How Donald Trump can raise his political game against Joe Biden
Recent polling indicates that Donald Trump could lose the 2020 election. Even traditional red states such as Texas are now in play. The president is in need of a focused and effective message for his campaign. Rather than continuously slam the cognitive function of Joe Biden, Trump must hone a revised version of his 2016 banner that Democrats are major threats to the prosperity of middle class Americans. If the president drives this message home consistently, then he can win a second term in November.
So far the strategy for Trump has been to simply portray his opponent as doddering and impaired. Indeed, voters already realize Biden is at best an inelegant speaker. Age has taken its toll on his mental acuity and ability to get a message across. Trump tried to drive the point home by calling him “Sleepy Joe” and challenging him to take a mental acuity test. But Trump has inadvertently given Biden two advantages with this strategy.
First, it allows Biden to stay in his basement by citing the coronavirus and giving the occasional press conference. He can avoid making his mistakes and still come out ahead. Just by reading scripted sound bites and looking like he knows what day it is, Biden can surpass this very low bar set by the president. Biden could walk across campaign season while hiding more of his cognitive decline from the national audience. There is even a growing movement to cancel the 2020 debates. The University of Notre Dame has already said it will not host the first debate due to the pandemic.
Second, if Trump is simply playing defense, he is not actively appealing to middle class voters, leaving the door open for the left to set the narrative. Democrats can send out the image of Biden as a blue collar hero. “Did you know he was born in Scranton? Did you know he rode the Amtrak home to be with his family?” Slap a hard hat on him and Biden ameliorates much of the “learn to code” elitism seen with the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Compared to the attacks on Clinton, those being thrown at Biden have not borne the same fruit because they are out of step with what his candidacy truly represents. The president must prove to the Rust Belt workers that he carried in 2016 that his opponent is against their interests. Biden wants to restrict fracking that revitalized states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Biden also wants to repeal the tax cuts and end the online sale of firearms. His watered down version of the Green New Deal would further hinder our competitiveness, harm fossil fuel workers, and stick on another $2 trillion to our already exploding national debt. These are several of the messages that the president needs to be hammering relentlessly. Instead, Trump is daring Biden to take a test which includes identifying an elephant.
The president cannot afford to lose blue collar workers in the Midwest. He turned the margin of 12 points with white voters for Romney in 2012 to the margin of 30 points in 2016. It was this surge that put Trump over the top in states across the Rust Belt. But polling now shows Trump behind in the former industrial states that led him to victory. There remains a chance of a “Shy Tory” situation where Republicans represent a majority silenced by the shaming of conservatives in the media. Yet the numbers of Trump are worse today than they were before his surprise win four years ago.
The president has time to turn these tides. After all, his lowest point came one month before the 2016 election. But the effort is heavier this time. It is easier throwing stones as the outsider looking in. As commander in chief, the onus is on Trump to show voters that his policies are effective. Rather than instigate arguments over senility, Trump must prove the economy is gearing up for a once in a lifetime comeback from the financial downturn caused by the coronavirus, aiding middle class workers the most.
If Trump cannot prove the nation is resilient, then he is in trouble this fall. He must remind voters why it is a risk to return to the policies of the last administration that harmed the heart of the country for almost a decade. If he fails, he might have to call moving vans to the White House.
Kristin Tate is a libertarian author and an analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is a Robert Novak journalism fellow at the Fund for American Studies. Her newest book is “The Liberal Invasion of Red State America.”