Wednesday, June 24, 2020


Extraordinarily bad news for President Trump from the polling unit of The New York Times.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. has taken a commanding lead over President Trump in the 2020 race, building a wide advantage among women and nonwhite voters and making deep inroads with some traditionally Republican-leaning groups that have shifted away from Mr. Trump following his ineffective response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new national poll of registered voters by The New York Times and Siena College.

Mr. Biden is currently ahead of Mr. Trump by 14 percentage points, garnering 50 percent of the vote compared with 36 percent for Mr. Trump. That is among the most dismal showings of Mr. Trump’s presidency, and a sign that he is the clear underdog right now in his fight for a second term.
Shortly after the Times posted the poll story, this clip appeared on Fox & Friends.

STEVE DOOCY: Okay, straight to a Fox News alert on this Wednesday: Armed protesters took over the area around that Wendy's in Atlanta where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by police, Brian.

BRIAN KILMEADE: Starting to think this is a trend. In Wisconsin, a state Democratic senator attacked while recording protesters near the state's capitol building.... Carpenter says he may have a concussion after ten people piled on, punching and kicking him. He got hit in the head, hit in the neck, kicked in the ribs.

AINSLEY EARHARDT: And more unrest in our nation's capital as protesters burn an American flag....
The Trump campaign -- and many observers -- think the unrest in America might still lead Trump to victory. Obviously it's not too late -- Mike Dukakis led George Bush by 17 in July 1988, just after that year's Democratic convention; Dukakis went on to win only ten states and lose the popular vote by 8 points.

But Trump continues to make the wrong connection between the troubles in America and his electoral chances. He thinks he can run as the law-and-order candidate.

But all this is happening on his watch. The coronavirus is spreading across America. The economy is struggling.

And he does nothing to make life better. One respondent to the Times poll seems like a reachable voter Trump has clearly lost:
Lindsay Clark, 37, who lives in the suburbs of Salt Lake City [and] voted for a third-party candidate in 2016, said she was hard-pressed to name something she really liked about Mr. Trump, eventually settling on the idea that he expressed himself bluntly.

“I was just trying to think if I could think of something off the top of my head that I was like, ‘Yes, I loved when you did that!’” she said of Mr. Trump. “And I kind of just can’t.”
Just stamping your foot and demanding an end to unrest doesn't work if you're seen as having the power to do something about it. In The Washington Post earlier this month, historian Kevin Kruse explained that a law-and-order message worked for Richard Nixon in 1968, when he was out of office, but not in the 1970 midterms or in his 1972 reelection bid:
To be sure, Nixon did rely heavily on the theme of “law and order” as the Republican presidential candidate in 1968....

The message worked, but only because Nixon was the outsider running against the incumbent vice president, not the sitting president. The call for “law and order” is a complaint that those tasked with upholding the law and maintaining order have failed at the job and need to be replaced.

... But once he was president, that critique no longer worked.

Nixon learned this the hard way in the 1970 midterm elections. He spent the fall campaigning across the country for GOP candidates, with the “law and order” message front and center. “From Missouri to Tennessee to North Carolina and Indiana,” a reporter noted in late October, “he urged more respect for police, plugged the virtues of Republican congressional candidates and asked ‘the silent majority of America to stand up and be counted against violence and lawlessness.’ ” The president urged Americans “in the quiet of the polling booth” to vote for Republicans and thereby strike a blow against politicians who “condoned lawlessness and violence and permissiveness.”

This time, the appeal fell flat. Republicans lost 10 seats in the House and, more significantly, lost a large number of governor’s races across the country, including almost all the Midwest. The Los Angeles Times captured the rebuke well in a headline: “Silent Majority Speaks Out, Rejects Law-And-Order Alarm, Votes Liberal.”

An astute politician, Nixon learned the lesson immediately. “The White House has already begun a campaign to alter President Nixon’s image in preparation for the 1972 elections,” the Boston Globe reported just a week after the midterm defeat. “Law and order, the principal issue of the disappointing 1970 campaign, will be soft-pedaled.”

... the issue faded away, with Republican Sen. Jack Miller of Iowa observing how the issue “has certainly gone on the back burner.”

Nixon won a landslide reelection that year, of course, but not because of any concerted appeal to the “law and order” crowd. Rather than highlight divisions and court controversy, the incumbent president emphasized the changes he had made in foreign policy and his promise to end the war in Vietnam, as well as an assortment of other domestic issues.
It could be argued that Nixon's 1972 campaign isn't a good model -- there was more ticket-splitting back then (Nixon won 49 states that year, but Congress remained Democratic), and now it's more important to try to motivate your party's base than to win over centrists.

Karl Rove's approach in 2004 was to try to turn out the GOP base. But the message that year was: Bush has done a good job. After 9/11, Bush kept you safe.

In the ad above, Bush is portrayed as strong but empathetic, a reassuring figure in a dangerous world.

Can you think of a time when President Trump has ever seemed empathetic or reassuring when dangers lurked? I kind of just can’t.

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