BOSTON (CBS) — Could another term for President Donald Trump be in the cards when the votes are counted one year from Tuesday?

“When we hang it up in five years, or nine years, or thirteen years,” said President Trump at a rally Monday night, his joking vision of an eternal presidency interrupted by cheers, he was expressing a level of re-election confidence with some basis in fact.

According to a New York Times/Siena College poll of six crucial battleground states, the answer is definitely yes. The surveys showed the president in a tossup race with Democratic challengers Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

A national Washington Post/ABC News poll showed those three plus Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris all beating Mr. Trump easily, but as voters may recall from 2016, winning the national popular vote means nothing if a candidate doesn’t solve the electoral vote puzzle.

How can an incumbent with such poor job-approval and character ratings be so competitive for re-election?

Paging Jim Carville from the 1992 Clinton campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Even though it’s been a bumpy ride thanks to the tariff wars and the president’s unpredictability, the Post survey found 44% of respondents said the economy has improved under Trump, and more than 75% of them give him the credit. In economically beleaguered precincts of swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, that goes a long way.

And it’s no surprise that within hours of the first Democratic presidential debate back in June, a clip of the moderator saying “raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants” to a unanimous show of hands from the field was featured in a Trump campaign attack ad.

There’s an old saying in politics – you can’t beat somebody with nobody. The Democratic Party is held in disrepute by many swing state voters, and Trump has the money and the mantra to keep it that way.

So what does a winning formula for the Democrats look like? It’s been conventional wisdom that all the energy in the party is on the Left, but between Biden and Buttigieg, the two leading moderates are polling just as strongly these days as left-wing icons Warren and Sanders.

Given the right-leaning makeup of those all-important swing states, that might be an important clue.

Jon Keller

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