August 25, 2020


Why Trump's Losing (RICH LOWRY  & RAMESH PONNURU, August 6, 2020, National Review)

He is losing in Florida, a must-win state for Republican presidential candidates for roughly 100 years. He is behind in North Carolina, which successful Republicans have won for the last half century. Arizona and Georgia are battlegrounds, and maybe Texas, too. Biden has been reliably ahead in all the Blue Wall states, in large part by eating into Trump's lead with whites or reversing it. 

So far the polling in the race looks more like Bob Dole against Bill Clinton in 1996, when Dole persistently and substantially trailed, than like Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton in 2016, when Trump was behind but by smaller margins than today (and briefly even ahead). 

The standard restrictions apply: There are around three months to go, state-level polling was off in 2016, and Trump doesn't have to make up much ground to be within plausible range of another Electoral College victory. 

Still, his situation is dire by any measure. Underlying conditions have turned against him, yet even when the economy was thriving, Trump was in a notably perilous position for a president presiding over peace and prosperity. The fault is not in his stars but in his tweets, erratic behavior, scattershot belligerence, and denials of reality, which had already made him radioactive before what he sometimes calls the "Wuhan flu" ever emerged. 

Trump is thin-skinned, self-obsessed, small-minded, intellectually lazy, and ill-disciplined. These never seemed to be great qualities in a chief executive, but they have caught up with Trump over the last six months in particular. They have played into his poor handling of the coronavirus crisis and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. When times became more serious, he remained as unserious as ever.

COVID has been the main factor worsening his political condition. The damage didn't register in the polls at first. At the end of March and beginning of April, polling had his handling of the crisis in positive territory, a kind of rally-around-the-flag effect. But the effect was smaller and shorter-lived for him than it was for other officials, in the states and abroad. As of early August, the average of the polling at the website FiveThirtyEight has his rating on the crisis at 58 percent disapprove and 38 percent approve. This is a flashing red light given that COVID is the most important issue to voters at the moment, a rare instance when the economy isn't the top issue in a presidential election. 

Of course, none of Trump's critics predicted that a deadly and economy-flattening contagion would kneecap him in an election year. But his inability to respond adequately to the crisis is the kind of thing that they had in mind when they warned that his character traits were unsuited to the presidency.

Particularly in the circumstances of a novel pandemic, the president needs a process that brings him relevant information, structures his deliberation, allows him to adapt to new developments and correct mistakes, and guides the rest of the government in executing his decisions. And he must act in concert with Congress, governors, public-health experts, business leaders, and others, all of whom have their own roles to play. Nobody could perform this job perfectly.

What we have under Trump is very nearly the mirror image of this ideal. 

Posted by at August 25, 2020 12:00 AM