In this week’s edition of The Political Edge, we highlight two articles that use historical data to make predictions about what to expect in the 2020 election.
Is a Roaring Economy Enough to Carry President Trump to Victory?
A new report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last Friday showed that the U.S. economy added another 263,000 jobs in April, and unemployment rate dropped to 3.6 percent, the lowest level seen since December 1969. It was also reported that GDP had grown by an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019, giving President Trump 3 percent growth for a full year. The latest economic numbers continue a trend of solid developments for the country. With the economy humming, it might stand to reason that President Trump’s chances of being reelected in 2020 are in the bag. Aaron Blake at The Washington Post crunched the numbers on how economic booms have impacted previous presidential elections. Here are some of his main points:
- “Of the last five presidents who had an unemployment rate below 4 percent (it’s currently 3.8 percent) and a year of GDP growth over 3 percent — as Trump does today — only two saw his party retain the White House in the next election. And both of them basically inherited that economy.”
- “Since the end of World War II, there were five periods in which we’ve had unemployment under 4 percent and a year of 3 percent GDP: January 1951-October 1952 (Harry Truman); January 1953-November 1953 (Dwight Eisenhower); February 1966-April 1967 (Lyndon Johnson); April 1968-April 1969 (Johnson-Richard Nixon); April 2000 (Bill Clinton).”
- “The average presidential approval rating across all these months is 45 percent — slightly higher than where Trump is today.”
- “In the past 50 years, only two presidents have had any period of time with these kinds of economic numbers: Clinton for one month in April 2000, and Trump. Clinton’s party lost the White House seven months after he joined this exclusive club…”
Past Is Prologue: What History Can Tell Us About the 2020 House Elections
What are the chances that Republicans recapture the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020? After a Democratic wave election in 2018, Republicans need to regain 18 seats to secure the majority in next year’s election. While it’s always possible to buck historical trends, learning from history can inform how we look at the future. With a year and a half left until the next election, Charlie Cook at The Cook Political Report highlighted several pieces of information about House elections that may be useful when thinking about 2020.
- “The House has not flipped in consecutive elections since 1954, and the last time the House changed control in a presidential election year was 1952.”
- “The House rarely flips—five times (1954, 1994, 2006, 2010, 2018) in the last 65 years—but when it does, it is almost always in midterm years, which tend to be more explosive.”
- “Democrats have gained House seats in five of the past six presidential election years, with newly redrawn maps in Texas making 2004 the lone exception.”
- “Typically, when a party loses its House majority, it then sees disproportionate retirements in the very next election, while the party with the newly acquired majority usually sees relatively few….Jessica Taylor, ace political reporter for National Public Radio and contributor to the Cook Political Report, points out that in 1996, after Republicans captured their first majority in the House in 40 years, Democrats saw 28 retirements in the next election, Republicans just 21. After Republicans lost their House majority in 2006, Republicans saw two-dozen retirements in 2008, compared to just three for Democrats. After Democrats lost their majority in 2010, Taylor points out, 20 Democrats didn’t seek reelection in 2012.”