Is Donald Trump going to lose the November presidential election? In January, will he join the “four-year presidents,” George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) and Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), even though the vast majority of those elected to the White House normally stay for eight years?
In normal times, with the numbers available today, the latest trends in U.S. opinion—for example, on the fight against racism or police violence—and a functioning electoral system … the answer would have to be “yes, undoubtedly, Trump is screwed.”
This president has always been in the minority when it comes to public opinion, from his first minute in office on Jan. 20, 2017, to the 1,242nd day of his presidency (today).
No former president in the past 75 years—not even the poorly loved Richard M. Nixon (second term), Gerald R. Ford, or Harry S. Truman (second term)—has consistently remained below a 50% approval rating.
Due to the George Floyd scandal, the president’s latest approval rating numbers are between 38% and 44%, and his disapproval rating is between 53% and 58%. The latest poll, released Friday by Public Policy Polling, is 54-43. A week ago, a SSRS-CNN investigation even showed 57-38.
The same CNN poll recorded that 41% intended to vote for Trump in November, and 55% for Joe Biden.
Thirty-eight percent is precisely the amount of support Carter had in June 1980, and Bush had in June 1992 … on the eve of their losing fall campaigns.
These numbers have apparently made Trump angry. Last week, one of his advisers went so far as to threaten the cable channel with legal action if it did not retract that sacrilegious poll. Are these signs that the White House is beginning to panic?
From all the evidence, they are planning a “dirty” campaign, in which everything will be on the table — including advance complaints about the enemy’s “cheating.”
First, give up on searching for consensus in the middle (impossible in the U.S. in 2020). Consolidate; mobilize the pure, die-hard Republican base that remains important even though it’s a minority … then, from now to October, rise two additional points in public opinion polls.
Finally, ensure that on Nov. 3, these 42%-43% become, thanks to higher mobilization of this sector of the electorate, effectively 44% or 45%. From there, thanks to a voting system skewed toward the “big voters,” a snatch victory becomes possible.
In 2016, Trump won with 2 points less than Hillary Clinton. According to specialists, the gap could widen to 5 points, always with a possible victory. Joe Biden thus needs a 6-point lead to hope to win.
Add to that the anticipated sabotage of the Democratic vote, which has already begun in some primary elections. In some Republican states, they have put up roadblocks for those—mostly Democrats—who wanted to register to vote, vote by mail due to the pandemic, ensure a sufficient number of polling places, and so on.
Trump will fight tooth and nail. His survival strategy will be ruthless. It could bring the United States to the brink of an electoral crisis … and to the margins of democracy.