Is it still the economy, stupid?

By Richard Lee

“It’s the economy, stupid,” the phrase that James Carville coined when he was a strategist for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, has always been sound advice for those running for office.

Voters tend to vote on pocketbook issues. If the economy is strong and their personal financial situation is solid, they feel comfortable with the person in charge. Conversely, when people are struggling, they look for a change.

For four years, Democrats have hammered away at President Donald Trump and barely made a dent in his popularity. Sunday’s New York Times report on the president’s taxes has the potential to do what Democrats could not accomplish.

People hate paying taxes. When they see reports that the president of the United States paid $750 in federal taxes in 2017, $750 in 2016 and nothing in 10 of the previous 15 years, it’s likely to resonate more than the Russian investigations or any personal indiscretions.

That’s the conventional wisdom, but with Donald Trump, conventional wisdom often does not apply. Factor in the fact that this fall’s election is taking place amid an unprecedented pandemic that is changing voting habits, and nothing is off the table.

Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered government and politics in New Jersey for several years and later worked for political candidates and elected officials, including two New Jersey governors. 

One comment

  1. Trump’s base of core supporters won’t care. They will remain loyal, and question the veracity of the NYT story, the timing of its release, etc., etc., etc. The impact of this story will depend on how it affects those who remain “undecided”, in particular in the swing States.

    It will be interesting as well to see how Joe Biden plays this in the debate on Tuesday night. Trump will undoubtedly dismiss it as “fake news” if it comes up. I already heard him use that phrase Friday evening in a press conference, almost immediately after this story was released, and he also once again said that he cannot release his returns because he is “under audit”. I don’t believe he is prohibited from making them public, or at least the years that are NOT under audit. In short, I don’t think that this can help Trump.

    Expect Trump (or more likely, media sources that support him) to publish desparaging stories about Joe Biden / Hunter Biden and Kamala Harris in the next 2 to 3 weeks.

    Like

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