This chart — courtesy of Republican pollster Bill McInturff and based off of data from the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll
— tells the story:
For the first time since 2003, more people say they are satisfied with the state of the economy than say they are dissatisfied — and by a relatively wide 13-point margin.
That’s a big deal.
At the heart of the many (many) promises Trump made on the campaign trail was the one to “Make America Great Again.” While that’s a decidedly amorphous pledge, most people translate that slogan to mean: Make my life better again. And, again, for the majority of people, things get better when they have more money in their pocket, when they can buy the things they want and when they feel that the national economy is humming.
Much of that is a perception rather than a series of cold hard facts. And it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people feel like the economy is stronger, they have a tendency to go spend money, which, in turn, helps the economy strengthen.
President Obama repeatedly struggled with the fact that while most economic indicators suggested the economy was improving — particularly in his second term — large numbers of people still felt squeezed. Insisting that things were going better while lots of people just didn’t feel that way was a total political loser.
If Trump can convince people that his election and his policies, which, to this point, are largely in undoing Obama-era regulations, are why the economy is stabilizing and even strengthening, he will be in better shape politically than he has any business being given the massive struggles of his first 100 days.
Trump’s not there yet. The April NBC-WSJ poll showed 44% approved of his handling of the economy and 46% disapproved — not exactly a world-beating number. But, “working to improve the economy” was one of the two most mentioned positive developments people cited when asked what they liked about Trump’s first 100 days, a finding he can certainly build on.
James Carville’s famous 1992 campaign mantra — “It’s the economy, stupid” — is as true today as it was 35 years ago. If Trump gets the economy right — and get credit for doing so — he will be in good shape as he moves into a 2020 reelection bid. That’s still a giant “if” but the early returns have to be promising for an administration desperate for some good news.