Trump's re-election prospects are dimming

A protester calling for US President Donald Trump's election promises to be fulfilled, outside Lordstown Motors Corp in Warren, Ohio, on Thursday. US Vice-President Mike Pence was visiting the city to speak at the unveiling of a new all-electric pick
A protester calling for US President Donald Trump's election promises to be fulfilled, outside Lordstown Motors Corp in Warren, Ohio, on Thursday. US Vice-President Mike Pence was visiting the city to speak at the unveiling of a new all-electric pickup truck. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Polls show disapproval rating climbing, he is not seen to be tackling key issues effectively

The polls are becoming too consistent in their message for President Donald Trump to ignore them.

It is very clear what he is up against: The Covid-19 outbreak may be remembered not just as a deadly pandemic, but also as the wave that swamped his presidential re-election bid.

"Every single poll... these last two weeks has painted a dire picture for President Donald Trump's chances at re-election," wrote national editor Amy Walter of the non-partisan Cook Political Report on Friday.

"His overall job approval rating sits somewhere around 41 per cent. He's down by an average of nine to 10 points to (presumptive Democratic Party rival and former US vice-president) Joe Biden."

Mr Trump's disapproval rating has hit a record high according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll of more than 1,500 registered voters, which was conducted from June 22 to June 25. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents disapproved of the United States President's job performance, while only 40 per cent approved of it.

A New York Times-Siena College poll conducted earlier showed Mr Biden opening up double-digit leads over Mr Trump in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and 6 per cent, 7 per cent and 9 per cent leads in Florida, Arizona and North Carolina respectively - all battleground states which the President won in 2016.

Significantly, Mr Trump's approval has eroded among older white males - a key demographic in his bid for re-election - over his handling of the pandemic and his management of street protests against racism and police brutality.

"Unfortunately for him, the people in his camp are with each passing year a smaller share of the electorate, in part because the electorate is diversifying and in part because of generational replacement," said Dr Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia.

"Usually, a person who is narrowly elected will try to broaden his base, reaching out to people, trying to win them over," he said in an interview.

"Trump has never done that and his policy decisions have not been designed to bring new people into his camp."

The biggest challenge for President Trump is that he is not the outsider any more, Ms Walter wrote. "He's in charge. And, when you are in charge, you need to prove that you are effective in dealing with the issues currently enveloping the country. Today, those issues are racial justice and the coronavirus. Right now, voters see him flailing on both."

NO EFFORT TO BROADEN BASE

Usually, a person who is narrowly elected will try to broaden his base, reaching out to people, trying to win them over. Trump has never done that and his policy decisions have not been designed to bring new people into his camp.

DR CHARLES BULLOCK, professor of political science at the University of Georgia.

 
 

That the President is aware of what he is up against is evident from his tweet storms against negative polls, his eagerness to campaign and, more ominously, pundits say, his disputing the legitimacy of the election itself.

"RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!" the President tweeted in capital letters early last week, but without offering any evidence to support his claim.

"The scariest thing is that he might not accept the election result," Dr Bullock said.

"But the message he is sending out is also being sent out by some Democrats, like (former Georgia congresswoman) Stacey Abrams, who has been saying elections in Georgia were stolen.

"So you have high-visibility people in both parties who are raising serious questions and that is worrying."

The President's options for narrowing the gap with Joe Biden are limited, Dr Glenn Altschuler, professor of American Studies at Cornell University, told The Sunday Times.

One tactic is to attack Mr Biden, alleging corruption and feeble mindedness; Mr Biden is prone to gaffes. A second is to evade responsibility for the pandemic - which the poll numbers and the trajectory of the pandemic show is proving difficult. A third is to declare victory for the economy - but it is the coronavirus which thus far is having the last laugh.

"That leaves the fourth option, which quite frankly can be summarised as voter suppression. What you do is try very hard to discredit mail-in ballots, to call into question whether or not an election is fair. That is, I think, where he is going with the rhetoric," Dr Altschuler said.

"But it's very difficult to do because the states regulate those kinds of issues. And even Republican secretaries of state are cooperative in increasing the options in a pandemic, of mailing in ballots."

In addition, Americans will not believe an election is rigged unless it is close, Dr Altschuler said.

 
 

"If you're behind by 6, 8, 10 per cent in the polls consistently... saying you were robbed in the election really depends on it being razor-thin," he said.

Mr Trump has been written off before and the Democratic Party is taking absolutely nothing for granted, Emerge America political director Anne Wakabayashi told The Sunday Times. Emerge America recruits and trains Democratic women for public office and leadership.

"In campaign terms, we've got an eternity until election day. There's a lot of campaign left to be run. The focus now is just on expanding the electorate and turning out the vote," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2020, with the headline 'Trump's re-election prospects are dimming'. Print Edition | Subscribe