Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University, said that the 2020 election is so-far too close to call, but that a damaged economy from concerns around a potential pandemic could add the final ingredient to flatten Mr Trump’s re-election prospects.
“One of the big issues that is clearly hanging fire is what’s going to happen to the economy in light of the coronavirus crisis,” Mr Lichtman told The Independent. “We have no idea, the crisis could peter out or it could lead to a worldwide pandemic that could slide America into recession, which would obviously doom Donald Trump.”
“Nobody knows where this coronavirus thing is going, but the big institutions are already sharply downgrading their economic predictions for the year,” he said.
Mr Lichtman’s prediction system is known as the “Keys to the White House” model, and operates under the assumption that presidential election results are impacted primarily by the performance of the party holding office in the run of to the vote.
According to the theory, Americans choose their president based upon how well the sitting president has responded to and shaped consequential events of their term.
Everything else — like media advertising, debates, news coverage and television appearances — is disregarded by the electorate on Election Day as they evaluate the president.
Mr Lichtman said that there are several troubling signs for Mr Trump, including election losses for his party during the 2018 midterm elections, a lack of major foreign policy successes, ongoing scandal and the fact that Mr Trump is not a broadly appealing candidate (while the president enjoys strong support among Republicans, his approval is relatively low among the rest of the electorate).
The coronavirus outbreak has rattled US markets in recent days, as the threat has disrupted global supply chains and scared investors.
In the US, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that an outbreak in the country is inevitable at this point.
“We expect we will see community spread in this country,” said Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”
So far, the CDC has confirmed 14 cases in the United States, with two of those contracting the disease in the US and 12 who appeared to have contracted the virus while traveling abroad before returning to the country.
Meanwhile, another 45 people have been repatriated to the US after contracting the disease abroad, including 42 people who were on the “Diamond Princess” cruise ship.