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Reprinted with permission from Alternet

If President Donald Trump doesn’t serve a second term, it probably won’t be because of impeachment — as the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate, under the direction of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is almost certain to acquit him on whatever articles of impeachment he ends up being indicted on. One thing that is very much up in the air, however, is the 2020 election: whether or not Trump is voted out of office remains to be seen. And Paul Brandus, founder of West Wing Reports, stresses in a November 26 op-ed for USA Today that one thing that could mean the difference between Trump getting reelected or not are the economic conditions in Rust Belt states.

Brandus is skeptical over claims that the impeachment inquiry presently taking place in the U.S. House of Representatives could sway public opinion in a big way.

“Anyone who claims to know whether impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump will move the public opinion needle one way or the other should check that assumption at the door,” Brandus asserts. “We’re witnessing a first here: no president running for reelection has ever done so under the cloud of possible removal from office. Not Andrew Johnson, who was never elected president in the first place. Not Richard Nixon and not Bill Clinton, both of whom had been safely reelected before running into their impeachment buzzsaws.”

Moreover, Brandus adds, the impeachment inquiry isn’t turning Trump’s hardcore MAGA base against him.

“For the year,” Brandus observes, “(Trump’s 2020) campaign has received about $66 million, and more, much more, will follow. It’s a clear sign that the Trump base is energized and angry. You can be sure that this cash will quickly be deployed into key states that Trump won in 2016 and which will make him or break him a year from now: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio.”

Brandus, however, goes on to say that an “economic downturn” in those four Rust Belt states could doom Trump’s 2020 campaign, noting that according to “analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia,” such a downturn in 2020 is entirely possible. Brandus notes that in 2016, Trump “won Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by a combined 77,744 votes,” adding that for Democrats, Ohio  “may be out of reach, given that Trump won comfortably there in 2016 by 8 points.”

Although Brandus doubts that Ohio is in play for Democrats in 2020, he stresses that Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are — and farm bankruptcies in those three states could prove terrible for Trump’s reelection campaign. Another important factor in the Rust Belt, Brandus writes: the GOP tax cuts of 2017 “haven’t helped most people.” Brandus points out that according to Bloomberg News’ analysis of data from the Tax Policy Center, “the top one-fifth of taxpayers benefited more (than) 1.8 times as much as the middle fifth, and more than seven times as much as the bottom fifth.”

In the early 1990s, President George H.W. Bush went from having stellar approval ratings (89 percent in March 1991, according to Gallup) to being voted out of office thanks to a tough recession. The battle cry of many 1992 Bill Clinton Democrats was, “It’s the economy, stupid.” And Brandus suspects that in 2020, the economy will — more than anything — determine whether Trump is a one-term president or a two-term president.

“Impeachment may be first and foremost on the media’s mind, and Trump’s bullying of former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will only hurt him — particularly with suburban women who can’t stand his thuggish, misogynistic behavior,” Brandus asserts. “But I suspect a weakening economy, particularly in Rust Belt states that Trump barely won three years ago, could hurt him even more.”

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