We learned on Thursday morning that the U.S. economy grew at a record-breaking 33.1% pace in the third quarter of this year. It’s a clear indication of the beginning of a V-shaped recovery from the coronavirus lockdowns that President Trump promised to deliver. And it comes just in time to help the president in the final days of the election.
Conventional wisdom says the news comes too little, too late. But that misunderstands our election situation.
The question is, will it make a difference in the battleground states that will determine the 2020 presidential election? If you look at what’s on the top of voters’ minds, Thursday’s strong GDP number could very well tip the scales.
Thursday’s GDP number comes at a critical moment in the election’s most critical states. The economy has long been a top issue in swing states, and last Thursday’s debate added an exclamation point to that issue as former Vice President Joe Biden admitted his intention to “transition” the U.S. economy away from prevailing fossil fuels like oil and natural gas.
It was a stunning claim in the midst of an election that will, very likely, be decided by states whose economies are most dependent on the production and consumption of those fuels—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Texas.
To take just one example, economists at the Hoover Institution estimated that Biden’s energy plan would cost Pennsylvania $390 billion in lost wealth as the state’s energy resources lay dormant.
Tens of thousands of voters in Pennsylvania and other energy industry-reliant states know that undeveloped resources translate into lost jobs and opportunities.
Biden has promised to create millions of new good-paying jobs for those in the energy industry, but it comes at the cost of the good-paying jobs many of those workers enjoy right now.
Add it all up, and the question facing these swing-state voters is simple and important: are they willing to trade the economic gains they’ve enjoyed under President Trump for radical change and ethereal promises from Joe Biden?
Thursday’s record GDP growth number tipped the scale in favor of the president. Nobody predicted the U.S. economy would fully recover by the end of the third quarter—and there’s plenty of work left to do—but Thursday’s GDP number, combined with record job gains earlier in the year, point to the V-shaped recovery these swing state voters are looking for.
Jobs over the past five months bounced back much faster than expected. Manufacturing, spending and the housing market bounced back faster than expected.
Thursday’s record GDP number ratifies what those other measures have shown us—this is the path we want to be on.
Voters in battleground states will decide whether now is the time to deviate from that path. They will decide if they’re willing to abandon the energy sector-related jobs that have contributed to lower unemployment, higher wages, and renewed opportunity in their states.
They will decide if they’re ready to change horses as the broader U.S. economy enters the next phase of recovery—one that may extend the “V” we’ve started, or one that may flatten out.
And as President Trump emphasized clearly in the final presidential debate, it’s their own pocketbooks and paychecks that will be most affected by the decision they make.
Thursday’s GDP number is good news that the U.S. economy has been following the path of a V-shaped recovery. And it’s a timely, clear reminder of the importance of the decision voters will make on Tuesday.
Voters may decide to trade President Trump’s track record of pre-pandemic growth and post-lockdown comeback for Joe Biden’s vague promise to “transition” wide swaths of the economy. But they’ll do it knowing full well the cost.