The way things are going President Donald Trump must be wondering which drubbing would be better: the one President Jimmy Carter got in 1980; or the whipping Walter Mondale received in 1984. Either way it does not matter for the 45th President of the United States: he will be the last person to accept defeat and probably will have to be dragged out of the White House should he lose the November 3 showdown with the former Vice President Joseph Biden.
Trump and his election team are literally looking with dismay at the raft of national polls showing the Big Man trailing the soon to be formalized Democratic nominee by between 9 and 15 points; and the worst news that came by this week: a staunch Red state like Ohio is now in “Play”, meaning that the Democrats could hedge their bets.
The old adage goes that when a man is drowning he tries to catch hold of every straw that comes his way. And a politically drowning Trump and his cohorts are doing exactly that: trying to attack the opponent on anything and everything that comes their way even if it borders on obnoxious or plain silly and stupid, just hoping against hopes that something will work.
First the broadside against Biden for being an agent of the socialists and communists; and then his rants about cultural subversions, that Democrats are undoing the history of America by insulting the Confederacy; of a deep conspiracy of Biden and Company of holding back the re-opening of schools with a view to bring down the economy. And the most laughable recent gaffe that was even scorned by the President’s favorite media outlet Fox News is that somehow Biden had signed on with radical elements to “defund” police!
In accusing Democratic Mayors of running cities poorly, Trump argued that things have really gone out of control. “ They are liberally run. They are stupidly run. They’ve run them poorly. It was always bad, but now it’s gotten totally out of control…It’s really because they want to defund the police, and Biden wants to defund the police,” Trump told Chris Wallace when he was stopped in his tracks. “No, sir, he (Biden) does not” countered Wallace who went on to say that the President insisted that the Democratic nominee had indeed signed on to that policy document and ordered his aide to get the papers. But lo and behold there was nothing to substantiate his charge leaving Wallace to remark, “… couldn’t find any indication, because there isn’t any, that Joe Biden had sought to defund and abolish the police.”
What riles the President and his campaign is that nothing seems to be working. None of the charges against Biden seem to be getting any traction let alone making a dent in opinion polls. In fact survey after survey is showing that Trump is sliding even among his key constituents like uneducated or non-college Whites, the religious right and evangelicals. It is not as though these groups are getting ready to abandon their man, but support is slipping and that bothers the President and his Vice President, Mike Pence. If Ohio is in “play”, Biden has indeed come a long way from his drubbings in Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. With the coronavirus continuing to wreak havoc in America and slowly taking a heavy toll in Republican states like Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and Arizona, seniors in the Grand Old Party are wondering how the end game is going to play out.
The Republicans have not abandoned Trump and a sizeable section will not under any circumstances. But the fact remains that even within the conservative groups there is considerable consternation on the manner in which Trump has handled the pandemic. More than 3 million Americans are infected across all 50 states; more than 137,000 have died; and estimates are that another 80,000-odd could die prior to the November elections. However much Trump and his cronies try to deny the existence of a debilitating virus, if a second wave should strike the United States, the economy will go in a tailspin and putting to naught the small hope in the White House that the economy will still recover in the next three months to make a difference in November.
If there is still one area that Trump scores more than 50 per cent, it is on the economy. Which is why the President and his advisors were hell bent on opening schools and colleges: to show that things are normal and hopefully economic activity will pick up. But that is not going to happen in the fashion the Republican President wants. And hence the frustration and anger! And giving his campaign manager Brad Parscale the boot has also not had any immediate effect; if anything it has left a bad taste within the campaign in the manner a loyalist was shown the door. But again, this is Donald Trump.
Anything can happen in politics and in the realm of American Presidential politics, three and a half months is a long way to go. In fact, political pundits will make the argument today that back in 2016, Hillary Clinton enjoyed the same advantage in a raft of polls, somewhat similar to what Biden is looking at these days. And if observers are making the point that Biden has yet to step up to the plate and has to urgently do so, they are not without good reason. For between now and showdown time there is just about anything Trump will do to keep his seat in the Oval Office for nothing is too low for a man who is desperate to hang on to power, even if it means looking for a piece of straw by way of a war with China in the South China Seas or with Iran on a bogus charge of attacking some fishing boat somewhere in the Persian Gulf!
- The writer was a former senior journalist in Washington D.C. covering North America and the United Nations.