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Trump's Hail Mary passes won't get him in the end zone

The rest of the presidential campaign in the words of the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes will be “nasty, brutish and short." There are only three weeks to go and with time running out, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE will rely on nasty comments about his opponents and brutish attempts at voter suppression to rescue his faltering campaign.

Trump is way behind and increasingly erratic in these dark and deadly times. A new national survey of likely voters by the Washington Post and ABC News shows Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE with a 12-point lead. In response, the president is increasingly desperate. Frustrated by his inability to travel, he incoherently rants from a White House balcony, lawn and on Twitter. 

Last week Trump even went off on two of his most ardent enablers for not buying into his hare-brained schemes. The president criticized Attorney General Bill Barr for failing to indict Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDemocrats make gains in Georgia Senate races: poll 'Democrat-run cities' fuel the economy, keep many red states afloat Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE and Joe Biden. He also went after Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoWar in the Caucasus: What happens without US leadership — but a chance to get it right Pompeo to meet separately with Azerbaijan, Armenia top diplomats Taking aim at online anti-Semitism MORE for not releasing Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump jokingly blames 'Crooked Hillary' after his rally mic stops working The Hill's Campaign Report: Two weeks to the election l Biden leads in new polls as debate looms l Trump pressures DOJ on Hunter Biden Trump remarks put pressure on Barr MORE’s emails.

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But his Hail Mary passes won’t get him into the end zone. Trump can complain about socialist Democrats until the cows come home. But the only thing he can do to resuscitate his faltering campaign is to explain his failure to fight the pandemic — something he can’t do. The president was asleep at the switch when the pandemic hit and most Americans know it.

The ABC News story headline for the new poll, “Powered by trust on the pandemic, Biden leads by 12 points nationwide,” says it all. The Democratic nominee has a 17-point lead over the president for handling the pandemic.

Only one in five voters believe the pandemic is fully under control and three quarters of the respondents fear they or an immediate family member are in danger of contracting COVID-19. Concern about the disease accounts for public disdain for Trump’s failure to fight the pandemic effectively. Three out of every five voters disapprove of the president’s handling of the pandemic and 62 percent don’t trust what he says about the deadly disease.

Trump’s COVID-19 infection and the spread of the disease among so many White House staffers and prominent Republicans is a vivid reminder to millions of voters of the Trump administration’s failure to control the coronavirus outbreak that has killed so many Americans and left millions more mourning or unemployed.

The president isn’t even capable of taking a consistent position on emergency economic pandemic relief. Early last week he ordered his Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate MORE to end negotiations on a recovery plan with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate MORE (D-Calif.). Trump did a quick reversal and now the administration wants a skinny package that would not include aid to state and local governments burdened by high expenditures and dips in revenue brought about by the recession and by the administration’s feeble fight against COVID-19.

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Trump has few opportunities left to catch up with Biden and he wasted one of them when he passed on a nationally televised debate and a chance to confront his Democratic opponent. Instead, Trump has confined himself to appearances on the Fox News Channel that reach his hardcore supporters but do little to reach out to the swing voters who will decide whether he sinks or swims.

The flaws in the president’s reelection campaign were fully on display last week in the vice presidential debate between his own number two, Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally Trump expresses unhappiness with '60 Minutes' interview, Lesley Stahl LGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress MORE, and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally Overnight Defense: US, Russia closer on nuclear treaty extension after Moscow accepts warhead freeze | Khashoggi's fiancee sues Saudi crown prince | Biden nets hundreds more national security endorsements Democrats make gains in Georgia Senate races: poll MORE (D-Calif.), who is Biden’s running mate.

Pence needed to hit a home run to rescue Trump, but he didn’t even get to first base. He failed to adequately answer a question on so many voters’ minds, which is why the U.S. has a higher per capita rate of COVID-19 deaths than any other nation. The vice president’s inability or unwillingness to address that concern will not help the Republican national ticket improve its position in the polls. 

Like Trump the week before, Pence was also rude to both the moderator and his opponent. He interrupted and talked over Harris and Susan Page. The Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that the GOP ticket is already trailing badly among female voters. Being rude to prominent women like Page and Harris will likely make things worse.

Like his boss, Pence doesn’t have any excuse for the administration’s failure to effectively fight the deadly pandemic and address the subsequent economic carnage. Voters will still be waiting for an explanation from the president and vice president on Election Day.  

Democrats learned the hard way in 2016 that a big lead in October doesn’t guarantee victory in November. But the widespread concern about the spread of the coronavirus isn’t going away. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. have lost their lives because of COVID-19. All Trump can lose is a second term in the White House.

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.