It all looked so simple for Donald Trump as he took the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January this year. At the start of an election year, the annual gathering of the global business elite was an opportunity to launch his campaign.
It was one Trump eagerly seized. The next 30 minutes was one long boast, detailing how a US economy that had allegedly been on its knees under Barack Obama had been transformed under his stewardship.
“Today I’m proud to declare that the United States is in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before,” Trump told a packed hall. “We’ve regained our stride, we discovered our spirit and reawakened the powerful machinery of American enterprise. America is thriving, America is flourishing and, yes, America is winning again like never before.”
Trump knew his history. Most incumbent presidents since the second world war had seen off their challengers, and the ones that hadn’t – Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George Bush Sr in 1992 – were not helped by an underperforming economy. So, with the stock market at a record high and unemployment at its lowest since the Apollo space missions of the late 1960s, the president thought the path to victory would be smooth.