attack to undercut the success of the economy, the numbers speak for themselves. Americans, both Republicans and Independents, are increasingly viewing Trump and the Republican Party favorably.
At the same time, Americans are divided on the prospect of impeachment and removal of President Trump from office for his involvement in foreign aid negotiations with Ukraine last summer. Although nearly 50% of Americans say they favor Trump’s removal, his strong positioning for reelection undergirds the fact that the economy is always the top issue on the majority of voters’ minds when they go to the ballot box.
Although not a polished politician, Trump is shrewd. The economy is always the first thing he brings up at rallys and in his campaign speeches. It was his first topic in his address Tuesday night. When Barack Obama successfully ran for reelection in 2012 against Sen. Mitt Romney R‑Utah, the question “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” rang through the rafters of the Democratic National Convention that summer.
A strong economy transcends party lines, and as it stands now, it is likely to be a locus Trump can go back to over and over again as he campaigns for reelection throughout the year. While his job approval nears 50%, Gallup indicates that when asked about Trump’s handling of the economy as a whole, 63% of Americans view him favorably.
In addition to Trump’s strong numbers both in the economy and public polling, the governing alternative the Democrats have offered stands in stark contrast.
Their partisan impeachment didn’t remove Trump from office. Their Monday night debacle at the Iowa Caucus raises questions about their ability to manage their own primary elections. And their economic proposals don’t stir up the same amount of support from the public as Trump’s results have.
If Trump stays on message as he did Tuesday night, Democrats will have an even more difficult time defeating him than they did in 2016. The ball is in the Republicans’ court right now. It’s up to them to play the game the correct way in the next nine months.
S. Nathaniel Grime is a senior studying rhetoric and public address. He is the sports editor for The Collegian.