The reality is that Trump is on track to lose by a landslide. This has been evident all year. Why? Not because the election is rigged, the political system is corrupt or the media is biased, but because Trump has been a catastrophic president.
Source: Troy Bramston, News Corp
US election 2020: Voters are tired of Trump’s catastrophic presidency
It is not surprising that Trump is trailing Joe Biden by an average of nine to 10 points in national polls. Biden is reaching into the early 50s while Trump struggles in the low 40s. Biden’s national lead is far greater than Hillary Clinton ever achieved. It is the biggest lead any challenger has had since 1936. This is an important electoral sign but it is not necessarily predictive. Trump lost the popular vote four years ago.
More worrying for Trump is the battleground states. Trump is well behind in the three midwestern states he won unexpectedly, although narrowly, in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump trails Biden by six to eight points in these states. If the same margin of error four years ago is repeated, Trump will still lose all of them. It is difficult to see a pathway to victory for Trump without winning these states. Moreover, Biden has stable polling leads in Arizona, Florida and North Carolina. Biden also is leading in the average of polls taken in Georgia, Iowa and Ohio.
Trump won all of these states in 2016. If Trump loses Florida, it is probably all over.
The polling is concerning Republicans so much that they fear down-ballot losses. Some Republican Senate and house candidates are distancing themselves from Trump. There is a good chance that Democrats could win control of the Senate. A 50-50 Senate would give Kamala Harris the casting vote as vice-president.
There is no doubt that Biden, at age 77, is missing a few beats. But the debate showed he is intellectually, physically and cognitively up to the job of being president. Picture: Getty
Where candidates campaign is indicative of how they see the contest. Trump is on the defensive, spending time mostly in states he won in 2016. Biden is on the offensive, eyeing Democratic gains in multiple states. This mirrors the advertising spend and allocation of campaign resources.
Trump needs to expand his base to win re-election. But all the data shows him losing voters since 2016. His approval rating is 44 per cent according to Gallup. This is below the first-term average for every president since Harry Truman. Trump has not achieved 50 per cent approval in a Gallup poll this year. A month from their re-election, Barack Obama’s approval was 50 per cent, George W. Bush’s was 49 per cent and Bill Clinton’s was 56 per cent.
Another important measure of the mood of voters is to ask about the direction of the country. Just 31 per cent of voters think the US is on the right track and 62 per cent say it is on the wrong track. This reflects poorly on Trump as the incumbent president. It is often forgotten that voters have already judged Trump’s presidency in the 2018 midterm elections. The result? Republicans lost the House of Representatives.
The most important election issue is COVID-19. Trump’s handling of the pandemic has been disastrous. The US has a higher infection and death rate than any other major developed economy. Trump lied about how deadly the virus was, delayed acting and his eventual response has been flawed. He mocked masks, ignored social distancing, suggested injecting bleach and recommended drugs with dangerous side effects. Trump getting COVID-19 is emblematic of his failures. Most voters believe he would not have tested positive for the virus if he had taken it more seriously.
The key for Democrats was choosing the right candidate to face Trump. The most viable was always Biden. He is experienced, having served as vice-president and senator, and is a moderate on policy. He is not from the Democratic Party’s loony left wing. Biden is a centrist. It is mistaken to think Biden’s support is fuelled only by anti-Trump sentiment.
Even before the Democratic primaries and caucuses this year, Biden was viewed much more favourably than Trump. Biden has made inroads into Trump’s base, especially with men and white non-college graduates, and leads among younger and older voters, women, college graduates and non-white voters. Biden has a broad coalition of support. Enthusiasm for Biden lags that for Trump, but the gap is closing.
There is no doubt that Biden, at age 77, is missing a few beats. But the debate showed he is intellectually, physically and cognitively up to the job of being president. Is everything Trump says lucid, logical and coherent? Of course not. The bottom line is that Biden passes the character test; Trump does not.
Biden’s key pitch to voters is that he will unite, not divide; lead with dignity and integrity; treat people with respect, not derision; be honest, not dishonest; and he will listen rather than lecture. Biden uniquely matches this moment as the perfect anti-Trump. Voters are fatigued by Trump’s intellectually and morally bankrupt presidency. Biden is an experienced, safe, mainstream candidate for president.
Those desperate to keep the MAGA — Make America Great Again — dream alive comfort themselves with talk of “shy Trump voters”. There may be polling errors this year. But pollsters have made improvements in their sampling, including weighting by education and geography. The truth is that Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by what was a normal polling error. It was a close result. Trump drew the wrong lessons from victory.
If Trump does lose, it will become the new “lost cause”. This is the myth that sustained the sons and daughters of Confederate soldiers that their crusade was right and they were not defeated. Trump’s MAGA supporters will burnish this faith. It will never die. Trump will become its chief propagandist. A dynasty of Trump candidates beckons. Or Trump could run again in 2024.
Some commentators said Trump could not win four years ago. This was a monumental error of judgment. Trump appealed to the cultural anxieties and economic insecurities of Americans and capitalised on Clinton’s deep unpopularity. Clinton was always the likely winner according to the polls, but it was by no means certain. Trump always had a chance of victory.
But Trump was lucky in 2016. He essentially won the presidency by a combined 77,744 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. He was helped by third-party candidates who siphoned votes from Clinton. There was no electoral college sweep. He lost the popular vote by 2.8 million. This time the election will be a referendum on Trump’s presidency. He needs all the luck he can get.