When Trump talks or tweets, trouble follows
The path to the White House for a frontrunner in the last three months of an election is an obstacle course littered with nasty speed bumps, deep potholes and deadly landmines. The rambunctious national party conventions, the three contentious presidential debates and the inevitable October surprise all have the potential to derail the leader in the race. Just ask Hillary Clinton.
Joe Biden has successfully survived the first round of the gauntlet. He has even prospered according to national polls conducted for CNN before and after the national conventions. Before the party conclaves, Biden had a 4-point lead over Donald Trump, which expanded to 8 percent after the conventions. Polls are not predictions, but the Democratic nominee has gotten past the first leg of the last phase of the long and winding road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Battleground state polls conducted after the party confabs also contained good news for the Democratic nominee. Fox News polls showed Biden with leads in the three key battleground states of Arizona, Wisconsin and North Carolina. The Fox survey in Arizona highlighted the depth of the problem that the GOP faces this year. Not only did the Democratic presidential nominee have a 9-point lead, but the Democratic Senate candidate Joe Kelly had an impressive 17 percent advantage over the beleaguered incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally.
Why did Trump fail to gain any traction in August? He failed to do what he needed to do to revive his fortunes, which should have included diverting attention away from himself and focusing scrutiny on Biden. The campaign has become a referendum on the president and the polls indicate that is a recipe for disaster for Trump.
The new CNN survey indicates that Americans have soured on the president’s performance. Only two out of every five registered voters (41 percent) approve of the president’s performance. A large majority of Americans fault the president for his failure to fight the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed almost 190,000 people and left millions without jobs.
Trump traveled to Kenosha, Wis., last week to do what he does best — make a bad situation worse. In the wake of the tragic police shooting of Jacob Blake and the subsequent unrest there, Trump hoped to make the case that Biden is a threat to law and order. The president also made law and order a theme at his convention, but the CNN survey shows the Democratic nominee with an edge over the president on keeping Americans safe from harm and handling criminal justice issues. Biden enjoys the best of both worlds. Not only has he survived Trump’s challenge on law and order, but the Democrat enjoys a massive advantage on fighting racial inequality.
When Trump tweets or talks, trouble follows. If he had any sense, he would get out of his own way. But he has too much of an ego to stand away from the bright limelight and let the harsh spotlight fall on his opponent.
The best example of Trump being his own worst enemy and his failure to turn attention towards Biden are the comments attributed to him in Atlantic Magazine last week. Any hopes of focusing the campaign against Biden went up in smoke with the report that the president called American soldiers killed in action “suckers” and “losers”. Americans expect a lot more from the man who is supposed to be commander in chief of the armed forces.
Trump is also a traveling time bomb. On a trip to North Carolina last week, the Republican nominee urged his supporters to vote for him twice. His comments unraveled the visit to a key battleground state that he needs to win and where Biden leads.
The only chance the president has to win a second term is to focus media attention and Biden and expose the Democratic candidate’s weak points. But the president is his own worst enemy because he has let this campaign become a referendum on his own presidency. If this dynamic continues, Trump will lose. His only hope for victory is to make the election a decision on Biden’s fitness for the highest office in the land. But Trump’s narcissism makes it impossible for him to do anything but keep the focus on himself.
To survive the grueling stretch run of the content, Biden will need to weather ferocious and withering assaults that the president will launch against him in the three presidential debates. But so far, things have gone well for the Democratic nominee.
Meanwhile the sinking of several ships sailing in a Trump rally in Texas last weekend launched a thousand internet memes because it was a perfect metaphor for the president’s sagging reelection prospects. But as the legendary Yankee great Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
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.