Can Trump pull an elephant out of the hat?
We are now only days away from America’s quadrennial presidential election. If you believe the press, it does not look good for President Trump and Republican officeholders. There are reasons to be worried in the Trump camp, to be sure.
In a recent commentary, I posed the question: Can Trump beat the Democrats, the bureaucratic establishment and the biased news media? It is also fair to ask: Can Trump beat the Covid-19 Pandemic AND himself?
Looking at all the political vitals through the eyes of conventional wisdom, the prospect of a Trump victory seems increasingly less likely. Many pundits opine that the best hope for the GOP may be holding on to the United States Senate by a thinner margin. Others have already ceded both the White House and the Senate to the Democrats.
The same people who saw no path to the presidency for candidate Donald Trump – and the same polls that predicted a sweeping victory for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – are now assuring Democrat voters that Trump simply cannot win. They are predicting nothing less than a landslide.
But the fatalist conjecture by those on the left is not without Republicans expressing concern. Such conservative stalwarts as Texas Senator Ted Cruz may not be predicting disaster for the GOP, but he sees that possibility. In a recent interview, Cruz conceded that it could be another big loss for Republicans – with Democrats taking the presidency, the Senate, increasing numbers in the already lopsided House and taking any number of state and local offices.
Why the concerns?
First, there are those polling numbers. Following the presidential debate, there was a big bounce for Biden – despite the fact that he gave a mediocre to poor performance. The gain was solely due to Trump’s abysmal performance. Only the hardest of the hardcore Trump supporters will give Trump a win in the debate – and most of those would be cheerleaders who cheer for the home team no matter the score.
Another traditional indicator is money. Who is raising the most? At this time, the money is flowing to the Biden/Harris team in larger amounts from a greater number of people. Team Trump raised the most by far earlier this year, but the flow of money has slowed significantly in the more recent reporting periods. Unfortunately, the Trump campaign blew a lot of that money as fast as it came in – leaving less money for these critical months. You can see that money advantage in the number of television ads by Biden compared to Trump — by a ratio of ten-to-one according to my unofficial count.
A lot of Republicans take comfort in the fact that the numbers look a lot like they did in 2016 – when Trump scored a TKO against Clinton thanks to the Electoral College. But this is not 2016, and the differences may be more important than the similarities.
First and foremost is that Biden is not Clinton. Trump beat the former First Lady in some measure because she was disliked more than him. On the likeability scale, Trump is behind Biden even though they are both widely disliked outside of their bases. Trump’s only advantage is that Biden is not entirely liked by a goodly portion of his base – the Sanders/Ocasio-Cortez faction.
Unlike 2016, Trump now has a track record. The hope that he would become more presidential has proven not to be the case. It remains to be seen is Trump has lost a lot of his past voters, but it is fairly conceded that he has not gained a lot of ground.
In 2008, I wrote that the only way Arizona Senator John McCain could have lost the election was if he ran a terrible campaign or if there was some last-minute crisis. He got both and lost the election to Illinois Senator Barack Obama. In many ways that same caveats applied to Trump and his campaign has been less than brilliant — and then there is the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Whatever one may think of Trump’s handling of the crisis, it put the brakes on what should have been – and likely would have been – an easy roll into a second term.
Millions of people have already voted – and millions more will vote in the coming days. It is entirely possible that the winning margins may be cast before Election Day – even though we may not see any results for days or weeks after.
For Trump to win, the polls — and the pundits spinning off of those polls — will have to be wrong. But can they be THAT wrong? It would take a much larger miscalculation than occurred in 2016. But even the most ardent pro-Biden pundit concedes that the election will be much closer than current polls suggest.
Then there is the “enthusiasm factor.” This has traditionally favored the GOP, but in recent months, polling suggests that it has shifted to the Democrats. This can also be seen in the number of new voter registrations.
A Trump victory may hang on the number of people who misled the pollsters. The “secret vote” is likely to be larger this year than in past years because of the god-awful browbeating the left-wing press has given Trump supporters.
If Trump does win re-election, it will be an upset much greater than 2016 – especially for the #NeverTrump Resistance Movement. Trump will have pulled that elephant out of the hat.
So, there ‘tis.