For 25 years, challenging an incumbent U.S. president has been a losing proposition. The last three White House occupants all won reelection. With that streak on the line in November, President Donald Trump's widely unpopular performance and rhetoric make Joe Biden's efforts against him easier than necessary.
From the start, Trump showed no interest in expanding on his core Republican base. He has encouraged a divide between the major parties, with messaging that associates all Democrats with radical America-hating subversives. That allows Biden, if he chooses, to position himself as a moderate who can unite Americans.
Rather than try to negotiate a bipartisan deal on a new economic relief measure, Trump said Monday of congressional Democrats: “All they’re really interested in is bailout money to bail out radical-left governors and radical-left mayors like in Portland and places that are so badly run — Chicago, New York City."
Trump plays the role of sideline heckler in the COVID-19 crisis, showing little initiative on a national containment policy and leaving practical responses to state and local officials for whom he displays selective contempt. By Tuesday, the coronavirus was reported surging in Midwestern states that hadn't had high infection rates before.
The president's public tone makes it easier to envision a Biden win. Griping that "nobody likes me"; refusing to set second-term goals; demanding more debates; repeating false corruption charges; saying mail-in votes are "rigged"; and complaining he's been "very unfairly treated" — all sound like premature loser talk from Trump. He also was highly negative and cynical about the process in 2016, and won the Electoral College despite coming up nearly 3 million votes short nationwide.
The sides are polarized, reflecting a long-term trend. So it is difficult to expect a lot of shifting among so-called independent voters between now and Election Day. But remember: Hillary Clinton had a substantial lead in national polls over Trump in August 2016.
Luckily for Biden, there are strong comebacks for each negative allegation Trump has leveled against him. The president, who taunts the veteran Democrat as "corrupt," faced the headline this week as court filings revealed that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is probing the Trump Organization for possible fraud as Vance continued to press for tax records.
Trump portrays Biden as mentally deficient and manipulated by others. But much of what the incumbent says on a daily basis sounds unclear, rambling and fantasy-based.
In an exchange released this week on the Axios website, Trump tried against all evidence to assert the coronavirus was under control. When Trump was told a thousand Americans per day are dying, he replied: “They are dying. That’s true. And it is what it is.”
Many negative ads for Biden even feature videos of Trump in his own words.
The Democrats convene Aug. 17-20 to nominate Biden in Milwaukee, and Republicans meet Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Both conventions have been pared down and restyled more into online events due to the pandemic.