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Midterm Paradox: ‘Economic Trump vs. Twitter Trump’

More than any other US Midterm Election in living memory, this contest is being billed as a referendum on the incumbent president, Donald J. Trump. At present, the country is polarized – split right down the middle, but POTUS is making some unexpected inroads. With all of the negative campaigning though, few commentators are able to articulate why this is happening. 

It’s a strange phenomenon, and like most things with this president, it defies conventional wisdom. Essentially, it’s a Tale of Two Trumps – the deft Economic Trump, and the rancorous Twitter Trump. The majority of Republicans, and a surprisingly large number of Democrats, approve of ‘Economic Trump,’ but overwhelmingly disapprove of ‘Twitter Trump.’ This is the paradox of the 2018 Midterms.

While the Republicans make an obvious case for jobs and the economy, the Democratic Party’s election strategy is more blunt: ‘vote for us and we’ll impeach Trump.’ No room for nuance there.

But here comes another paradox: 63 percent agree Trump is a bona fide ‘disruptor’ of the Washington Swamp, and 55 percent credit him as delivering on his word –  by enacting the policies on which he campaigned (see more poll numbers below). For conventional political punditry, these odd spreads and anomalies make this presidency one of the most difficult to pigeonhole, which is why CNN and other legacy media outlets have struggled with Trump ever since he announced he was running in 2015.

How will this translate into actual election votes? Traditionally, the answer to that question will come down to effort on the day, as respective parties hustle in getting their congregations out to vote. Some experts believe that the current binary will see Democrats wrestle control of the House, while the Republicans expand their margin in the Senate. According to The Hill, if the Republicans could sweep both Houses, it would be on the superior strength of Trump’s economic and immigration policies. If the Democrats sweep both Houses, it would be out of shear grit and anger, and would also be a seminal moment in US political history.

Regardless of the result however, Trump’s relatively unorthodox, neomercantilist approach to economic and trade policy is gaining traction. Traditionally, Americans tend to vote with their wallets and pocketbooks, which means if he can stay the course and avoid an economic catastrophe, then his prospects for reelection in 2020 will have improved significantly. Either way, it’s guaranteed to be an extremely bumpy road for everyone.

The Hill reports…

The Harvard Caps/Harris Poll this month show two rather remarkable figures on President Trump. On the one hand, 57 percent approve of the job that he is doing on the economy, even before the upbeat jobs numbers on Friday, yet when asked if they personally like Trump, only 27 percent said “yes” in a remarkable divergence between policy and personality that will play itself out in the final midterm vote tallies.

When working for President Clinton, we developed the theory of a Saturday night Clinton and an Oval Office Clinton. It was the Saturday night side of him that caused all the trouble. Today there is obviously an economic Trump, more knowledgeable than any recent president about what makes the market tick, and a Twitter Trump, who throws verbal bombs that explode daily in the public square, dragging down his image.

Of course, there is an entire complex of billionaires, partisans, and some in the media devoted to bringing down Trump. So, in fairness, it is not all him, though he seems to revel in the combat that holds him back. It is important to remember that George Bush, the guy everyone wanted to have a beer with, sank down to the 20s in his job approval and was labeled a war criminal and an idiot, shunned even at the Republican Party convention. Almost no one in politics today has a net positive image, and both Trump and Hillary Clinton are viewed rather harshly, almost unchanged, and possibly even worse than during the campaign.

Objectively, the economic Trump has racked up surprising results in a short time, adding more than 5 million jobs after a long expansion that started under President Obama but had stalled. Wages are rising and millions have gone back to the labor force, and an expanded base of workers has a multiplier effect of expanding the consumer and tax base of the country. Trump promised to bring back the coal industry and he did.

Trump even renegotiated NAFTA, and most observers laughed at the idea that he could use threats of tariffs as negotiating chits to get results for American workers who had been abandoned by previous presidents. Obama scoffed at bringing back manufacturing jobs to America as a fantasy, yet hundreds of thousands of such jobs have returned.

Trump also deployed a new kind of economic warfare. When the Turkish government refused to hand over a political prisoner, he imposed sanctions that wrecked the Turkish currency. It took only a few months for the Turkish prime minister to rethink his relationship with the United States and send back Pastor Andrew Brunson. The Chinese first laughed at the demands by Trump to stop stealing our intellectual property. Several hundred billions of tariffs later, and a nearly 30 percent decline in the value of Chinese assets, and Beijing is ready to come to the table.

No recent president has understood the ways of modern economics in this way, and used it to get diplomatic victories. Trump transformed the Republican Party from a business elite and free trade party to a working class and nationalist populist party, leaving the old party and much of its leadership in the dust. The policy wins, economic success, and the Brett Kavanaugh fight united the Republicans around Trump.

In the Harvard Caps/Harris Poll, voters say it is Trump, not Obama, who gets credit for the economic revival by a margin of 47 percent to 21 percent. Even 38 percent of Democrats give the most credit to Trump for the economy, a stunning number for any Republican president, let alone for the bete noire of the Democrats. When it comes to the economy at this point, even Democrats look to Trump as delivering on his promise.

But what about Twitter Trump? An overwhelming 88 percent of voters said they wish he would tweet less. On virtually every presidential personal characteristic, Trump receives the worst ratings I have ever seen in more than 40 years of polling. A majority at 58 percent say the president is “vulgar” and only 23 percent say he is a good role model for children. Only 31 percent say Trump sets the right tone for the nation…

Continue this story at The Hill

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