President Trump May Have Lost the Election this Morning

Donald Trump and Screenshots of Tweets in the Background

Highlights:
  • The President’s already precarious footing in the 2020 election may have finally been lost for good on Thursday morning, after a series of damning headlines and decisions.
  • Herman Cain died from covid-19, which he caught at the Trump campaign’s Tulsa Rally.
  • Trump also made a tweet criticizing Mail-In voting’s effectiveness and legitimacy – perfectly acceptable on its own, but he included a line about potentially delaying the November election. Even if he was joking, the comment has the potential to validate claims made by liberal pundits about Trump’s intentions and scare off significant sections of crucial demographics.
  • Finally, the US GDP fell by a record 32.9% in the second quarter of 2020 – spelling disaster for the Trump campaign and country alike.

From about 4:30 am until 7 or so, I was working on an article tentatively titled, “Why it’s Too Soon to Count out Donald Trump.” It’s probably three-quarters of the way done. So, imagine my dismay as I took a brief break to get caught up on this morning’s news, only to learn it may very well be precisely the right time to count out Donald Trump.

This morning brought a trifecta of headlines, each with the potential to do significant lasting damage to his already desperate campaign – only one of which was caused by the President’s Twitter habits, which I suppose counts for something.

Side Note:

(I might still finish the article, depending on how both sides frame their messaging around these stories. But his chances of reversing the negative momentum caused by the pandemic and reaction to protests are shrinking by the day. If today’s PR disasters don’t sink Trump entirely, the next one will.

He’s relying on working-class, non-college-educated white voters, particularly in rural areas. If I finish the piece, it’s because there’s some glimmer of hope Thursday’s slate of bad news didn’t wreck him with that voting bloc, or they’re at least still there to potentially win back.

He must increase turnout in that demo to offset hemorrhaging of support from upper-class suburbanites and older voters even to have a prayer.)

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RIP Herman Cain

Former Republican presidential candidate and co-chairman of Black Voices for Trump died on Thursday morning due to complications from covid-19.

It’s believed he caught the virus at the President’s now-infamous campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20. Eight Trump staffers tested positive for coronavirus that weekend, forcing the entire team into self-isolation afterward.

The 74-year-old was diagnosed with covid on June 29, nine days after the rally. He was admitted into an Atlanta-area hospital two days later.

“We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” said Dan Calabrese, in a post on Godfather Pizza’s website – the pizza chain at which Cain served as chairman and CEO for a decade.

“He had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. We all prayed that the initial meds they gave him would get his breathing back to normal, but it became clear pretty quickly that he was in for a battle.”

Horrendous Optics

Beyond losing what I presume was a friend and staunch political ally, Herman Cain’s death is a disaster for Republicans, especially Donald Trump. The former Tea Party activist was seen at the Tulsa rally not wearing a mask after the campaign already came under heavy pressure not to host the event.

The Trump administration’s response-to and subsequent handling of the pandemic decimated the incumbent’s approval ratings and tanked his election odds. He went from a two-point favorite nationally (on average) to anywhere between a nine and 15-point deficit in the polls.

The perception that the White House hasn’t been taking the virus seriously has cut deeply into Trump’s support among older voters – a crucial bloc for the Republicans in 2016.

Now the GOP has lost one of their own — someone who was openly flaunting the mask requirements a little over a week before getting sick. Calabrese cautions against contributing Cain’s infection to the rally. “I realize people will speculate about the Tulsa rally, but Herman did a lot of traveling the past week.”

“I don’t think there’s any way to trace this to the one specific contact that caused him to be infected. We’ll never know.”

I doubt that message is going to resonate.

We know a substantial portion of Trump’s campaign staff was either infected or exposed to someone who was that weekend. Who else would Herman Cain be interacting with besides staffers and other high-profile supporters?

Even if Herman did catch it days later on one of his many flights, it doesn’t matter. The perception is that Trump didn’t take the pandemic seriously enough, soon enough. His well-known GOP supporter – who has shared the President’s views (and perceived lack of urgency) on covid – caught the coronavirus and died.

I don’t see anything that Trump could do to reverse popular opinion regarding his pandemic response after this one.

Economic Meltdown

With the enhanced unemployment benefits coming to an end tomorrow and 32% of American renters having missed their July housing payments, the country received more bad news about the economy.

The Commerce Department reported on Thursday that the US’s gross domestic product (GDP) dropped by a record 32.9% in the second quarter of 2020.

It’s the steepest decline in output ever recorded since the country began tracking such data in 1947. The fall is more than triple what was previously the worst – a 10% drop in the second quarter of 1958.

Keep in mind, the quarter in question ended a month ago. The more damning stat is that jobless claims have increased for the second consecutive week for the first time since March. The only thing keeping the economy even partially afloat is the stimulus money and increased unemployment payouts. Recipients aren’t just paying bills, they’re spending, which is keeping businesses alive.

This headline will be a massive wakeup call for a significant portion of the population.

We are headed directly at an iceberg, and nobody in Congress or the White House is acting.

They’re all bickering over unemployment payouts and the outrageous amount of pork attached to the proposals, while Republicans are hyper-fixated on the unthinkable possibility that some recipients might be paid more in pandemic benefits than they did at work.

Trump is letting the GOP leadership dig his grave. If he doesn’t go public in strong support of putting the same amount of money (or more) in people’s hands for the duration of the pandemic, and use the White House’s leverage to challenge Mitch McConnell and company, the economy is toast.

These hardcore free-market fundamentalist ideologues are too brainwashed to alter their libertarian, hands-off approach to governance even in the direst situations.

Out of Options
Trump can break with them and go to war with the Republican establishment as he did in 2016 successfully, or stay timid, keep delegating, and lose in a landslide after the country goes up in flames.

Thursday’s news paints a picture of the severity of the economic disaster in a conveniently digestible percentage form. Trump’s entire campaign was initially based on his strong economy. That 32.9% drop will be fresh in everyone’s minds this weekend when Congress fails to strike an agreement and leaves 40 million unemployed Americans hanging without their one remaining lifeline.

With every passing day that this isn’t resolved, more people will feel the financial sting, and they’re going to blame the President and the Republican Party.

A Really Dumb Tweet

After taking critical hits to public perception concerning his ability to deal with the pandemic or economic depression, Trump made sure to alienate any supporters he had left on Twitter.

(Of course, I know the President’s diehards would never really abandon him over anything he said, but today’s tweet is sure to cost him some percentage of his working-class followers.)

The incumbent has been a fierce opponent of automatically sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters. He contends that doing so will result in rampant ballot harvesting, allowing the Democrats to steal the election.

Strategically, he’s probably right to resist moving to an all-mail-in voting system.

Higher voter participation is traditionally considered advantageous for Democrats. It’s also currently the most preferred method of voting among liberals. Meanwhile, Trump supporters have consistently told pollsters they’d rather cast a ballot in person.

Besides being easily compromised and providing a strategic advantage to the Democrats, the United States Postal Service is unable to handle universal mail-in voting. In a good year, an estimated 20% of all absentee ballots submitted are lost or thrown out for some other error.

Increase the number of mail-in votes exponentially, and that percentage will go up as well. And that’s under normal USPS conditions! What’s happening to the Postal Service right now is anything but ordinary.

The enormous federal operation is in total disarray. It is understaffed, losing money at an alarming rate, and is allegedly being actively sabotaged by current Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, one of the Trump campaign’s top donors.

Whether the US Postal Service’s efficacy has been purposely disrupted or not, one thing’s for sure: a massive influx of mail-in ballots will be a disaster.

As a result of this ongoing fight, Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning to air his grievances.

He argued that mail-in voting is vulnerable to foreign interference, a matter which the Democrats claim to care a great deal. The President also worries the government lacks the ability to get an accurate count of the ballots.

Then he provided his most rabid opponents with everything for which they could ever have asked.

After challenging the legitimacy of US elections by stating that “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” the President finished his tweet by musing about delaying the election until it’s safer to vote.

I’m assuming this was meant as a veiled threat to Democrats not to push to expand universal mail-in voting nationally. He’s saying, “if it’s legitimately too unsafe for voters to show up in person, maybe we should wait until you think it’s safe” – knowing they’d never go for it. He’s essentially calling their excuse for wanting to automatically send every registered voter a mail-in ballot “BS.”

But that’s not how it comes across.

The American public is already inundated with footage of unmarked minivans full of federal agents snatching protesters (or rioters – depending on the situation and your political beliefs) off the street. The left has been making comparisons to secret police and brownshirts.

Even if Trump was just joking or using the question to challenge the Democrats’ motives, he can’t afford to hand the opposition such a damning quote.

At this point in his presidency, Donald Trump is almost entirely reliant upon working-class white voters. Within that demographic are different groups with a variety of political stances and priorities. Many will probably stick with the President no matter what because he’s cultivated a cult of personality more concerned with “owning the libs” than anything going on.

However, a portion of the working-class white electorate is more anti-establishment. They vote for whoever draws the ire of the elite, assuming that means they’re doing something right. Some supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 before flipping to Trump – often out of spite.

Those voters are typically distrusting of authority and are more likely to believe conspiracy theories. Sending federal agents into left-leaning cities to snatch demonstrators and threatening to delay elections – a tactic frequently used by authoritarian leaders across the globe – won’t play well with this group.

Fringe Voters
If their fears over Trump’s “fascist” tendencies overpower the satisfaction of sending a middle finger to the professional-managerial class and affluent liberals (for spending four years hyperventilating and spreading woke culture), they’ll stay home or vote third party on Election Day.

All-In On One Demo

This wouldn’t be such a big deal, except Donald Trump can’t afford to lose any white non-college-educated voters. He needs them to show up to the polls in even larger numbers than they did in 2016.

There are times when Trump will purposely create controversy for himself to keep liberals occupied with a subject of his choosing, to distract from something more damaging. Maybe he’s baiting the public with the “Election Day delay” talk to draw attention away from Herman Cain and the GDP.

Either way, I don’t think this was the route to take.

What I know for sure is Donald Trump was already facing an uphill battle against Joe Biden before Thursday morning. Now, his window of opportunity is considerably smaller, if not closed entirely.

Will Cormier / Author

Will Cormier is a sports and political betting writer living in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. When he’s not wandering around the streets of the Arts District aimlessly, a lifetime of pessimism and paranoia has made Will perfectly suited for handicapping politics. Cormier tries to analyze current events as objectively as possible – a strategy that often enrages loyalists on both the right and the left. When he’s not covering major upcoming elections, Will enjoys writing about basketball, football, and MMA from a betting perspective. He also loves dogs, ice cream sundaes, the movie “Stomp the Yard,” and long walks on the beach.