How Donald Trump can raise his political game against Joe Biden
Recent polling indicates that Donald Trump is losing the 2020 election. Even states like Texas are now in play. The president’s campaign is in need of a focused, effective message. Rather than spend time attacking Joe Biden’s cognitive function, Trump must hone a revised version of his 2016 banner: Biden and the political left are a threat to the wellbeing of working and middle class Americans. If the president drives this message home consistently until election day, he can win in November.
So far Trump’s strategy has been to unrelentingly portray his opponent as doddering and cognitively impaired. Indeed, voters realize the aging Biden is, at best, an inelegant speaker. Age has clearly taken its toll on his mental acuity and ability to get a message across.
Trump tried to drive the point home by labeling Biden “Sleepy Joe” and challenging him to take a mental acuity test. Trump inadvertently gave Biden two advantages through this strategy.
First, Biden can stay in his basement as long as he needs to, citing the coronavirus and giving the occasional press conference, while avoiding opportunities to misspeak and still coming out ahead. Just by reading scripted sound bites and sounding like he knows what day it is, Biden can surpass the very low bar set by the president.
The former vice president may get through the campaign season while effectively hiding any cognitive decline from a national audience. There is even a growing movement to cancel the 2020 debates; Notre Dame University has already said it will not host the first presidential debate in September, citing the pandemic.
Second, as long as Trump is playing defense, he is not actively appealing to working class people, leaving the door open to the Biden campaign to set the narrative. Democrats can trot out the exaggerated image of Biden as a blue collar hero.
“Did you know he was born in Scranton? Rode the Amtrak home so he could be with his family?” Slap a hardhat on him, and Biden ameliorates so much of the facile “learn to code” elitism of the Clinton 2016 campaign.
Compared to Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton, those being lobbed at Biden have not borne the same fruit because they are out of step with what the Democrat’s candidacy truly represents.
The president can and must prove to the Rust Belt workers he carried in 2016 that his opponent stands staunchly against their interests. Biden wants to restrict the same fracking that revitalized states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
He also wants to repeal the Trump tax cuts, resulting in lower GDP and take home pay for working families; he wants to ban the manufacture and sale of firearms and require “assault rifles” be registered with the government (while prohibiting the sale of new ones).
His watered down “Green New Deal” proposal will further hinder American competitiveness, harm fossil fuel jobs, and tack on another $2 trillion to our already exploding national debt. These are the messages the president should be hammering relentlessly.
Instead, he is daring Biden to take a test that includes identifying an elephant.
Trump cannot afford to lose blue collar workers in the Midwest. He turned Mitt Romney’s 12 percent advantage with white working class voters in 2012 to a significant 30 percent margin four years ago. It was this surge that put Trump over the top in states across the Rust Belt.
Polling shows Trump behind in each of the former industrial states that led him to victory. Reflecting on the 2016 results, Trump supporters may find little value in polling. There is a real chance of a “shy Tory” situation, in which GOP voters represent a majority silenced by media and pop culture shaming of Republicans.
Still, Trump’s polling figures are worse today than they were before his surprise win four years ago.
Trump has time to turn the tides. After all, his lowest point in the election came just one month before November in 2016. But the lift is heavier this time. It is easier casting stones as an outsider looking in.
As president, the onus is on Trump now to show voters that his policies work. Rather than instigate arguments over senility tests, he must prove that the economy is gearing up for a once in a lifetime comeback from the pandemic, aiding the working and middle classes the most.
If the president cannot prove the nation’s been winning so much we are tired of winning, he’s in trouble. After all, the nation’s scorching economic growth before the pandemic showed how much the nation turned around since rejecting Obama-Biden policies.
Trump must prove to the nation why it is a profound risk to return to the same policies that harmed our working and middle classes for almost a decade. If he does not, he might as well call up moving vans to the White House.
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