Donald Trump was bewildered, frustrated, and downright exasperated. Addressing a crowd of red-hatted, hard-core MAGA supporters last night in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the President wondered aloud how it was even possible he could be defeated by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. ‘I’m running against the single worst candidate in the history of presidential politics, and you know what that does?’ Mr Trump surmised. ‘That puts more pressure on me. Can you imagine if you lose to a guy like this? It’s unbelievable.’
Unfortunately for Trump, losing to the former vice president is not only believable but exceedingly likely based on the direction the polls are going. Trump is on the defensive in nearly every battleground state he won four years ago, a reality that is stretching his campaign resources and his patience.
With a little less than three weeks before Americans head to voting stations across the country (millions have already voted by mail), Trump is down five points in Florida, seven in Wisconsin, and seven in Michigan. States like Arizona and Georgia that were once assumed to be solid Republican terrain are now increasingly in Biden’s reach. Indeed, it wouldn’t be surprising if Americans woke up the morning after election day to find every battleground state in Biden’s column. It’s plausible, although unlikely, that the 2020 presidential election could be the most lopsided since the contest between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton 28 years prior.
Trump, fresh out of the hospital after nursing a coronavirus infection, will be spending the next three weeks on the campaign trail doing everything he can to avoid becoming the first president in nearly 30 years to vacate the White House after one term. Covid-19 has not only failed to slow him down — the virus may have actually reinvigorated him. The Trump campaign has scheduled daily events. He campaigned in Pennsylvania yesterday and plans to hit the stump in Iowa today before travelling to North Carolina on Thursday. Trump’s supporters, including his eldest son, are fanning out across the country to cover more terrain. The President could use all of the help he can get; even Ohio, a state Trump won by a resounding eight points in 2016, looks like a nail-biter.
Other Republicans on the ballot next month are beginning to wonder if they, too, could see their seats swiped away from them. Senate Republicans, like Lindsey Graham, who were once assumed to be shoe-ins are instead being heavily outraised by their Democratic challengers, watching as the race gets tighter and tighter. Some of those incumbents are finally waking up to the reality that being a diehard Trump denizen is not exactly a positive attribute for their brands. But after spending four years kowtowing to Trump’s every whim and defending every Trump outrage, putting some distance between themselves and the President sounds like an increasingly implausible strategy.
It would be folly for any of us to count Donald Trump out. This time four years ago, the celebrity businessman was seven points behind Hillary Clinton nationally. Republicans like then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan were not only running away from Trump’s bull-in-a-china-shop routine but preparing for what they believed was an inevitable Hillary Clinton presidency. It didn’t come to pass.
Even so, 2020 is not 2016. The global pandemic that is the coronavirus continues to kill 800 Americans a day and infects around 50,000. The economic recovery looks ever more stagnant as the White House and congressional Democrats struggle to agree another rescue package. Trump is trying to distract the electorate from all of these issues while focusing on his opponent’s mental acuity. With election day getting closer, the President is starting to run out of time.
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