After the Democrats’ failed impeachment drive, Trump’s approval rose to 49 percent in the Gallup poll — an all-time high for him. The poll also showed that 63 percent approved of his handling of the economy. That meant 14 percent approved of his policies but did not approve of him — yet. If he could win even some of those voters over, he could not just win reelection but do so in a landslide.
Then came an unprecedented trifecta of crises: the worst pandemic since 1918; the worst economic destruction since the Great Depression; and the worst social unrest since the 1960s. No president had ever faced such a sequence of devastation. With Joe Biden hiding in his basement, Trump has had the national stage all to himself — and a golden opportunity to win over persuadable voters with his leadership. But instead of rising in the polls, Trump’s approval has slipped back down to the low 40s in most polls. Instead of gaining even more supporters, he lost his new converts.
Trump can still turn it around, but to do so he must recognize that he can tend his base and grow it at the same time. His voters are already highly motivated. A Post-ABC News poll from March found that among registered voters, 55 percent of Trump supporters are “very” enthusiastic about supporting him, compared with just 28 percent of Biden supporters — the lowest level of enthusiasm for a Democratic candidate in 20 years. This presents an opportunity for Trump.
Biden is especially vulnerable with African Americans. The Post reports that Biden is underperforming with black voters, just 79 percent of whom say they plan to vote for him compared with 88 percent who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Young black voters are even less enthusiastic about Biden than their elders. Only 68 percent of African Americans aged 18 to 29 intend to vote for Biden — 17 points fewer than supported Clinton four years ago. Another 13 percent say they will vote for Trump, while 18 percent say they don’t know.
In other words, 31 percent are not backing Biden right now. So, persuade them to support you, Mr. President. It should not be hard for the president who delivered criminal justice reform, funding for opportunity zones and the lowest black unemployment rate in history.
During his Tulsa rally, the president should appeal directly to black Americans. He should express his solidarity with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and declare his determination to reform the police and get rid of bad cops who mistreat our African American brothers and sisters. He should say that he stands with the peaceful protesters and that he will not be satisfied until the promise of equality is realized for every one of our citizens regardless of the color of their skin.
He should also tell the stories of the black Americans who were killed in the riots — like David Dorn, Chris Beaty and Italia Marie Kelly — and explain that defunding the police would hurt minority communities the most. When he touts the recent jobs numbers, he should also acknowledge that African American unemployment rose slightly — and promise that he will make it his mission to ensure that we return to the historic levels of black employment we enjoyed before the pandemic. That is a message that will resonate both with black voters and with independents who hunger for a message of unity.
The president feels that he already says these things, but the media does not report it. He is right. But that just means he needs to say it more. Everyone will be watching his Tulsa rally. He should use it as an opportunity to speak not only to his supporters in the hall, but also to the millions of Americans who have never been to a Trump rally and who did not vote him in 2016 — but who might just pull the lever for Trump in November if he appeals for their votes.