Anyone who is hair-on-fire alarmed that President Trump might lie, cheat and steal his way to reelection should hold on to that attitude through Election Day. Joe Biden is much more likely to win if he and his supporters act as if he’s losing.

So yes, be paranoid that Trump’s encouragement of right-wing violence in Kenosha, Wis., might tip that vital swing state in his favor. Worry that Democrats are not paying enough attention to Michigan and Pennsylvania; that Biden’s polling lead in Florida might be a mirage; and that states such as Georgia and Arizona might not really be as purple as they now appear to be. 

Then act vigorously on those concerns, and be confident that if you do, Trump is toast.

Coming out of the conventions, the Trump campaign is trying its best to create the illusion of momentum. Trump, who has an undeniable talent for creating and exploiting chaos, has seized on his “LAW & ORDER” theme as a way to fire up his base and obscure his abysmal performance on the covid-19 pandemic. Recent polling suggests that Biden’s huge lead has become slightly less huge.

Historically, it takes at least a week or two to know whether the conventions had any lasting impact on voters’ intentions. And Biden’s present lead in the national polls — an average of 6.9 percent, according to RealClearPolitics — remains massive by recent election standards. But it is good to remember that no lead is unassailable, and that the race is considerably closer in swing states.

The first order of business for the Biden campaign is to shower attention on the traditionally Democratic states that tipped to Trump and won the election for him in 2016. This is harder for Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, to do — at least in person — amid a deadly pandemic that Trump has allowed to rage out of control. But it must be done.

Biden started the process Monday with his trip to Pittsburgh, where he asked, “Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected?” Biden bluntly stated the obvious. Trump “can’t stop the violence — because for years he has fomented it,” Biden said, and the president “may believe mouthing the words ‘law and order’ makes him strong, but his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is.” 

Here's what the Biden-Harris Democratic ticket needs to do to keep progressive support, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors says. (The Washington Post)

Biden, Harris and their surrogates need to repeat an undeniable fact until the nation is sick of hearing it: We’re not living through this time of crisis in “Joe Biden’s America,” as speakers at the Republican National Convention tried to claim. This is Donald Trump’s America — and Trump, not Biden, is to blame for making everything worse. 

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Biden also needs to go to Michigan and remind voters there that he and Barack Obama saved the auto industry, while Trump has failed to keep his promise to revitalize the manufacturing sector. And yes, by all means, he needs to go to Wisconsin to underscore the fact that he, unlike Trump, opposes violence from both the far left and the far right.

And in all of these states, Biden also needs to make clear that he understands the reality of structural racism and the need to eradicate it once and for all. Hillary Clinton would be running for reelection right now if African American turnout in 2016 had been higher in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Milwaukee.

The other task for the Biden campaign nationwide is to relentlessly hammer home how badly Trump has bungled the nation’s response to covid-19. The Trump campaign is clearly aware that if the campaign is fundamentally about the pandemic, Trump loses. The president wants voters to focus on social justice protests, on his call for a full season of college football, on his incoherent ramblings about water pressure in his shower — anything except his utter failure to protect the nation’s health.

Trump may want to pretend that the pandemic is over, but every voter knows otherwise. Parents have to decide whether to send their children back to school, small businesses are decimated, travel plans have had to be put on hold, and infection rates remain disturbingly high. Other wealthy countries are getting back to normal. The United States could be, too, if Trump had listened to Biden’s warnings and followed his covid-19 plan.

Expect the race to tighten. But Biden and the Democrats — with enthusiasm, hard work and a bit of healthy paranoia — can capitalize on a big advantage: Objective reality is on their side.

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