- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2020

It’s the economy again, stupid.

Months after President Trump’s campaign turned away from the economy as his strength during the depth of the coronavirus shutdowns, his team launched a multimillion-dollar TV ad blitz Thursday in 10 states that signaled a renewed focus on the economic recovery as the defining issue of the final six weeks of the race.

The eight-figure ad buy in media markets from Maine to Arizona highlights the president’s economic record and contrasts it with Democrat Joseph R. Biden’s “job killing” proposals. The move coincided with the Biden campaign’s release of an analysis of his plan to raise taxes by $4 trillion, which the president said would kill the recovery.

Mr. Trump took his message of renewed prosperity Thursday night to Mosinee, Wisconsin, one of the states where his ads are running. On Friday, he is set to campaign in Minnesota, a state that a Republican presidential nominee hasn’t won since 1972.

Despite election-year calamities of a pandemic and nationwide riots on the president’s watch, polls consistently show that voters still trust Mr. Trump more than Mr. Biden to guide the economy over the next four years. The Trump campaign’s decision aligns with the simple advice of Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville in the 1992 election: It’s the economy, stupid.

Among the voters who are receptive to the pitch about their wallets is Bob Dorman, 78, a retired police officer in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania, who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and is sticking with him.

“Biden’s been there for almost 50 years, and he hasn’t done a thing,” Mr. Dorman told The Washington Times. “No sense sticking with him. Trump’s a businessman. Biden has never hired a person in his life, never run a business, never done anything to help the average American. Why try him now? Fifty-first year he’s going to change? No. It won’t happen. So I’m sticking with Trump.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the economic data in the third quarter points to “a self-sustaining recovery” that doesn’t depend on more stimulus aid from Washington.

“Booming housing, booming retailing, booming autos, booming manufacturing, booming business investment, no inventories, which have to be rebuilt,” Mr. Kudlow told reporters. “Classic sign of a self-sustaining recovery.”

Still, the White House is increasingly open to a stimulus bill of at least $1.5 trillion to give businesses and workers another jolt before Election Day.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits last week fell slightly to 860,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. But the level of new jobless claims remained far above the roughly 200,000 in February, when the unemployment rate nationally was 3.5%.

The pace of the recovery has many economists worried that a resurgence of COVID-19 cases could stall the progress. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the economic outlook remains “highly uncertain.”

The president’s strong economic record, before the pandemic closed businesses in March, came into even sharper focus this week. The Census Bureau reported that median household income grew in 2019 at a whopping 6.8% rate, the largest annual increase on record.

Real median household income rose by $4,379, to $68,709, last year — nearly 50% more than during the eight years of the Obama-Biden administration. Household incomes increased more among Asians (10.6%), Blacks (7.9%) and Hispanics (7.1%) than among Whites (5.7%).

The child poverty rate fell dramatically in 2019 to 14.4%, from 16.2% in 2018 and 18% in 2016.

It’s that kind of performance that Mr. Trump wants to remind voters of, with a promise to repeat it.

One new Trump campaign advertisement features Americans discussing their belief that Mr. Trump’s policies are right for the country and their distrust of Mr. Biden. The second features a business owner who credits the president for his company’s success and talks about Mr. Biden’s record of “coddling” China to benefit his own family.

“President Trump built the world’s best economy once and is already doing it a second time,” the Trump campaign said. “As vice president, Joe Biden oversaw the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression and today proposes to raise taxes by $4 trillion, killing the economic comeback underway.”

The Trump campaign increased its television advertising buy by 50% this week in swing states with early voting and expanded its national cable buy. The ads are running on national cable, and local broadcast and cable in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania, the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska and the 2nd Congressional of Maine.

The Trump campaign also said it is expanding urban radio ad buys to include Pennsylvania.

Jeremy Moore, 47, an airline pilot who lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said the economy is a big reason why he is supporting Mr. Trump.

“My job has been directly impacted by what has happened,” said Mr. Moore, a registered Republican who is married and has three school-age children.

He didn’t blame Mr. Trump for the economic downturn or the painfully slow recovery in his state, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 13.7% in July. The national jobless rate in August fell to 8.4%.

“I think a lot of my anger is directed at local and state government and the way that has impacted our lives here in Pennsylvania,” Mr. Moore said. “To me, it just doesn’t make sense when you can drive across state lines and be in the same group of people essentially and the restrictions are different. There is a lot of politics involved in the decisions that have been made in Pennsylvania because there is a lot of anti-Trump sentiment.”

He said it’s his belief “and the perception of a lot of people that a lot of things are being done just because they don’t like Donald Trump. I think the more they do that, the more it drives people to vote for him.”

The airline industry is one of the hardest-hit by the pandemic. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Thursday that the administration wants to provide another $25 billion to airlines in negotiations with congressional Democrats.

“Compared to $1.5 trillion, it’s a rather small amount of additional assistance that could potentially keep 30 to 50,000 workers on the payroll,” Mr. Meadows said. He said the extra money would keep airlines operating without layoffs for the next six months.

“I think they see this as the recovery is going to take a little bit longer because COVID has not abated in a way that allows them to return to a normal operating schedule,” he said. “They’ve adjusted their ability to hopefully get to profitability quicker … but there still is real assistance that needs to be granted.”


• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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