(CNN)If the economy falls apart, it’s hard to see how President Trump wins reelection.
With the stock market in a state of uncertainty and the possibility of a global recession becoming very real, Republicans are worried.
A recession is what could keep Trump off the list of two-term presidents and relegate him to the one inhabited by Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H.W Bush.
Trump realizes the danger: on Thursday, he tweeted that the media is “doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election. The problem they have is that the economy is way too strong and we will soon be winning big on Trade, and everyone knows that, including China!”
A good economy is not enough to guarantee the President reelection, given that voters are registering concern about other issues, such as his conduct in office and gun control — but a very bad economy is more than he could withstand.
The President’s 2020 strategy depends on holding together a very narrow coalition that can get him through the Electoral College. He is not really anticipating another 1964 or 1984 landslide. Not only are those kinds of elections rare in the modern age but Trump has never even tried to broaden his base. His goal is to maintain Republican support and make sure the turnout is high.
The problem is that the Republican Party, as opposed to the base, wants more than his fiery, reactionary language. Many Republicans are willing to tolerate his white nationalist rhetoric in exchange for deregulation, tax cuts, booming stocks and a good economy. They support the President for the same reason that they would support any other Republican, he appears to help their bottom line. Thus far they have even remained largely quiet about the turbulence from the trade wars.
But if a global recession takes place, Trump will have a difficult time keeping his office as long as the Democratic nominee runs a strong campaign that unifies the party. Trump needs his famous base, but what he also needs are big business conservatives, Wall Street investors, small business owners and prosperous suburban middle class families who are pleased with the state of their pocketbooks.
The President is counting on many Republicans who didn’t vote in 2016 to support him in 2020 because they believe he has delivered on their paychecks and investments.
If the good economic times go south, then all they will be seeing is the rest of Trump. And they will be open to options — either from a Democrat who promises to achieve what President Barack Obama did in bringing back growth or a Republican primary challenge.
The Trump base also cares about the economy. To be sure many of them will vote for the President regardless of what the economy does. They love him and what he stands for. But if they are really struggling to stay above water, he won’t seem quite so appealing.
Americans living on a razor’s edge can’t afford to risk a second term with an unstable President if they see four years of economic gloom ahead. Some will stay with him, but the job losses would cut into his narrow constituency and make it hard for him to gain votes elsewhere.
Despite recent warning signs of a coming recession, the economy has remained strong so far, but there is more than a year still to go before the general election campaign season reaches its height.
Democrats certainly don’t want to base a campaign on the possibility of looming economic disaster. They need to offer ideas, vision and hope. But if the events of this week portend a recession during the election, few things would put them in as strong a position to take back the White House.