by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The coronavirus has transformed President Trump’s reelection bid into an uncertain economic recovery mission, but Republican strategists believe it is a political challenge he can overcome if people have confidence in his plan to lead the United States out of a deep, pandemic-induced recession.
Trump was running as the steward of a sterling economy until the coronavirus outbreak closed most businesses nationwide and forced 17 million people, and counting, onto the unemployment rolls. But voters are unlikely to blame the president for the sudden downturn and might even reelect him if hard times persist into the fall, Republican operatives say.
“If the economy is recovering at a solid rate, and people have gone back to work, then the president can point to how he helped lead the country out of its worst economic recession since the Great Depression,” said Neil Newhouse, a veteran Republican pollster.
“While Biden and the Democrats will criticize the president for his initial handling of the coronavirus, his leadership in getting the country’s economy back on its feet may well play a greater role in his reelection,” Newhouse added, referring to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. …
… But as the economic fallout accelerated and the economy was devastated, Republican strategists have adjusted their outlook. Now, in addition to grading Trump on his handling of the pandemic, GOP campaign gurus are convinced that voters will judge the president on his blueprint for reviving the economy and whether it is filling up their pocketbooks.
“There’s an understanding that certain things had to happen to resolve the virus situation, so there’s an expectation that the economy was going to take a hit,” said David Winston, a Republican pollster who advises GOP leadership in Congress.
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