Democrats running for president are readying themselves for questions about the strong economy and President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Comey after CNN town hall: ‘He brought the FBI down’ White House says US, China trade talks to continue Friday Giuliani traveling to Ukraine to push for probes that could be ‘very helpful’ to Trump MORE. Their answer: it’s Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Democrats need a long game House subpoena fights imperil interbranch comity Overnight Energy: Interior chief says climate response falls on Congress | Bernhardt insists officials will complete offshore drilling plans | Judge rules EPA must enforce Obama landfill pollution rules MORE’s economy.
Unemployment has fallen all the way to 3.6 percent and the stock market has boomed under Trump, but Democrats say that good news is largely because of policies proposed by the former president, who they credit for turning around an economy in free fall when he became president.
“President Trump was lucky enough to come into office as our nation experienced a long and remarkably steady streak of job growth thanks to President Obama’s policies,” Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellCastro campaign staffers announce unionization Biden campaign says it would ‘welcome’ staff unionizing Sanders campaign officially unionizes MORE (D-Calif.), one of Trump’s most vocal critics in Congress, told The Hill.
“He hasn’t managed to get in the way of that, despite his tax cut for the rich, his trade wars and his administration’s epic instability.”
The statements from Democrats are drawing jeers from Republicans, who say the other party just can’t bear to give credit to the Republican president.
Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary for Trump’s campaign, said that the wave of positive economic developments is due to the president’s rollback of Obama-era policies and to GOP-led tax cuts.
“It’s no wonder Democrats seek to take credit for the Trump economy after eight years of betraying blue collar workers and inflicting pain upon the middle class as Americans everywhere suffered,” McEnany said.
The Hill surveyed the campaigns of every candidate looking to challenge Trump in 2020 on whether they believe the president deserves credit for the current state of the economy. Roughly half the Democratic field replied to The Hill’s requests for comment.
Some campaigns provided original statements from the candidates, while others referred The Hill to comments made in recent television interviews.
The Hill also posed the question to a spokesperson for former Massachusetts Gov. Bill WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldJudd Gregg: A country for old men California Senate passes bill that would keep Trump off 2020 ballot unless he releases tax returns New Hampshire Democrat: ‘I wouldn’t write off someone like Bill Weld’ MORE, the lone Republican challenging Trump for his party’s 2020 nomination, but did not receive an answer.
The responses provide insight into how Democrats plan to run against Trump on an issue that will likely play a critical role in the 2020 election cycle — one that the president is almost certain to put at the center of his campaign.
“In sort of a weird way, they’re in a position where they’re hoping there’s going to be some sort of economic problem in order to make a case,” Michael Moore, a professor of economics and international affairs at George Washington University, said.
Democratic presidential hopefuls have, for the most part, acknowledged the positive economic outlook.
But several candidates argued that the U.S. economy is doing well in spite of Trump — not because of him. Obama, they say, laid the groundwork for current economic gains, creating a bulwark against Trump’s policies.
“We’re in the 10th year of a recovery that started in 2009 when Barack Obama was president,” Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetStudents walk out of vigil for shooting victims after speakers talk gun control ‘Seinfeld’ star Jason Alexander jabs Ted Cruz with ‘George Costanza’-inspired insult Hillicon Valley: Dem bill would fine credit agencies for breaches | Facebook’s Sandberg meets senators on privacy | Baltimore hit with ransomware attack | Dems demand NSA update on surveillance program MORE (D-Colo.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. His campaign referred The Hill to the remarks in response to a request for comment.
“Donald Trump is elected in the last two years, and I will confess, even he couldn’t screw up the momentum that we had been going on for the eight years that [Obama] got elected.”
Indeed, Democrats said that despite the positive economic markers, many Americans are still struggling financially. Wages have not kept pace with the cost of living, they argue, and for many people, services like quality health care and education are often difficult to access.
“The truth is that half the people in this country today, despite the good economy, are living paycheck to paycheck, and millions of people are working two or three jobs just to put food on the table,” Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOcasio-Cortez talks Warren, Sanders and possible endorsement On The Money: New tariffs on China pose major risk for Trump | Senators sound alarm over looming budget battles | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders team up against payday lenders Castro campaign staffers announce unionization MORE (I-Vt.) said in an interview that aired on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
“Unemployment is low, but that does not mean that for millions of working people, they are not struggling economically today.”
Trump and his allies say the numbers speak for themselves: Unemployment is at its lowest point in nearly 50 years; gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019; and average hourly earnings in April were 3.2 percent higher than they were a year earlier, according to Labor Department data released last month.
“The Trump Administration’s pro-growth economic agenda continues to lift up every American, delivering record-low unemployment, creating 6 million new jobs and spurring strong wage growth,” Blair Ellis, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee (RNC) said.
“While Democratic hopefuls push their big government, radical policies, President Trump will continue with the pro-growth policies that are making this economy boom.”
And while Trump’s overall approval rating has remained below the 50 percent mark throughout his entire tenure in office, his handling of the economy consistently gets higher marks, reaching 56 percent in a CNN poll released last week.
The positive economic news under Trump owes, in part, to his deregulation agenda and a corporate tax cut that went into effect last year, Moore from George Washington University said.
“Businesses don’t like to be regulated. They’re going to invest and hire new people if they feel like they’re not going to be hamstrung by bureaucracy,” he said.
By contrast, the slow pace of the post-recession economic recovery under Obama and the perception of a stricter regulatory environment “probably made businesses nervous,” Moore said.
The Republican-driven tax cuts under Trump have given the economy a shot in the arm, albeit a temporary one, some Democrats said.
But they warned that the most significant benefits of the tax law had been given to corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and that Trump’s broader economic agenda would lead to trouble down the road.
“The tax cuts and increased government spending under Trump have certainly had a positive short-term effect – that’s why they call them stimulus – but will come at a long-term price,” said John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyAuthor Marianne Williamson qualifies for Democratic primary debates 2020 Dem says Trump should fire John Bolton 2020 Democrats show off labor cred at union event MORE, a Democratic presidential contender and former congressman from Maryland.
Another 2020 hopeful, Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonAuthor Marianne Williamson qualifies for Democratic primary debates Biden takes 32-point lead over Sanders in new 2020 poll Ex-Clinton aide jokes that Dem candidate could ‘shoot my dog’ and still have his support MORE, a self-help author and spiritual teacher, said the tax cuts were “like a sugar rush to the economy” and that Trump’s regulation agenda would lead to only a short-term increase in profits for business owners.
“Trump’s economic policies are unsustainable and will not keep the economy growing because it does not address the corruption at the top, the neglect in the middle and the income inequality at the bottom,” she said.
Andrew YangAndrew YangAuthor Marianne Williamson qualifies for Democratic primary debates Poll: Biden doubling up Sanders in New Hampshire DNC faces new debate minefield MORE, a former tech executive and another 2020 contender, echoed that sentiment.
“It’s natural to expect an economic sugar high if you cram an irresponsible $1.5 trillion tax cut through Congress that primarily benefited corporations and shareholders,” Yang said.
To be sure, there is no guarantee that the economy will stay on its current course. Some economists warn that an economic slowdown could be on the horizon.
At the same time, Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods has left a question mark hanging over the trade relationship between the U.S. and China.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWarner: Campaigns should start reporting foreign contacts to FBI Klobuchar town hall delivers 1.6 million viewers for Fox News Author Marianne Williamson qualifies for Democratic primary debates MORE (D-Minn.) said that it was American “workers and our businesses” that deserve credit for the country’s economic triumphs, and that Trump was simply fueling a sense among U.S. voters of a presidency in “chaos.”
“They wake up in the morning, and they see a mean tweet, or they see some inconsistent policy that causes chaos during the day,” she said. “They want to have a leader that their kids can look up to.”