That cliche begets this political reality: When the economy is good and/or people believe the economy is good, a president is usually popular. And when the economy is weak (or perceived to be weak), a president is almost always struggling in the polls.
Which is why Donald Trump’s current situation is super weird.
And yet, in that same NBC-WSJ poll, just 45% approved of Trump’s performance as President overall while 52% disapproved.
The short answer is VERY.
The only two presidents with significantly higher approval ratings on the economy as compared to their overall approval were Trump now and Bill Clinton in July 1998. The Clinton result is easily explained: He was in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. So people liked how the economy was doing (and gave him credit for it) but were less willing to say they approved of him as heartily. The Trump example is less simple to understand.
Regardless of the “why” of Trump’s economy/overall approval disparity, it’s clear that if he could simply disappear — like, literally just stay in the White House and never tweet — his overall approval numbers would likely improve. People seem to be reacting negatively to the full package of Trump, which crowds out their positive reaction to the job he is doing on the economy. If, he could take the focus off his tweets, the Russia investigation and the like — and steer all of his rhetorical firepower onto the state of the economy, he and the Republican Party he leads would likely be in a much better place today.
Of course, that sort of message discipline isn’t Trump. And if we’ve learned anything these last three years, it’s that Trump is going to Trump. Always.