In the latest set of national polls, Trump trails Joe Biden by between eight and 12 points depending on the poll. In the key battleground states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Trump is underwater, too. His job approval sits at just 39 percent. He’s hemorrhaging suburban white women and seniors. In short, he’s losing.
On the issue front, Trump’s head is not in the game, either.
From the beginning, Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been dismal, starting with his failure to acknowledge the seriousness of the virus, continuing with his failure to develop a coordinated and aggressive federal plan to respond, and then trying to turn the public page on the virus by urging states to open up too soon. Despite the devastating loss of life — expected to top 180,000 in America just one month before the election — the president and vice president have not modeled good virus behavior (refusing to wear masks or do social distancing) and until recently have mocked those who do. Their political rallies and events are creepy, with unmasked attendees standing shoulder to shoulder against all recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One can almost see the virus droplets floating through the air like in a bad pandemic movie.
The virus has taken a heavy toll on the economy, but Trump’s failures may well have jeopardized the economic recovery that might have been his only selling point for a second term. And now with the virus sinking its teeth into his beloved red states, those states are facing virus surges that are reminiscent of the early weeks of the pandemic. The result is reflected in public opinion that gives Trump unconscionably poor marks, with only 37 percent of Americans approving of his handling of the virus.
It doesn’t stop there. Trump’s decidedly authoritarian response to the brutal killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests has placed him out of step with most Americans on race. In a remarkable shift in public opinion, a recent survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed a 25-point increase from 2015 among white Democrats who believe police are more likely to use deadly force against black people. More Americans identify with the ideas of the Black Lives Matter movement and support the protests, including a majority of white Americans. Most Americans trust Biden over Trump when it comes to handling race relations. And yet, even as America could see with her own eyes the brutal slaying of Floyd and join the calls for police reform, Trump has stayed his course and doubled down on his racist, inflammatory and divisive rhetoric.
Perhaps it is no surprise that a president who began his campaign attacking immigrants as “rapists" and opened his presidency painting a bleak picture of “American carnage” would not change in 3½ years. Maybe it was too much to expect change from a president who kicked off his policy agenda by “banning Muslims” and who separated migrant children from their families, putting them in cages. By the time this president described chanting, lantern-carrying white supremacists in Charlottesville as "very fine people,” many of us had come to believe already that his words and actions were not missteps. His words are who he is. So, it is no surprise, either, that Trump entered the Fourth of July defending Confederate statues or that he could not acknowledge that even as some celebrate the marvel of Mount Rushmore, it was carved in land belonging to the Lakota Sioux people in the sacred Black Hills.
Back to football. It looks bad for Trump, but it’s not over. He’s trailing by a couple of touchdowns. The clock is running out, but he’s throwing five-yard passes. His fans are cheering the completions, but he is also getting sacked and can barely manage a first down. And while Trump has reverted to his division strategy, it is still a 100-yard game, and the winner must play the full four quarters. Given the depths to which he has been willing to go, come November Biden and America will need to be on the lookout for Trump’s Hail Mary.
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