What’s behind Trump’s slump? Americans are exhausted, for one thing
Anything can happen between now and Election Day, but if something dramatic doesn’t happen soon, something that works in Donald Trump’s favor, Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States.
President Trump is losing by wide margins in the latest national polls. He’s losing in battleground state polls. He’s losing among crucial independent voters. And even groups that still support the president — white evangelical Christians, for example — don’t support him to the extent they did in 2016.
More and more Americans seem to have come to the conclusion that Donald Trump simply isn’t fit for the job. They’ve come to the conclusion that he’s a man of questionable character, or a president who has failed to show leadership during the crises we’ve been facing.
Yes, about 20 percent (more or less) of his base will never abandon him. I can’t think of anything he might do that would cause them to drop their support for him. But the rest of his base is losing faith. That’s what the polls are telling us, anyway. They may not vote for Joe Biden but, if they sit home on Nov. 3, that’s a vote against Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump never reached out to voters outside his base. He was content simply to bask in the adulation of his most loyal fans. He didn’t think he needed anyone else. He was wrong.
Presidents are supposed to at least try to unite the various factions in the country. Donald Trump never did. He doesn’t know how, apparently.
In 2016, he was running against an unlikeable opponent. This time around, he’s running against a candidate with many faults, but even a Joe Biden who may not be as sharp as he once was, is more likable than Hillary Clinton — and so Donald Trump can’t count on everyone who voted for him the last time around to vote for him again in November.
Are there some voters who lie to the pollsters, who say they won’t vote for Mr. Trump because they don’t need the grief that they think goes with acknowledging you like the president? Sure. But that matters only in a close race. As of now, it’s not close.
Donald Trump was counting on a strong economy to carry him back to the Oval Office. We don’t know what the economy will look like in the fall. But if it doesn’t rebound the way he’s promised, if the coronavirus doesn’t disappear the way he has said it will, then all that’s left is Donald Trump himself. And that’s what will do him in.
Americans are exhausted with this president, exhausted with his dishonesty, with his narcissism, with his nastiness. They’re exhausted with the nonstop controversies and chaos.
As 2020 began, no one could have predicted what, in fact, has come to pass — the worst public health crisis since 1918 and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. And so, no one can see how the next four months will unfold, either.
Maybe Joe Biden will perform so badly in the presidential debates that voters will worry (even more than they already do) about his mental state, about his ability to lead the country. That’s possible. Maybe Donald Trump will be less divisive and more compassionate. Based on what we’ve seen so far, that is not very probable.
And if the revolutionaries continue to tear down statues and vandalize monuments, if they take over parts of American cities while demanding that we “defund the police,” that could work in the president’s favor.
Mr. Biden’s failure to convincingly, unequivocally condemn today’s lawlessness should worry reasonable people. If he’s afraid of offending the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, how will he stand up to those on the far left after he’s elected? My guess is that he won’t.
Joe Biden may not be able to lead a deeply divided country. From what we’ve seen so far, however, neither is Donald Trump.
In 2016, voters took a chance on something new — a tough businessman who promised to “drain the swamp.” But Donald Trump isn’t new anymore. And that’s why he’s in so much trouble.
Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist, is a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.