Red flags fly high, but Trump ignores them

Crimson red warning flags fly high, but President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE blindly ignores them. Opinion polls are not predictions; they are, however, warnings to candidates, like lighthouses illuminating rocky shores on dark and stormy nights, that their campaigns are in trouble and they need to get their act together before it’s too late.

Just about everyone, with the notable exception of the president and a few diehard supporters, acknowledge that he trails the presumptive Democratic nominee, former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenFormer Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick Bloomberg rolls out M ad buy to boost Biden in Florida MORE, in the national polls and in surveys conducted in key battleground states. 

Biden is ahead but that doesn’t mean the former vice president will win the job that he has coveted so much, for so long. Polls are not predictive, but they are explanatory and they do indicate why Trump is in so much trouble, why his reelection campaign has been a bust so far and why he’ll lose if he doesn’t change his strategy. Fortunately, for Democrats, not only is Trump in trouble, but he has failed to acknowledge the storm warnings that could sink him.

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Since he has been president, Donald Trump has played to his base, but it has put him wildly out of sync with mainstream public opinion.

For example, his approach to fighting the pandemic.

Most Americans feel discretion is the better part of valor, while the president wants to charge full speed ahead with reopening schools and businesses, which could put the lives of school children and workers at risk. Polls conducted by ABC News in July indicate that Americans oppose reopening schools this fall and believe the economy is reopening too quickly. The good news for the president is that Republicans share his rush to reopen. The bad news is that there aren’t enough true believers to help him win a second term. 

The president wants to throw caution to the wind like a player at one of his bankrupt casinos and reopen American society while the COVID-19 pandemic rages with the intensity of a California wildfire. Most Americans, on the other hand, are willing to be patient and wait for the pandemic to break before returning to normal. The contrast between the president’s haste and the public’s patience means only one in three Americans approve the president’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The real question is why the president is so hell bent on a path that will only lead to defeat? There are many answers to this question. Perhaps he is stubborn and incapable of admitting that he was wrong when he dismissed the danger of the pandemic. Maybe it’s because he is a “one trick pony” and the only thing he can do well is to play to his base, like he did back in 2016. Finally, there is Jim AcostaJames (Jim) AcostaToddlers' parents sue Trump over doctored 'racist baby' video Debate Commission snubs Latinos — again Red flags fly high, but Trump ignores them MORE’s explanation which the CNN correspondent shared with Anderson Cooper on air that the only people left in the White House are the Kool-Aid drinkers and next of kin.

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Then there’s the message mess facing the president’s reelection.

To work well, a message must be concise, compelling and credible. “Make America Great Again” worked like gangbusters in 2016. It was concise, compelling and it summarized the main arguments in the Trump political arsenal. The logical next step for 2020 would have been “He Made America Great Again” but with the COVID-19 casualty rate mounting and the economy so low, that wouldn’t even come close to being credible.

The current theme. “The Great American Comeback Has Begun” is just plain silly and counterproductive while the pandemic gets worse and the economy shrinks. The lack of a convincing message may explain why the president’s reelection campaign placed a moratorium on television advertising last week. A lot of media backed by a bad message is just a big waste of money.

The problem Trump faces is that the 2020 campaign has become a referendum on his feeble performance fighting the pandemic. Because of his failure to find a credible positive message, he is trying to make the election a thumbs up or thumbs down on Biden.

But the attempt to make Joe Biden the central issue in the campaign has been ham-handed.  Trump has charged that people won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America. This line of attack doesn’t even begin to meet the credibility test at a time when more than 150,000Americans have already died on Trump’s watch and the Center for Disease Control estimates the body count could grow to 180,000 in the next three weeks. 

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Joe Biden’s message “Build Back Better” is not very compelling but it is credible. Biden hopes to rebuild America on the foundation that a well-liked president, Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDemocrats ramp up pressure on Lieberman to drop out of Georgia Senate race The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on Trump: 'He'll leave' l GOP laywers brush off Trump's election remarks l Obama's endorsements Trump pledges to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, designate KKK a terrorist group in pitch to Black voters MORE created. The best example is Biden’s plan to extend the benefits of the popular Affordable Care Act to more low-income Americans. 

Biden’s approach isn’t earth shaking but it is a back-to-basics proposal that sounds safe and appeals to the millions of people who fear the U.S. is spiraling completely out of control.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.