The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Republicans are doing Joe Biden’s work for him

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden talks to reporters before boarding a flight to Ohio in New Castle, Del., on Monday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The irony of President Trump’s fearmongering about mail-in ballots is that an unprecedented level of early voting appears to be underway. Close to 10 million ballots have already been cast for the presidential, Senate, House and down-ballot races. There has also been a huge turnout in Georgia, which is in a dead heat in the presidential and two Senate races. But herding voters to in-person voting during a pandemic is just one of many errors the Trump campaign has made as it careens toward the end of arguably the worst-run presidential campaign since George McGovern’s in 1972.

It is far from clear how much in-person campaigning Trump is going to do in the coming weeks, but he is pulling ads down in key states and has walked away from the debate planned for Thursday. He is helping former vice president Joe Biden, who has a double-digit national lead and comfortable leads in states that will get him beyond 270 electoral votes, run out the clock. This is as close to a unilateral surrender — both of visibility and incumbency — as we have ever seen in a presidential race. Trump is in a defensive crouch just as he needs to change the entire trajectory of the race.

It is not hard to figure out how he got here. Trump gave up on negotiating a second covid-19 stimulus plan (then reversed course, but too late, it appears). As a result, he is not doing the one thing that could demonstrate that he cares about the lives of Americans and takes the pandemic seriously.

Democratic Party lawyer Marc Elias says states and Congress need to act now to ensure all votes count during the general election. These changes are overdue. (Video: The Washington Post)

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Trump also decided to try to ram through a Supreme Court justice at the last moment, thinking it would be a boost for his base. There is no sign it has done anything more to pump up his base (which gets narrower by the day), but it is underscoring Biden’s criticisms that Republicans are too willing to abuse power, have screwy priorities and maintain antagonism toward health care. The stunt is only making the “out-of-touch extremists” label stick even more to Republicans.

The insistence on pushing through with the nominee apparently resulted in a superspreader event at the White House that infected dozens of attendees. The event simply confirmed that this is the gang that cannot shoot straight — and has not figured out even the rudimentary rules for preventing the spread of disease. Trump sidelined himself with a covid-19 diagnosis (convincing many voters that he does not take it seriously enough), and then made matters worse by leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center early and taking off his mask upon re-entering the White House, demonstrating just how unhinged and reckless he is.

As for the debate, Trump tried to bully his way through with disastrous results. He then deprived himself of an opportunity to replace that debacle with a less terrible performance this week. By the time we get to Oct. 22 for what should have been the third debate, even more people will have voted, and the image of Trump as a bullying, know-nothing president will be even more firmly entrenched.

Trump and Senate Republicans are doing Biden’s work for him. They look careless, inept, out of touch and extreme. They seem intent on embracing the qualities Biden uses to indict their performance. Meanwhile, the only one with an affirmative agenda is Biden, who on Monday went to Ohio to talk about his job-creating, green energy and infrastructure plan. (As Biden put it in Erie, Pa., on Saturday: "Independent analysis put out by a highly respected Wall Street firm of all things, Moody’s — a Wall Street firm — projects that my Build Back Better plan is going to create 18.6 million jobs in four years ... 7 million more jobs than the president’s economic plan and a trillion dollars more in economic growth than the president’s plan.")

The challenger and his party are flush with cash, on message and getting loads of positive earned media thanks to Trump’s self-inflicted errors. Future political scientists and campaign operatives may study this campaign for years to come as an example of how to turn a losing campaign into a party-killing, landslide defeat.