Economies in early voting states could play pivotal role in 2020 election

The strength of the economy in four key early voting states could put President Trump, who’s hinged his re-election campaign on economic growth, on course to win the 2020 presidential election.

“I think he understands better than most that when the average American goes to the polls, no matter what they think of him personally, they're going to evaluate their station in life and ask themselves: ‘Am I going to be better off with the new candidate?’” Jamie Cox, managing partner for Harris Financial Group, told FOX Business.

President Donald Trump speaks at the Economic Club of New York at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Across the country, unemployment is hovering at 3.6 percent, near a five-decade low; the labor market is humming, with an average monthly creation of 167,000 so far; and Trump seems poised to strike a deal with China, ending a 16-month- long trade dispute that’s rattled global financial markets.


Even as the record-long economic expansion continues to chug along in its 11th year, Democratic presidential candidates are traveling across the U.S., painting a starkly different version of the country’s financial wellbeing, seizing onto issues like income inequality, lack of health care and Wall Street cronyism.

Historically, the economy tops a list of issues that voters consider important during elections. Ahead of the 2018 midterms, for instance, 78 percent of registered voters said they considered the economy to be extremely important, according to Gallup. It was second behind only health care.


But the economies in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina  -- the first states in the country to hold their 2020 primaries -- could serve as evidence that Trump’s policies are working.

Take a closer look at how the states have fared since the previous presidential election:


Despite the state’s huge exposure to the trade war -- it’s the biggest exporter of corn and pork, and the second-largest soybean exporter, all of which were targeted by Beijing -- Iowa’s economy has remained steady. Since Trump took office, the state has regained most of the manufacturing jobs lost in the financial crisis, according to data published by the Department of Labor.

In September, the unemployment rate in Iowa was at 2.5 percent, well below the national average. The median household income was $68,718 in 2018, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

Iowa’s economy expanded at a 1.1 percent annualized rate in the second quarter of 2019, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Trump dominated Iowa in 2016, beating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with 51.2 percent of the vote. Clinton nabbed about 42 percent.

New Hampshire

Like Iowa, New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 2.5 percent -- something that Trump proclaimed during an August campaign rally in the state. It’s one of the richest states, with a median household income of $81,346, according to Census data.

Still, the state has lost manufacturing jobs since Trump took office, reporting a 2.1 percent decline in September.

In 2016, Clinton just barely won the state, with 46.8 percent of the vote, compared to Trump’s 46.5 percent.

South Carolina

Like Iowa, South Carolina’s economy has a fair amount of exposure to the trade war, but has managed to grow anyway.

Unemployment in the state is at 2.9 percent, below the nation’s average, but more importantly, unemployment among African Americans dropped to 6.3 percent in 2018. That’s key for Democrats, as well, because black voters account for more than 60 percent of the Democratic Party in South Carolina.

Median household income was $57,444.