As the 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidates battle it out for the nomination, politicos must also pay close attention to President Donald Trump's approval rating across the 50 states. While Trump's national approval rating has been hovering below 50% for his entire presidency, it was on the upswing for the beginning of the summer before only beginning to falter a bit toward the end of July.
Historically, presidents have fared well in re-election campaigns when they maintain approval ratings above 50%. This president, to be sure, has never had such an approval rating at any point throughout his presidency. But President Trump oversees a soaring economy, with record-low unemployment rates, and has a hardened base of core supporters. One must also never forget the sheer power of incumbency: Since FDR, only Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were elected and then subsequently not re-elected four years later.
Yet, fair-minded observers must still ask: If Trump's overall approval rating number stays below 50%, will Trump be able to defy historical trends for presidential incumbents?
As of September 10, 2019, the RealClearPolitics average for Trump's national job approval rating sits at 43.0% — or 10.9% underwater.
Overall, national head-to-head polls do not presently show Trump to be in particularly good electoral shape. Specifically, one of the most accurate pollsters from the 2016 national election, IBD/TIPP, now shows Trump losing hypothetical head-to-head matchups with each of Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris. The IBD/TIPP poll has correctly predicted the last four presidential elections and was notable in 2016 for being the only national poll to correctly predict Trump's shocking victory over Hillary Clinton. A Washington Post analysis of the 2016 polling landscape concluded that, overall, IBD/TIPP was the second most accurate pollster of the cycle behind only McClatchy/Marist. While still very early, the Trump campaign should therefore be taking this hypothetical head-to-head matchup polling very seriously.
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