This should cheer you up — Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report writes that Trump’s ceiling is too low for him to be re-elected. Cook is reluctant to make a clear prediction, but he doesn’t believe there is enough time left for Trump to turn his campaign around and pull ahead of Biden. See also Trump Has Lost His Edge In TV Advertising at FiveThirtyEight.
There are 48 days until the election. What could Trump do now to pull up his numbers? Derek Thompson writes at The Atlantic,
President Donald Trump faces an array of obstacles on his path to reelection. But he could do one thing, right away, that would, in all likelihood, immediately improve his odds with almost no downside risk: Call for Congress to open the cash spigot and buoy the lackluster economy on a wave of stimulus.
All he has to do is announce his intention to sign a second major economic relief bill—a CARES Act II, essentially—and count on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to muddle through. Such a law would almost certainly improve the financial state of countless families at a time of mass desperation, and just weeks before the election.
That probably would make a huge difference. But Trump has expressed no interest in doing such a thing, and Mitch McConnell — well, is still Mitch McConnell. Paul Krugman wrote about this yesterday, in The G.O.P. Plot to Sabotage 2021. It’s as if Republicans are deliberately trying to screw the country up as badly as it can be screwed up. It’s “as if Republicans don’t expect to win, and they figure that if they do, they’ll deal with the mess somehow,” Krugman wrote.
But, clearly, Trump expects to win and desperately wants to win. So why isn’t he doing something to help people? Derek Thompson believes that Trump is lost in a haze of magical thinking.
On the campaign trail and in his television ads, Trump proclaims that a great and historic economic recovery is afoot. The notion that the economy is sick enough to require a trillion-dollar booster shot is in direct tension with the claim that it’s thriving. So, the theory goes, Trump is unwilling to advocate for stimulus, because he doesn’t want to acknowledge that the economy is broken in the first place.
Trump’s approach to the enfeebled pandemic economy resembles that of a certain cartoon dog sipping coffee in a burning room. It’s the “This Is Fine” style of American politics. Surrounded by evidence of a crisis, Trump seems content to make up promises about a fictionalized economy rather than take action to fix the real thing.
I missed the ABC town hall Trump did last night. I don’t think I would have watched it had I known it was on. I see from the transcript that he actually said, “The fact is, we created the greatest economy in the history of the world.” Uh, not really. The economy in Trump’s first three years as POTUS was okay, by many measures, although it was way more okay for the wealthy than for everyone else. But it was okay because it was okay when he was inaugurated, and he managed not to screw it up all that much. See Dante Chinni, Data show Trump didn’t ‘build’ a great economy. He inherited it and BBC News Reality Check Team, US economy under Trump: Is it the greatest in history?
By just about any important measure, the economy under Trump did not do as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson or Bill Clinton. The gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in 2019, slipping from 2.9 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent in 2017. But in 1997, 1998 and 1999, GDP grew 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively. Yet even that period paled in comparison against the 1950s and 1960s. Growth between 1962 and 1966 ranged from 4.4 percent to 6.6 percent. In postwar 1950 and 1951, it was 8.7 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate reached a low of 3.5 percent under Trump, but it dipped as low as 2.5 percent in 1953.
Trump didn’t do anything for the bleeping economy. His tax cuts just helped the rich. His trade wars made the economy worse. The stock market continues to climb mostly because of the technology sector, I understand. Trump coasted on the trajectories begun by President Obama’s policies until the pandemic brought the economy crashing down. And last night he was making promises, based on nothing but wishful thinking, about a strong first quarter.
Since Trump doesn’t actually understand the economy or what makes it good or bad, it’s understandable that he has no clue how to make it better now. But he still believes in his own magic power to make it great again. This is from the town hall (the original questioner is from the audience):
SCHWEITZER: I worry about a second or third wave of unemployment. Employers that weathered the first six months of COVID-19 are now seeing their businesses dramatically impacted due to the effect of this virus on our economy.
What, as the president, is your plan to aid these workers who may not lose their jobs today but in the months to come?
TRUMP: Well, as you know, we did paycheck, but we’re doing a lot of other things. But what I want to do is see some additional stimulus. And we’re trying to get it, and we may. I mean, we just…just before I came here, we had some pretty good talks with the Democrats. We’ll see. But they’ve been very difficult.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not call the speaker down to your office? Hammer it out in the Oval Office?
TRUMP: Because they know exactly where I stand. At the right time, I’ll do right, but they know exactly where I stand.
What they want is a bailout of Democrat-run states that are doing poorly, and, you know, I don’t think this is the right.
And from here Trump went off on the “Democrat states” that, he says, are badly managed and just want a handout. But this is how worthless and pathetic the man is. The Democrats are standing ready to do a big stimulus. It’s Trump’s own party that’s saying no. If Trump really did call Mitch McConnell into his office and demand that the Republicans pass a big stimulus, would McConnell say no? I don’t think so. But Trump doesn’t do it, and he won’t do it. So there we are.
Of course, it’s also the case that reality doesn’t seem to permeate long-standing political positions. “As a general rule, Americans pick sides first; the thinking comes second,” Derek Thompson writes. A whopping majority of Republicans think the economy is already great; a whopping majority of Democrats disagree. Again, there we are.
The Town Hall
Trump’s performance in the town hall appears to have been such a disaster that Laura Ingraham called it an “ambush.” If it hadn’t been an unmitigated disaster, she would have declared he’d owned the libs. So it must have been awful.
A lot of people zeroed in on this part:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So do you think it’s OK to be dishonest?
TRUMP: I’m not looking to be dishonest. I don’t want people to panic. And we are going to be OK. We’re going to be OK, and it is going away. And it’s probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines.
It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It would go away without the vaccine?
TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And many deaths.
TRUMP: And you’ll develop — you’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality. It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.
But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve got to take a quick break.
Yep, that herd mentality will save us every time.
Cristina Cabrera, Talking Points Memo: ‘Just A Firehose Of Lying’: Trump’s Town Hall Widely Roasted As A Train Wreck
Margin Longman: Trump Tries the Town Hall Format and It Doesn’t Go Well