President Trump – Ahead of the latest presidential debate, Biden leads the national and battlefield state polls, and Trump’s campaign appears to be floating.
PRESIDENT Donald Trump is running out of arguments – and captivating voters – as he takes on Democratic foe Joe Biden in Nashville on Thursday night in the second and final presidential debate ahead of the November 3 election.
Trump, strapped for campaign money and consistently lagging in national and battleground state polls, has thrown out an array of arguments against Biden with mounting frustration, none that seem to undermine the former vice president’s reputation.
Trump has promoted a “massive” scandal that Biden was involved in illegally “exposing” intelligence sources; Trump’s attorney general investigation ended with no public allegations or findings.
The president has repeatedly accused Biden of being an actor in an alleged scandal involving Biden’s son Hunter’s role on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Despite questions from the GOP-led Senate and others, no criminal misconduct has been uncovered. During Hunter Biden’s first debate on past drug use, Trump’s comments remained unchanged from what polls showed as an obnoxious audience.
The president’s attacks on Biden’s energy and mental acumen did no damage either. Despite all of Trump’s “Sleepy Joe” references and taunts from Trump “Sleepy Joe” about running a campaign from his basement in Wilmington, Delaware, it’s Biden whose campaign strategy kept him in the lead in the surveys (and without COVID-19). A USC poll conducted after the initial debate found that public perceptions of Trump’s physical and mental fitness for office weakened, while Biden’s grew more assertive.
“This is what is happening in the death spiral of a losing campaign. And I’ve been on both sides of the loss of campaigns,” said Matt Bennett, executive vice president of the centrist Democratic group Third Way.
“It doesn’t feel right” to be left with so little time, Bennett added. “Everything you try fails. He’s an incredibly undisciplined activist, but everyone who enters the death spiral panics and tries new things, and it never works. “
Trump’s attempts to portray Biden as a “socialist” or to split the Democratic Party by calling him not liberal enough have also been unsuccessful: Polls show that while Trump’s base may be more devoted to their candidate, Biden’s voters are equally passionate about kicking out Trump.
“Trump is just throwing stuff at the wall” and hopes it sticks, said Mitchell McKinney, director of the University of Missouri’s Institute for Political Communication. And while similar attacks on Hillary Clinton were successful in 2016, experts say, the dynamics were different, given that Trump was running for the first time, and Clinton had a low popularity rating. This year, with the country under the pandemic’s spell, by civil unrest over racial injustice and high unemployment, Trump is on the defensive.
This is nearly one-third of the full 2016 turnout, and the numbers are even higher in battlefield states: In Texas, early-election turnout is already almost 60% of the 2016 Lone Star State turnout. In Arizona, 41% of the votes in 2016 have already voted; in Florida, 38% have done so; in North Carolina, 45% of 2016 votes voted; in Michigan, 37% have already been proven; in Wisconsin, 35% of voters in 2016 voted; in Georgia, 46% of 2016 votes have already voted, and in Iowa 39% have.
Potentially worse for Trump, says veteran Democrat strategist Bob Shrum, is that Trump’s endgame attacks undermine him with precisely the voters he needs to win back – suburban women.
If there is a strategy behind Trump’s attacks, “the only strategy I can think of is to try to get non-college-educated whites to vote at stratospheric levels,” Shrum says. ‘The problem is one: they’re not going to – they never do. And he’s dealt with erosion in non-college-educated white women who care about things like health care “and not wanting to hear a litany of allegations about Biden’s alleged scandals, Shrum says.
“He’s flailing around,” Bennett says. Trump is “convinced that the things that get (Fox News personalities) Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson in a lather are going to work. He’s feeding an audience of 3 million people, and he needs to feed an audience of 63 million,” closer to the number that could see the debate on Thursday night, adds Bennett.
Biden’s camp assumes the race is much closer than public polls indicate, and Trump could win re-election if he only gained small ground in battlefield states. If Trump lost Wisconsin and Michigan, for example, but hang on to Pennsylvania and all the other countries the president won in 2016, he would get a second term. But time is running out.