Donald Trump’s daughter has poked the bear and triggered the US President’s critics with a braggy tweet that signals her dad’s major advantage going into next year’s election.
Seizing on the release of new job statistics that show the country’s lowest unemployment rate in a half century, which coincided with National Space Day, Ivanka Trump posted a picture of the first-ever moon landing in 1969.
“The last time the unemployment rate was this low we were about to land for the first time on the moon!” she wrote.
Her father has also jumped on the statistics, revealed in the Jobs Report, over the weekend, declaring: “I’ll be running on the economy.”
He’s long accused the “mainstream media” of not reporting on his economic successes.
The sunny employment figures offer fresh evidence of a strong US economy — and a big political advantage for President Trump just as the 2020 presidential campaign begins to intensify.
The report shows there have been more than 260,000 new jobs created and higher hourly wages and stocks are at or near record levels.
However, a great degree of scepticism over the Government’s interpretation of the stats was evident in the thousands of angry responses to the President’s daughter’s moon-landing tweet.
The main points raised by cynics were Mr Trump was still riding a wave of Barack Obama’s success in reducing unemployment, the major regional disparities in employment and the overall income inequality hadn’t narrowed.
However, the Democrats, who are fighting to deny the Republican president a second term, are beginning to acknowledge the weight of their challenge.
That is, since World War II, no incumbent president has ever lost re-election in a growing economy.
Even Mr Trump’s critics are forced to admit the state of the economy could help him at the ballot box.
“Relative to all the other terrible aspects of Trump’s record, the economy is more of an asset to him,” said Geoff Garin, a veteran pollster whose clients include Priorities USA, the most powerful political action committee in Democratic politics.
Indeed, it was a day of celebration for Mr Trump and his allies who have been well aware of recent warnings the economy might slow this year.
The President’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said the United States had entered “a very strong and durable prosperity cycle”.
He gave all the credit to his boss: “He is president of the whole economy.”
By most measures, the US economy is in solid shape. It is expanding at a roughly 3 per cent pace, businesses are posting more jobs than there are unemployed workers, and wage growth, long the economy’s weak spot, has picked up.
All these trends are helping lift a broader swath of the population than in the first five years or so after the Great Recession.
Low-income workers are actually seeing healthy wage gains — larger than everyone else’s. In March, the poorest one-quarter of workers were earning 4.4 per cent more than a year earlier, according to data compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The richest one-quarter were up 3 per cent.
Lower-income workers had started to outpace their higher-paid counterparts in 2015, so it’s not a Trump phenomenon.
And part of the increase has occurred because of minimum wage hikes by more than two-dozen states. The news isn’t good for everyone.
Workers in metro areas are still getting larger pay increases than those in smaller towns or rural areas, according to the Atlanta Fed’s data. That gap that has widened since Mr Trump was elected.
And, overall, income inequality hasn’t narrowed. The richest 5 per cent of Americans earned 3.4 times a median worker’s pay in 2018, according to the left- leaning Economic Policy Institute.
That’s up from 3.3 times as much in 2016. In Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in a region Mr Trump carried three years ago, county archivist Barbara Bartos said the President’s policies had helped a lot of people, although she’d seen little economic benefit personally.
“I think he should get credit where credit is due,” Ms Bartos, a 69-year-old registered Democrat who backed Hillary Clinton, told the Associated Press. “And I think that he helped a lot of people but left a lot of people out.”
Amid the largely positive news for Mr Trump, friends and foes alike question whether he can stay focused on the economy as the 2020 contest plays out.
Blessed with similarly positive news in the past, he has veered into more controversial topics like immigration, the Russia investigation and personal attacks against his rivals.
The Democrats are counting on him to change the subject.
“The economic indicators would normally be incredibly positive for an incumbent president,” said Jefrey Pollock, the pollster for Democratic Senator. Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaign.
However, the pollster said hopefully and somewhat rudely, “He can’t shut his mouth.”
At this point, 18 months before election day, Mr Trump’s political standing is far weaker than the economic numbers would suggest.
The latest CNN poll finds 43 per cent of Americans approve of the way he is handling his job as president. That’s even as 56 per cent say they approve of his handling of the economy, marking a high for the President since he took office. He receives lower marks for other issues, including healthcare, immigration and foreign policy.
Ray Fair, a Yale University economist who uses economic data to model election outcomes, says the state of the economy in the first three quarters of an election year matters more than the rest of a president’s term. Fair’s model points to a Trump victory in 2020, should the economy continue along its current path.
However, “This doesn’t take into account the personalities,” Mr Fair told AP. “Trump is an unusual person.”