Since the beginning of the 20th century, only 5 incumbent presidents have lost their reelection campaigns. Grover Cleveland, Gerald Ford, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush are all incredibly different presidents with varying ideologies and approaches to governing. The one thing that joins them is that they hold the distinction of being five of the six presidents to lose a reelection campaign and (excluding Cleveland due to lack of data) the country was facing high unemployment during their re-election campaigns.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1932 when Herbert Hoover lost his re-election campaign, the unemployment rate was 23.6%. The unemployment rates when Ford, Carter, and Bush lost their re-elections was around 7 or 8%. All four presidents faced very different political landscapes during their re-election campaigns, but the one thread that holds is that the economy and the American people were suffering. Contrast this with a recent CNN poll that said that 71% of Americans say that the economy is in good shape, the highest percentage to say so since 2001. Trump’s approval rating also ticked up in this poll, as did his approval rating on his handling of the economy (at 51% now). In addition, at 3.8 percent, the unemployment rate is much lower than what it was under the four aforementioned
The American people's vote of confidence in the Trump economy, or at least begrudging or tacit approval of it should give Democrats and anti-Trumpers serious concern about the strength of Trump’s re-election campaign. For those of us who live, breathe, and eat politics it can be hard to fathom how some people could look at the current president who has almost every aspect of his life under investigation and say that he is doing a good job.
But the average American is just worrying about if they can provide for their family and keep their family safe. They are not following every twist and turn of the Mueller investigation or the multiple investigations into the president’s associates. Many political pundits seem to take it for granted that the president will not be re-elected, but that simply does not make sense given historical context. Expect to be surprised in the fall of 2020 when the same pundits who were wrong in 2016 do not learn from their mistakes.
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons