Trump is trapped in the same po­lit­i­cal rut that sunk Mitt Rom­ney

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rich Danker

Don­ald Trump is en­joy­ing a post­con­ven­tion bounce in the polls af­ter a force­ful ac­cep­tance speech last week. But that doesn’t change an un­der­ly­ing dynamic of the pres­i­den­tial race so far: the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee is mired in a po­lit­i­cal rut strik­ingly sim­i­lar to Mitt Rom­ney’s from four years ago. He has to do more than take the lead in a cou­ple polls to undo that.

At this time in 2012 Rom­ney was trail­ing Pres­i­dent Obama in most polls in the low to mid-sin­gle dig­its, a harbinger of his 51 per­cent to 47 per­cent Elec­tion Day de­feat. Then as now, the econ­omy was vot­ers’ top con­cern, but Rom­ney could not gain an edge on the sub­ject. The exit polls gave him just a one-point ad­van­tage over Obama on the ques­tion of who would do a bet­ter job han­dling the econ­omy, a ques­tion he needed to win hand­ily if he were to oust an in­cum­bent pres­i­dent.

A mo­bile sur­vey taken be­fore the party con­ven­tions of more than 3,000 likely vot­ers by consumer an­a­lyt­ics startup In­foS­cout mod­eled on the turnout pat­terns of 2012 found that Hil­lary Clin­ton is ac­tu­ally nar­rowly beat­ing Trump on the econ­omy ques­tion. She also wins among the voter groups that check off ei­ther un­em­ploy­ment, ris­ing prices, or the hous­ing mar­ket as their top eco­nomic con­cern. Trump only won among those who chose taxes as their top eco­nomic con­cern. Why is Trump strug­gling in ter­ri­tory where he should be ex­celling?

Put sim­ply, for all his un­con­ven­tion­al­ity, Trump still can’t break out of the box that Obama and the Clin­tons have trapped the GOP in for the last eight years: a party of fat cats that leaves the lit­tle guy be­hind. The nar­ra­tive stems from the 2008 fi­nan­cial melt­down, an event that turned Obama’s for­tune from around even odds to over­whelm­ing fa­vorite over John McCain. When asked to give the key­note speech for Obama’s re­elec­tion, Bill Clin­ton at the 2012 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion told the na­tion, “They want to go back to the same old poli­cies that got us into trou­ble in the first place.” It worked.

Hil­lary Clin­ton goes even fur­ther on Trump than her hus­band did on Rom­ney. She accuses Trump of be­ing someone who sought to profit off the hous­ing cri­sis as a real es­tate de­vel­oper and who is in­clined to cause a re­peat of it as pres­i­dent. “He wants to roll back the fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tions that we have im­posed on Wall Street to let them run wild again,” she told a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia au­di­ence re­cently. Ex­pect her to use more of this rhetoric in her ac­cep­tance speech on Thurs­day night.

“Trump still can’t break out of the box that Obama and the Clin­tons have trapped the GOP in for the last eight years: a party of fat cats that leaves the lit­tle guy be­hind.”

The Clin­tons’ scare tac­tic is pre­dictable but pow­er­ful. Vot­ers never stopped blam­ing Ge­orge W. Bush and the Repub­li­can Party for the catas­tro­phe of 2008. And they have not seen the GOP change on eco­nomic pol­icy to wipe the slate clean. It’s why the Democrats have con­sis­tently won the lower in­come voter bloc and Trump is los­ing it to­day. This has af­forded the Democrats ex­tra slack on the econ­omy and made it plau­si­ble for Hil­lary Clin­ton to run for the third term of a pres­i­dent who has never had a sin­gle year of 3 per­cent GDP growth.

Trump for his part at least rec­og­nizes the prob­lem he starts out with as the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee. He has con­tin­u­ously talked about the in­equal­ity that ac­cel­er­ated un­der Pres­i­dent Obama and has made a cri­tique of both par­ties’ records that stretches back to the year 2000, when me­dian house­hold in­come peaked and man­u­fac­tur­ing em­ploy­ment started its rapid de­cline. But his speech in Cleveland dwelled on crime rather than the econ­omy and went on so long that view­ers checked out (Trump ac­tu­ally drew a lower tele­vi­sion rat­ing than Rom­ney’s 2012 ac­cep­tance speech).

On the solutions side, Trump is still search­ing for an­ti­dotes. His pro­posal to re­vive man­u­fac­tur­ing is to rene­go­ti­ate free trade agree­ments and po­ten­tially ap­ply tar­iffs. Nearly half of re­spon­dents in the In­foS­cout sur­vey were un­de­cided about this prospect, even though Trump has been talk­ing about it for a year. The fol­lowthrough that Trump has de­scribed – re­plac­ing the trade ne­go­tia­tors and lit­i­gat­ing in the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion – isn’t much of a ral­ly­ing cry. The rest of Trump’s eco­nomic agenda, tax cuts and dereg­u­la­tion, are sim­i­lar to what Rom­ney of­fered and don’t at­tract lower in­come vot­ers. Trump needs to win the un­der-$40,000-in­come set but is los­ing it by ten points, ac­cord­ing to In­foS­cout.

The big­gest eco­nomic prob­lem fac­ing the coun­try is one that no politician talks about: ris­ing prices. In 2012, vot­ers listed ris­ing prices about equal with un­em­ploy­ment as the top eco­nomic con­cern. The job­less rate was 8 per­cent then but is just 5 per­cent now. When the same ques­tion was asked by In­foS­cout, re­spon­dents chose ris­ing prices as their big­gest eco­nomic prob­lem by a wide mar­gin. Even though high in­fla­tion hasn’t oc­curred, vot­ers are be­lea­guered by what they have to pay for med­i­cal care, cloth­ing, food, and other ev­ery­day ex­penses.

The good news is that Trump has the cre­ativ­ity and will­ing­ness for risk-tak­ing to throw the long ball. In­stead of merely scape­goat­ing anony­mous trade ne­go­tia­tors, he should pul­ver­ize the Fed­eral Re­serve. Its cen­tral bankers cre­ated the easy money pol­icy that caused the hous­ing cri­sis and the per­sis­tent rise in consumer prices. End­ing the Fed’s abil­ity to flood the econ­omy with ar­ti­fi­cial credit – most of which ends up go­ing to gov­ern­ment and big busi­ness rather than small bor­row­ers – is a more re­spon­sive and cred­i­ble so­lu­tion to vot­ers’ top eco­nomic con­cern than forg­ing into the byzan­tine world of trade bu­reau­cracy.

Trump is un­likely to win the elec­tion with­out a de­ci­sive edge on the econ­omy. But he’s yield­ing vot­ers’ fore­most eco­nomic prob­lem – ris­ing prices – to Hil­lary Clin­ton. He has to bat­tle with her on this new front to avoid his worst night­mare of meet­ing the same fate as Mitt Rom­ney. Trump is fond of re­ly­ing on the polls, and that’s what this one says.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.