Coming into the final presidential debate Thursday night, former vice president Joe Biden holds a commanding lead in national polls and in a sufficient number of states to comfortably clear the hurdle of 270 electoral votes. Gallup on Thursday summed up his opponent’s fundamental problem: “The majority of U.S. registered voters, 56%, believe President Donald Trump does not deserve to be reelected, while 43% say he does.” That is a seven-point drop in his “deserves reelection” number taken in January.

Every presidential reelection campaign is a referendum on the president’s performance. With a president whose performance is as rotten as Trump’s (Gallup also shows him with a 43 percent job approval rating), his only hope was to make his opponent even more unappealing than himself. Trump, however, never settled on an effective attack on Biden and, in any case, cannot stand ceding attention to anyone else. Trump’s performance, his lies, his antics, his insults, his crackpot conspiracy theories, his attacks on the media and his financial scandals have remained front and center. In other words, Trump’s raging narcissism has prevented him from doing what was necessary to give him a reasonable chance to win reelection.

The final nail in Trump’s political coffin, aside from his antics in the closing weeks of the campaign, might be the shift in public perception of his performance on the economy. The Financial Times reports: “The final monthly survey of likely voters before November 3 for the [Financial Times] and the Peter G Peterson Foundation found 46 per cent of Americans believe Mr Trump’s policies had hurt the economy, compared to 44 per cent who said the policies had helped.” Even more troubling for Trump is the finding that “only 32 per cent of Americans believe they are better off financially now than they were when Mr Trump took office four years ago — equal to the lowest total since the FT-Peterson survey began 12 months ago.”

Similarly, the New York Times-Siena College poll released this week confirms, “The president has even lost his longstanding advantage on economic matters: Voters are now evenly split on whether they have more trust in him or Mr. Biden to manage the economy.”

Ironically, Trump rejected possibly the only thing he could have done to shift perception about himself and improve the economy: prioritizing the stimulus bill over the confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has managed to divert all the Senate’s attention to his personal priority — stuffing the Supreme Court with right-wing activists — to the detriment of Trump and even his own members, who now face a potential wipeout at the ballot box. You would think Trump, who desperately needs to change the subject, and endangered Republican senators, whose constituencies want economic relief and fear a court that might invalidate the Affordable Care Act, would have staged a revolt. But no. They remain sealed within the right-wing bubble telling them that Trump’s chances are better than they are and that the court is more important to voters than it is. They have let McConnell commandeer the Senate in a way that clearly benefits Biden and Democratic Senate candidates.

In sum, Trump made this a referendum on himself — and then failed to produce anything that would warrant a positive reaction to his record. The result is likely to be a devastating loss for him and the Republicans who followed McConnell into a political dead end.

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