The economic picture is darkening in states critical to Trump’s reelection bid

On the surface, the economy appears to have created a favorable picture for President Donald Trump a year ahead of the 2020 elections. But a closer look at growth and hiring could spell trouble for the candidate, whose populist economic proposals have long been central to his campaign platform.

The longest expansion on record has held up better than expected this year, but a trade dispute with China has caused pain for industries in states crucial to his reelection. While the economy plays a central role in presidential votes across the country, research suggests it has a more significant impact in political battlegrounds.

“There is evidence that the trade war is negatively affecting growth, especially in manufacturing, and that would certainly hurt Trump,” said Gregory Wawro, a political scientist at Columbia University. “If that spreads to the larger economy, I’m sure Trump’s approval numbers will take a serious hit.”

In recent months, growth has appeared increasingly uneven across the country. Commerce Department data released Thursday showed activity slowed sharply in the Midwest this year, with some of the weakest second-quarter gross domestic product readings occurring in Wisconsin and Michigan.

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