What makes the looming election so terrifying, to me, is knowing that there are people walking around out there who are going to vote for Trump. And they will vote for Trump no matter what happens between now and November.
In “Donald Trump Is the Best Ever President in the History of the Cosmos,” Frank Bruni cleverly mocks Trump’s campaign as nothing but farce and fantasy. But, eventually, he admits that there are those who still believe the hype. “Many Americans believe that Trump is an underappreciated martyr because they marinate in selective, manipulated and outright fraudulent factoids,” Bruni writes. “And Trump and his minions have really figured out how to slather on the marinade.”
At Politico, Michael Kruse writes that “Trump’s Summer of Love Is a Distant Memory Now,” the “summer of love” being Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump’s rallies made his campaign, Kruse argues, and he wasn’t prepared for a rally-less re-election campaign.
“It’s constrained what he can do and what kind of energy and enthusiasm and the like that he can generate,” Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist who was a senior spokesman for the Clinton campaign, told me—going so far as to compare the contrast to dueling images of Trump gliding down the gilded escalator in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy and then his much-discussed “sort of sad descent” of that ramp at West Point last month. …
… And the stakes are plain. “The face-to-face, in-person rally is really what got him elected,” said Stainbrook, the GOP head from Toledo. “So how does he make up for the fact that he’s so good live, so good at these rallies, but now he’s—I don’t want to use the word crippled—what’s the word I’m looking for?—he’s at a disadvantage. He’s at a disadvantage where he cannot have these because of Covid. So it definitely is going to hinder parts of the campaign. See, now I sound like a treasonous asshole, but … it’s the truth.”
However, when Kruse spoke to some of the 2016 rally attendees, the faith had not faded.
But the people who were at that rally in Scranton? They didn’t hesitate. They told me they think he’s going to win again. “Trump doesn’t have to be in an auditorium now,” said Bolus, the trucking company owner. “You can just feel it as you go around,” said Gleason, the former state Republican Party chair, who lives in Johnstown. “Every time there’s, like, a negative thing with the riots and things, more signs go up, more flags go up.”
“I’m seeing a hell of a lot more,” Bolus said. “Trump 2020 is already a winner.”
I wondered how he could be so confident when so many polls say he’s in trouble.
“Right now, I’m watching Fox News,” he told me from Minnesota, where the 77-year-old was recovering from back surgery at the Mayo Clinic. He denounced the protesters and demonstrators, “these bastards,” he said, “tearing down” statues and hitting cops “in the face with a friggin’ brick,” “instigating the destruction of our country.” He brought up George Floyd, the Black man killed by a white police officer in late May in Minneapolis. “Floyd was murdered. All right. Big deal. It’s over. It’s done.”
There’s no reaching someone like Bolus, of course. The question is, how many like him are out there?
Greg Sargent is arguing today that Fox News may actually be hurting Trump’s re-election chances by painting an overly rosy picture of them to Trump himself. Here is a bit of it:
Fox personalities are claiming that electing Joe Biden will make civil violence “a staple of American life everywhere.” They are relentlessly doctoring Biden quotes to paint him as anti-police. And they are suggesting that Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech, which conflated protests with “far-left fascism” to justify sending in more law enforcement, represented the greatest oratory since Cicero.
All this surely reinforces Trump’s belief that this messaging is working for him. After all, the imagery of violence, when hyped this way, does make for powerful television. And Trump knows powerful television when he sees it!
But in the Fox narrative of the protests, there is no room for any acknowledgement that Trump is functioning as a primarily inciting and destructive force, or that this fact might be further alienating the educated white suburban voters who are supposed to find Trump’s authoritarian displays reassuring.
The polls are still saying that Trump has lost college-educated whites and the suburbs, and he is even losing older voters. But he is determined to win some of those votes back with ads suggesting scary black people will destroy your lily white suburban housing development.
The Suburban Housewives of America must read this article. Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better! https://t.co/1NzbR57Oe6
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2020
Yeah, “suburban housewives.” So retro.The suburbs ain’t what they used to be. NPR:
That kind of appeal, pitting whites against Blacks and Latinos, is outdated, Republican pollster Christine Matthews told NPR’s Tamara Keith.
“He thinks it’s basically the planned development of Levittown in the 1960s as opposed to today’s suburbs, which are multiracial, diverse and highly educated,” Matthews said.
According to the NPR article, which is dated July 26, Trump got 50 percent of the suburban vote in 2016. However, “In recent polling, he’s down by a historic margin, an average of 15 points,” it says. Further, “In the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 66% of suburban women disapproved of the job President Trump is doing overall, and 58% said they “strongly” disapprove.” Note that much of the suburban women gap probably dates back to the Kavanaugh hearings, if not earlier. Trump isn’t going to get those votes back.
On the other hand, QAnon believers are winning congressional primaries. Somebody‘s got to be voting for those wackjobs.
I’ve been googling around to see which voter demographics are sticking with Trump. Trump says he’s got the boat vote:
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) July 27, 2020
There are thousands of boats out there, all waving Trump signs. Amazing. But are those boats registered voters?
Outside of boats, Trump is still The Guy with white evangelical voters. Three weeks ago Pew Research reported that 82 percent of white evangelicals plan to vote for Trump. He got 77 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2016. Those people know how to keep the faith. But I haven’t been able to find any other demographic group that went for Trump in 2016 and is just as much pro-Trump now as it was then. Trump is still ahead of Biden with rural voters, but in 2016 Clinton trailed Trump with rural voters by 31 points, while Biden only trails him now by 9 points.
Trump is losing among Latinos, but three weeks ago Matt Yglesias wrote that Trump is doing better with Latinos against Biden than he did against Clinton. Why, I can’t imagine. See also A Small, Enduring Bloc by David Leonhardt.
What’s killing Trump more than anything else is the pandemic. See, for example, Small-business owners are realizing they are the victims of another Trump con.
Richardson holds the man he supported for president in 2016 — Donald Trump — responsible for the catastrophe. “I thought he’s a businessperson, not a politician, maybe he’ll mix things up,” Richardson said. “I could have lived with him till his response to covid.” Now? “If I can do anything to sway a person from Trump to Biden, that’s now my life mission.”
We are three months and eight days from the November election. A lot can happen. Of course the Republicans will suppress votes and screw up the vote count enough to throw results into doubt. It’s also possible that an increase in violence will push a few voters back to Trump. But I don’t think anything is going to be so much better by November that there will be big shifts in opinion. The pandemic will get worse in the fall, I fear, when the kids go back to school (at Trump’s insistence) and the usual flu season kicks off. Republican party stinginess in pandemic relief will ensure the economy won’t be roaring back. So here we are.