Boring is Biden’s ‘Trump’ card

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As juvenile as they may be, taunts and epithets can be effective in political campaigns. “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” and “Little Marco Rubio” were nasty nicknames bestowed or amplified by Donald Trump against his 2016 Republican opponents. In the case of Cruz, the epithet struck a nerve in exploiting a feeling that the Texas senator was a bit slippery. And for Trump if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So, he is at it again smearing Vice President Biden with the moniker “Sleepy Joe.”

The problem for Trump is that “Sleepy Joe” is not an insult — it’s a compliment. For Biden and the Democrats, boring and sleepy is an asset, and it may well be what closes the deal with the voters in November.

There is little that Americans can agree on when it comes to politics, but everyone can agree that the Trump administration has been tumultuous, to say the least. Trump operates like the federal government is just a backdrop for a never-ending episode of “The Apprentice,” except that he dominates every scene. And, just like “The Apprentice,” Trump is constantly trying to make every scene more outrageous than the one before. After all, dull is death in the TV business.

But eventually the public gets tired of the show, and outrageous goes from entertainment to caricature to banality. And then, just like “The Apprentice,” it’s cancelled.

The Democratic Party leadership and the media have been slow to grasp this. They have been stewing over a lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden. If Biden could capture the excitement that Bernie Sanders generated, he could ride that excitement to the White House, goes the thinking. But Bernie got drubbed by the nice, safe, boring alternative — and Biden may be able to do the same to Trump.

It is not news that Trump trails Biden in favorability and in all issue areas except the economy. And Biden has led Trump almost continuously in the national polls for the past two years. But lately Trump has been edging down in the ballot test with Biden and losing ground in the sub-category questions. In the YouGov poll, Trump has slipped into the negative on leadership with 52 percent believing he is a “weak” leader.

This decay has coincided with a particularly active storm of events and angry tweets. The coronavirus and George Floyd killing shattered a relatively calm first three years of the Trump administration — that is to say, few outside events have disturbed a growing economy. Much of the drama up until the coronavirus pandemic hit was manufactured by Trump and had little real effect on Americans’ day-to-day lives.

But the coronavirus and civil rights protests have upset that calm. And Trump has chosen to amplify the storm and the conflicts rather than smooth things over (which is the opposite of past presidential practice — and of public preference). The public has clearly noticed, giving Trump universally poor marks in dealing with both issues. The public believes he has mishandled the coronavirus pandemic 50 percent to 44 percent and the protests 53 percent to 36 percent. In addition, the public is not confident in how Trump will handle a crisis, with 54 percent “uneasy” and just 36 percent “confident.”

And then there is the tweeting.

Simply put, the public is sick of it. Every demographic group thinks Trump’s tweeting is “inappropriate:” men, women, young, old. Only conservatives (49 percent) and Republicans (53 percent) think Trump’s tweeting is “appropriate” — and those percentages are by far the lowest marks for a man normally getting approval marks in the 70s to 80s from members of the GOP.

All this adds up to a public looking for a respite from the tempest that surrounds Trump.

The Democrats would be better served with a latter-day Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy — charismatic candidates with a natural instinct for politics. But that is not on offer. The most charismatic Democrat in 2020 was an 81-year-old socialist too far out of the mainstream of the party. Bernie Sanders would have countered Trump’s whirlwind with a revolution that few wanted.

In Biden the Democrats certainly have a flawed candidate — a man too eager to please whomever he is talking to at the moment and prone to verbal gaffes. But Biden is not going down the revolutionary path demanded by the activists. He is not tweeting or trying to create an alternate three-ring circus. He demurred from the reflexive “defund the police” fad.

In short, Biden is boring — and it’s working.

Keith Naughton, Ph.D., co-founder of Silent Majority Strategies, is a public affairs consultant who specialized in Pennsylvania judicial elections. Follow him on Twitter @KNaughton711.

Tags 2020 election Bernie Sanders boring chaos Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump election polling George Floyd protests insults Joe Biden John Kennedy Marco Rubio Sleepy Joe Ted Cruz The Apprentice Trump tweets weak leader

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