Our observer Alexei Naumov talks about why Trump is rapidly losing support.
As I write, Joe Biden is leading Donald Trump in the polls by 10%. Trump’s support is deteriorating nationwide, and the president is losing his hold on the swing states; even bookmaker odds that once favored Trump now look decidedly different. Why is the president falling behind?
The number of new COVID-19 infections is on the rise in the U.S. Last weekend, the country reported a one-day record of 42,000 cases, following a record set just the day before. This is only part of the problem, however. The ongoing protests against racism, which Democrats have been exploiting for their own political purposes, are just the tip of the iceberg as well.
From the very beginning of the election cycle among the Democratic candidates, Trump has had just one goal – to shift public attention away from himself and toward his Democratic opponent. He achieved a similar goal in 2016. He was obsessed with Hillary Clinton’s flaws and that she was incapable of being president. Today, who can recall what Hillary’s emails were about? Yet, during the election in 2016, they seemed to be one of the hottest topics. The Republicans constructed an image of Clinton as an aging, inadequate and demonic woman, teetering at the edge of the grave.
Now, Trump campaign staffers have a similar goal. They are trying to present Biden as a demented, debauched old man, tainted by involvement in a corruption scandal in Ukraine. As a result, the elections will not reflect a contest between the Republican and the Democratic parties, but a race between Trump and Biden. Trump needs it that way for two reasons.
First, Trump is closely identified with the Republican Party. When we say “the Republicans” we mean “Trump” and vice versa.
Second, even before the apocalyptic events of 2020, the polls showed that Trump was losing to his Democratic opponent due mostly to his own many flaws. Trump lacks enough positive traits to defeat another Republican candidate, but he might still beat Biden, since both of them have fairly bad political records.
The general feeling in 2016 was, well, you know, Trump is not a saint, but he is so much better than that corrupt witch, who is barely alive anyway!
However, Trump has been unlucky in repeating this once successful approach. Amid people dying of COVID-19, the destruction of monuments, and other urgent problems, it seems to be impossible to divert the public’s attention to Biden’s dealings with Ukraine or any of his other wrongdoings. Even Trump’s supporters at a rally in Arizona seemed to be much more enthusiastic when Trump mentioned COVID-19 (or as he’s called it, the “kung flu”) than when he brought up Biden.
So this is an unfortunate scenario for Republicans. The presidential election campaign is turning into a referendum on Trump rather than a contest between the two candidates, and the incumbent does not have much to brag about. COVID-19 cases are spiking, the economic recovery is slow, antiracism protests continue. Previous achievements such as economic growth are now distant memories.
President Trump does not have a persuasive strategy for dealing with these problems. On the one hand, he is trying to manage the protests – signing an executive order to punish vandalizing monuments – on the other hand, he seems to be ignoring the increasing number of COVID-19 cases. Amid all that, he is trying to pick a fight with Biden in an attempt to show voters that Biden is an unstable candidate, a 78-year-old man with lots of personal problems.
It does not look like Trump is succeeding.