BRUNEAU: The Economy, Not Immigration, Is Trump’s Key To Reelection

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Jordan Bruneau Contributor
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According to a new Quinnipiac poll, former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Trump by 13 percentage points in a potential presidential contest. Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, describes Biden’s lead as a “landslide.”

While Trump is roughly tied with Biden among male and white voters, he is getting crushed by females, minorities, and independents, who favor Biden by roughly a two-to-one margin.

Yet there is one area where President Trump’s poll numbers show continued strength: the economy. While Trump’s overall favorability remains in a range slightly above 40 percent, 56 percent of voters in a recent CNN poll say that he is doing a good job on the economy. This marks a record high for the president on this metric.

“A normal president with these economic numbers would have job approval somewhere in the vicinity of 60 percent,” according to Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “But Donald Trump is a nontraditional president, and he has, at least at this point, severed the traditional relationship between economic well-being and presidential job approval.”

You don’t have to be James Carville to understand that if Trump wants to expand his base, reduce Biden’s lead, and cut a path to reelection, he should lean into his strength on the economy rather than continue to beat the immigration piñata. He should seek to reestablish the traditional connection between economic performance and presidential approval.

The strong economy is a uniting message. When wages are rising, the stock market is at a record high, the unemployment rate is at a historic low, and Main Streets are flourishing, voters tend to reward the president in power. Despite what cable news suggests, these are the pocketbook issues that ordinary Americans care most about because they actually impact their day-to-day lives. In fact, an American president hasn’t been voted out of office during a strong economy in at least 100 years.Immigration, in contrast, is a divisive issue that splits the conservative coalition and repels the independent voters whom Republicans need to attract.

The American electorate is increasingly suburban, female, younger, minority, and immigrant — demographics that aren’t receptive to the president’s immigration message. According to Pew, in 2020, Hispanics will be the biggest minority group in the electorate for the first time. And the number of Millennial and Gen Z voters will match those from the Baby Boomer and Silent generations.

Yet Trump continues to prioritize his immigration agenda above the economy, believing it to be his winning hand. Last week, he threatened Mexico with tariffs on its exports to the U.S. unless it does more to halt desperate Central American migrants attempting to fulfill the promise on the Statue of Liberty. And this week, he appointed immigration hardliner Ken Cuccinelli to run Citizenship and Immigration Services.What’s bizarre about this immigration strategy is that Trump has already unsuccessfully tried it. He chose to make the 2018 midterm elections a referendum on immigration, forgoing uniting messages of tax cuts, Supreme Court Justice appointments, and a booming economy for divisive policies like ending birthright citizenship, erecting a border wall, and supporting fringe legislation to cut legal immigration in half.

How did that turn out? Republican endured their largest election defeat since Watergate, losing 41 seats, primarily in former suburban strongholds outside of cities like Charleston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Des Moines, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Richmond, Salt Lake, and Seattle. A whole generation of rising Republican leaders, who reflected the changing electorate, including Mia Love, Carlos Curbelo, Randy Hultgren, and Mimi Walters were wiped out by the blue wave made tidal by Trump’s immigration fixation.

This time, Trump should pursue a different campaign approach that emphasizes pocketbook issues where even skeptics give him credit. Start by going into immigrant communities and explaining how Republican policies have fostered the historic opportunity that both immigrants and ordinary Americans currently enjoy, and promise more to come. Then watch Biden’s 13 point lead evaporate.

Jordan Bruneau is an immigration policy analyst in Los Angeles.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.