We have only seen a few elections since the polls began where the incumbent was eligible to run for re-election and the economy was not the most important issue, but those choices tell a consistent and worrying message to President Donald Trump. The one most trusted in the non-financial case is likely to win the election.
Trump probably wished he had the kind of poll Franklin Roosevelt had run into in the 1944 election. Thomas Dewey. Roosevelt would go on to win an outstanding fourth term.
Trump is likely to settle for the number George W. Bush had ahead of his successful reelection efforts in 2004. Bush was more trusted than Democrat John Kerry on the Iraq war and terrorism. For example, the final Fox News poll found that Bush was more clear on Iraq by 6 points. The same poll had Bush up 12 points on who would do a better job of terrorism.
But let's say that the economy is seen as being in better shape at the time of the election. A look at the 1952 and 1968 elections suggests that Trump may not be enough.
Democrat incumbent Harry Truman in 1952 and Lyndon Johnson in 1968 did not even run for re-election during the Korean War and the Vietnam War respectively. Republican candidates, Dwight Eisehower and Richard Nixon, were cleared with double digits in Gallup polling over Democratic candidates, Adlai Stevenson and Hubert Humphrey, in those races to deal with the war effort. Republicans won both races.
The economy was strong ahead of both of these elections. Nevertheless, the sitting party lost the parliamentary elections because they could not win in today's big non-financial issues.
Four years after Nixon took office, he was able to win another term because he was trusted more to deal with the Vietnam War by about 30 points than his Democratic opponent, George McGovern.
For 2020, these choices suggest Trump is likely to need Americans to believe he has a good handle on the corona virus to beat Biden. Otherwise, he'll probably end up like Truman and Johnson: out of the office.