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The clock is ticking and Trump is still taking a shellacking

The clock is ticking and Trump is still taking a shellacking
© ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

The campaign clock is ticking and Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE is taking a shellacking. The president is running out of time and opportunities to take Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Senate approves two energy regulators, completing panel Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race MORE out. His last chance to confront the Democratic nominee directly comes Thursday night when the two candidates face off in the second and last nationally televised debate.

To resuscitate his faltering campaign, Trump needs to hit a home run after failing to even get to first base in the first direct confrontation between the two contenders. The president still has a slim path to victory in the Electoral College. Biden leads nationally and in many of the battleground states, but many of the close purple state contests are too close to call. 

To take Biden down, Trump needs to take advantage of the limited opportunities he still has available, including performing at a higher level than his running mate, Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump set for precedent-breaking lame-duck period Trump pardons Michael Flynn O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE, who flubbed the debate against Biden’s vice presidential pick, Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisWho will replace Harris in Senate? 'Rising' discusses Wisconsin formally declares Biden won election following recount Moderate Democrats: Everyone's older siblings MORE. CNN post-debate polls showed that both Democrats outclassed their GOP rivals by a decisive margin. 

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The dueling network town hall appearances last Thursday night certainly didn’t help the GOP cause. Both candidates were true to form — Biden appeared calm, while Trump seemed heated.

Having taken a pass to go head-to-head with Biden, he ran into a head-on collision with moderator Savannah Guthrie. There really haven’t been any memorable lines from the candidates in these forums but Guthrie had one last week when she quizzed the president on his retweet of a QAnon right wing conspiracy post and said, “You’re the president. You’re not, like someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”

Guthrie’s tough interview with Trump sets a high bar for her NBC colleague Kristin Welker, the moderator of this week’s debate. Both candidates better come with their A games, be ready for tough questions and be on their best behavior.

Biden is running ahead and there are two things that he needs to do to seal the deal.

Polls indicate that a large majority of voters fault the president on handling the pandemic, but the incumbent still maintains a slim advantage on dealing with the economy. But the failing economy is a direct consequence of Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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It is vital for Biden to connect the dots between the deadly economy and the failed economy. A new Columbia University study found that 8 million Americans have slipped into poverty since May. Emergency pandemic relief expired more than two months ago. The Democratic House passed a relief bill before the cutoff, but the president and Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate approves two energy regulators, completing panel On The Money: Biden announces key members of economic team | GOP open to Yellen as Treasury secretary, opposed to budget pick | GAO: Labor Department 'improperly presented' jobless data Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary MORE (R-Ky.) haven’t done anything in months to help Americans who have suffered because of the lingering economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Biden should expect the president to be as aggressive as he was in their first encounter. Trump has a lot more to lose than another four years in the White House. If he fails to win another term, Trump could face serious legal problems and massive financial obligations. 

The campaign has become a referendum on an unpopular president so Trump will use the final debate as a last ditch, do or die effort to turn the tables and make his challenger the issue.  Republicans haven’t been able to lay a glove on Biden, so they’re going after his son, Hunter Biden, for his business deals in the Ukraine.

The Democratic challenger needs to quickly dispense with the attack and move on to make his case on problems like the pandemic, which is the president’s kryptonite. Karen Ritter, a Democratic strategist and a former Pennsylvania state representative, thinks Biden should respond directly and succinctly to attacks on his son with this response, “Congressional Republicans have tried several times to find anything they could to smear my son and help your campaign. And they found nothing because there is nothing. So, you are just lying yet again.” 

The only poll that really counts comes on Election Day. But time is running out and Trump is in trouble. Unless the president quickly finds a way to shake up this race and uses the final debate to turn the tables on the Democratic nominee, the polls we see now are the results we’ll get on election night.


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.