Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election in 2016 surprised most people – including himself. It has since been agreed that he will win again. But there is a moment when the stance that burned children shy away from fire becomes an intellectual abdication.
Most of the numbers, including the Trump campaign polls, show that he’s headed for defeat in November. Common sense points in the same direction. It was one thing to win against Hillary Clinton – America’s most polarizing figure at the time. The other thing would be for him to beat the popular Joe Biden, the president has long split the Naton more than Clinton did.
Trump’s dwindling opportunities can also be seen in his increasing panic. The simplest measure is his tweets, which he now sends on average four times as often per day as in his first year in office and almost three times as often as in second year. Twice this year, including Mother’s Day, Trump posted over a hundred tweets while most of America was sleeping.
Although it hardly seemed possible, the content has also decreased. Recent low points include the recurring claim that Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, murdered an employee in 2001. Even Pro Trump publications felt obliged to reject this caricaturally evil claim.
But Trump rides the most – on social media as well as outside – that his opponents tried to steal his election in November. That deserves a closer look. In no country, including the United States, can I find an example of an elected prime minister claiming that his own system is against him.
What is certain is that Trump raised this allegation as an outsider in 2016 because he assumed he was going to lose. After taking office, he launched an investigation to support his claim that millions of illegal immigrants had voted against him. The investigation fizzled and was discontinued in 2018.
Trump wants low turnout
It is almost as difficult to find examples of leading politicians trying to lower voter turnout. But that’s Trump’s goal for November and shows that he is pessimistic about the vote. There is no evidence that postal voting would benefit the Democrats – but there are some that show that it helped the Republicans. Nevertheless, Trump does everything he can to make life harder for absent voters.
That would be astonishing enough in a normal year. In a pandemic, it shows the intention to suppress votes. Polling stations are considered crowded places, which will prevent many from voting. It is not without reason that Trump assumes that the democratic electorate will be more worried about the pathogen than the followers of the Republicans.
However, there are unequivocal signs that Trump’s pandemic record is deterring older voters. At the end of February, the US president had a two-digit lead over Joe Biden among the 65-year-old voters. Recent surveys, on the other hand, show that Biden is now ten points ahead.
You will find more infographics at Statista
By election research standards, this is a tectonic shift. It explains why in Florida, where many retirees live and where Trump has his primary residence, Joe Biden is four points ahead on average in the polls. The same goes for Arizona. Biden has a clear lead in Michigan and Pennsylvania and a narrow lead in Wisconsin – the three states that made the difference in the 2016 election. Even in the deeply republican states of Georgia and Texas, Biden Trump is on his heels. If such numbers were to last until November, Trump could face a landslide defeat.
Joe Biden never misses a stick
Two circumstances could still prevent this. The first is Joe Biden. The November election will be a referendum on Donald Trump. All Biden has to do is not to interrupt the US President while he continues to defeat himself. However, this is not as easy as it sounds. Because Biden shifts from one fat box to the next. So far, the corona virus has played into his cards because it prevented his campaign appearances.
Choosing his deputy candidate could also prove difficult. If he chooses a middle-class politician like Amy Klobuchar, the panache of the party base could weaken. If he chooses a left-wing candidate like Elizabeth Warren, he could cheat the voters from the suburbs.
The second circumstance would be a rapid economic recovery. This is what Donald Trump is trying to accomplish by pushing for an end to contact restrictions. He also threatens to move his North Carolina nominating congress to another state unless the governor agrees to a normal (crowded) event.
This is Trump’s unsolvable dilemma. A short-term setback would pose the greatest threat to retired Americans. The seniors helped Trump get into office. Threatening your safety now is a strange way to reciprocate.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020