Donald Trump’s reelection woes have been well documented. I always talk about them, mostly because there’s very little else on which to focus this election cycle.
All hell broke loose, the current administration got in over their heads, and the Democratic challenger steadily extends his lead in the polls — even though I’m not even sure he’s still alive.
There’s a physical body resembling Joe Biden that DNC staffers drag around and prop up behind podiums ever so often, but the footage inevitably takes on the appearance of a puppet show. I haven’t figured out how they’re moving his mouth and projecting a voice yet.
I don’t bring this up to pick on Joe; I’m honestly horrified that people who you’d expect to care about him are forcing the 77-year-old to endure this experiment. I mention Biden’s rapidly declining condition, visible for all the world to see, to demonstrate how intensely unpopular Donald Trump is with most of the electorate.
If this version of Joe Biden can mount a 10-point national lead over the incumbent, a scarecrow or bowl of cabbage could have done the same.
Yet, ever the political betting markets contrarian; I’m finding it difficult to write off Trump entirely.
That’s the double-edged sword or referendum elections:
That said, Trump has provided precious little to indicate that he’ll make the adjustments necessary for building a winning campaign. He and his team don’t appear even to understand what’s going wrong.
If – and that’s a big IF – Donald Trump manages to pull himself back into contention, he will do so by capitalizing on a combination of factors that are ripe for exploitation. Some are byproducts of the US’s current societal conditions, while other opportunities require a better campaign strategy if the President is to take advantage.
Fortunately, when your opponent is hidden away 90% of the time, you decide where the battle lines are drawn.
Student Voter Turnout
Let’s start with an easy one that doesn’t require any effort from the Trump administration, whose impotent response to the ongoing economic crisis and stimulus negotiations suggests they’re not too interested in hands-on governance.
That’s why political parties dedicate significant time and resources to having a presence on university campuses. The goal is registering as many student voters as possible, using tactics like “dorm storms” in their residence halls.
Colleges tend to be liberal, making them a valuable resource for Democrats hoping to expand their base. For example, Biden holds a 34-point lead over Trump with 18 to 29-year-olds, so registering as many members of this demographic is key to the DNC’s electoral strategy.
Except, the pandemic has shut down college campuses and forced classes to be held online. A decentralized student body is nowhere near as efficient to register en mass.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball published a piece detailing the domino effect university closures could have on the electorate:
In 2016, over 50 colleges had more students than the presidential margins in their states.
Certainly, fewer college students voting could create the potential for dozens of down-ballot races to be influenced.
Not enough resources are being allocated to find ways to ensure students are registered to vote, and then follow through on voting. There is a danger that we might not even reach the previous 48% threshold of college students who voted in 2016.
The impact of a lack of students voting this November does not end in 2020.
Many college students register and vote during the one presidential election while they are at school. As voting in college leads to the habit of a person continuing to vote onwards, this will impact our civics for years to come.
Assuming their fears are validated, and college-aged voters don’t match or exceed 2016’s 48% participation rate, that’s a massive boost to Donald Trump. A group polling 34-points in favor of the Democrats suffering low turnouts could single-handedly swing multiple states for the incumbent.
Limited Mail-In Voting/Absentee Ballots
To say the war between the White House and Democrats over expanding access to mail-in voting is contentious is a monumental understatement. It got so heated recently, the President (hopefully) facetiously floated the possibility of perhaps delaying Election Day, if Dems are so concerned over safety.
Naturally, this sent the liberal world into a tizzy, masterfully distracting them from discussing the 32% drop in US GDP and stalled stimulus legislation – as pandemic benefits expire on Friday – over something the President lacks the authority to do.
Citing safety concerns over sending Americans to the polling stations on Election Day, where there will be crowds of densely packed people, increasing risk of exposure to the coronavirus; Democrats want universal mail-in voting. Meaning every registered voter will receive a mail-in ballot.
Trump says the plan to expand mail-in voting is a scheme for Democrats to ballot harvest and steal the election through illegitimate means. He also points to the ongoing delays and general disarray plaguing the US Postal Service currently as evidence that large scale absentee voting will be a disaster.
Statistically speaking, he has a point.
Between 2012 and 2018, 28.3 million mail-in ballots remain unaccounted for, according to data from the federal Election Assistance Commission. The missing ballots amount to nearly one in five of all absentee ballots and ballots mailed to voters residing in states that do elections exclusively by mail.
Another piece published by Just the News found, “there have been at least four dozen cases in criminal and civil court since the last presidential election in 2016 in which voter fraud has led to charges, convictions, lawsuits or plea deals.”
So, absentee voting has proven to be more susceptible to fraud than in-person voting.
Fascinatingly, it was the Democrats who raised this issue in 2016, in response to Trump’s allegations that Clinton planned to rig the election.
Here was the liberal opinion published at Slate.com four years ago:
The Washington Post and News21 published a thorough analysis on Thursday of alleged voter fraud cases over the past four years in Arizona, Ohio, Georgia, Texas, and Kansas—five states where Republican politicians have argued that voting restrictions are necessary to prevent fraud. Predictably, the study confirmed the academic consensus that in-person voter fraud is simply not a problem: In none of these states over the past four years has a single person been caught impersonating another voter in order to cast an illegitimate ballot.
This highlights the lunacy that’s infested our political discourse since Trump was elected. The knee-jerk reaction to instinctively oppose any position he takes routinely paints Democrats into a corner as hypocrites.
The reason the two camps hold their latest opinions on absentee voting has everything to do with differing views on the covid pandemic. Conservatives have generally been less cautious in their approach to the virus and less compliant with regards to lockdowns, large gatherings (except for massive protests, which are more of a liberal thing), and wearing masks.
As a result, Republicans are far more likely to prefer in-person voting this fall.
FiveThirtyEight compiled the data:
While a whopping 83 percent of Democrats supported no-excuse absentee voting (and another 11 percent thought COVID-19 should be a valid excuse), only 44 percent of Republicans thought so. Another 17 percent thought COVID-19 should be an acceptable excuse, but that still left 37 percent of Republicans believing voters must provide a non-pandemic-related excuse to vote absentee.
For instance, Republican respondents told ABC News/The Washington Post that they preferred to vote in person, 79 percent to 20 percent. But Democratic respondents preferred to vote by mail, 51 percent to 46 percent. That could mean that votes cast in person will skew toward Republicans this fall, while mail-in votes skew toward Democrats.
The FiveThirtyEight piece then gets to the heart of why the President is so resistant to universal mail-in voting. Having already established it’s ripe for fraud and that the US Postal Service has given zero indication they’re capable of servicing millions of ballots all submitted the same day, this is the scenario Trump wants to avoid:
And since in-person votes are typically reported first on election night, that could mean that initial results on Nov. 3 will be overly favorable to Trump — perhaps causing him to claim victory prematurely. But Biden could actually turn out to be the winner days after Election Day in this scenario, as mailed ballots are counted and Democratic votes are added to the till. This could cause a national crisis if Trump decries those late-counted ballots as fraudulent or if he refuses to concede.
I can’t lie – it would be hard not to question the legitimacy of the election, being on the receiving end of such an outcome. Regardless, I expect Trump to win this particular battle.
- If the Democrats force through universal mail-in voting, the USPS is going to lose a significant percentage of the ballots – which, as we know from voter preferences, will disproportionately affect Democrats.
- If he successfully limits access to mail-in voting, things like coronavirus anxiety and voter enthusiasm come into play. Donald Trump’s supporters are less fearful of the virus across the board and more comfortable showing up to the polls.
- If Democrats have to cast their ballots in-person, what percentage of unenthusiastic Biden backers and voters with high-risk factors will stay home?
The Democratic Party is attempting an unprecedented campaign strategy this year. They are offering absolutely nothing, and hope hatred of their opponent will be enough to motivate voters to the polls on Election Day.
Polling data has consistently shown Republicans to have higher levels of enthusiasm over voting for Trump than Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters supporting Biden. Here are some stats from a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll:
- Republican and Republican-leaning voters are 14 percentage points likelier than their Democratic and Democratic-leaning counterparts to say they’re “very enthusiastic” about voting.
- Republicans are 10 points likelier to say they’re “very motivated” to vote.
- Republicans are 8 points likelier to say they “definitely” plan on voting.
Lagging enthusiasm among Democrats has been a constant theme this election cycle, notably after Joe Biden secured the nomination. While poll numbers suggest the Dem challenger’s coalition of voters united in their disdain for President Trump is working, not everyone is convinced the formula will translate to election success.
Earlier this month, Mediaite ran a story featuring Stony Brook professor Helmut Norpoth, whose “Primary Model” has correctly predicted all but two presidential elections since 1912 (25 out of 27) – including five of the last six.
Norpoth’s model focuses on candidates’ performance in their party primaries and voter enthusiasm as its two leading indicators of election outcomes.
The 2020 presidential election is going to teach us a valuable lesson about human nature. Can a candidate inspire the kind of voter turnout required to win the presidency using negative reinforcement almost exclusively?
Joe Biden’s Condition
I’ve written so much about the state of this poor man’s mental health; I don’t know what else to say. Just watch Biden’s introductory comments from his most recent press conference for his “Build Back Better” plan – a phrase he cannot say.
Joe Biden forgot where he was again. The Democrats are literally running an old man who doesn’t know where he is half the time. Insanity. pic.twitter.com/5EI3g2zFUO
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) July 28, 2020
Listen, — I get why people hate Donald Trump. I even understand how their terror over the possibility of a second Trump term may have inspired some regrettable decisions during the Democratic primaries, in the name of “electability.”
But what are we doing here?
Are Democrats really going to pretend they don’t see that Joe Biden is no longer fit to be President of the United States? Why is everyone going along with this as if there are no other options?
The Democratic National Convention hasn’t happened yet; they can still nominate someone else!
I guess that the plan is to nominate Biden first, then replace him with someone else. If Biden drops out too soon, it will reignite Bernie Sanders’s supporters, who will want their guy – the second-place finisher in the primaries – to become the nominee.
By waiting, the responsibility to find a replacement falls on the Democratic National Committee, made up of lobbyists, donors, and party insiders.
However, if the Democrats insist on rallying around Joe Biden despite his condition, Donald Trump is never truly out of this race. No matter how down he gets in the polls, he’s only one viral moment away from another four years in the White House.
What if there comes a time when all the smoke and mirrors don’t even work anymore?
Biden is barely able to get through speeches he’s reading from the teleprompter. At the rare question and answer, it’s obvious the room is stacked with friendly reporters asking pre-approved questions. And even then Joe refers to note cards with talking points for each subject because he won’t be able to remember what to say otherwise.
Biden’s health is going to blow up in their faces — and by the time it does, it’ll be too close to Election Day to recover. Someone better step in and make a change soon.
Economic Recovery / Stimulus
I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Donald Trump’s reelection odds rest on the state of the economy – which means the current ongoing stimulus debate in congress will decide it all.
Trump knows this; otherwise, he wouldn’t give political rivals 24-hours of pearl-clutching over his “fascist desire to delay the election,” just to prevent them from spending more time talking about the plummeting gross domestic product (GDP).
GOP members of congress are not on the same page with the White House and Steve Mnuchin – many in the Republican caucus don’t want any more stimulus at all, while the majority wants a drastic reduction. Anything that takes money out of the hands of the working masses – when there aren’t enough jobs to which they can return – will spell disaster for the economy, and thus, Trump’s campaign.
He can’t sit back and repeat cheap catchphrases or put the blame on Democrats with this one. If the President doesn’t make a strong public push to extend the benefits indefinitely and Mitch McConnell’s cronies in congress allow a total financial collapse – worse than the Great Depression – happen, the DNC will control the White House and both chambers of congress in 2021. Assuming elections are logistically possible with all the rioting and violence erupting in the streets, in that scenario.
Right now, the money being given to people by the government is the one thing keeping this economy alive.
Remember, Trump’s most loyal base is white, working-class, primarily rural voters. They won’t be kept afloat with tax cuts for the wealthy right now. A victory in November is as easy as breaking from Republicans in congress and demanding the government puts cash directly into their hands. It’s not a demographic that can sustain much more economic hardship.
Having said all of that…
What I see from Donald Trump is not encouraging. Sure, he has a few factors working in his favor, but the campaign strategy is profoundly different than in 2016. He’s lost the populist, anti-establishment edge, and is leaning more heavily upon divisive rhetoric and making himself the victim.
The President also seems like he’s delegating responsibility to the extent it’s making him look weak and confused. If the White House wants a deal to get done on the next round of stimulus, he must force Mnuchin to accept the Democrats’ offer to continue the payouts and let the electorate know it was his decision.
Blaming everything wrong on an “unfair” media or Nancy Pelosi and promising that everything good is either “coming back” or “better than ever” or “the biggest ever” isn’t going to cut it anymore. The current set of challenges this country faces requires effective governance – they are the only campaign issues now.
The President is fortunate to still be in control of the fate of his presidency.
Due to a unique set of circumstances, Trump’s reelection hopes are alive, despite multiple ongoing crises and a near double-digit deficit in the polls.
If you’re betting on Donald Trump, you’re counting on a robust economic recovery fueled by stimulus money, a supporter enthusiasm advantage, and Joe Biden’s cognitive decline to receive the attention it deserves eventually.
It’s all there for the taking; let’s see if he or his team finally realizes it.