Sunday, July 12, 2020


In my last post, I probably exaggerated the likely electoral effect of President Trump's decision to finally wear a mask. I still think his poll numbers would go up if he wore a mask consistently -- and they might go up significantly if he began to demonstrate concern about the pandemic on a regular basis. He might wear a mask again, but he's dug in on rejecting concern about the virus -- his simple-minded notions of salesmanship compel him to say that everything's really great, even when the public knows that everything is not at at all great. He can't acknowledge the reality of the pandemic because acknowledging any negative reality goes against his two religions: self-praise and the Power of Positive Thinking.

Many Trump supporters are clearly worried that he can't turn this election around. They're offering advice on how he can do it -- advice that's all over the map, and not particularly credible.

RedState's Jeff Charles quotes a GOP pollster:
A top Republican pollster recently suggested that President Donald Trump needs to focus more on former Vice President Joe Biden’s numerous flaws if he wishes to win re-election in November....

Ed Goeas, the president of the Tarrance Group, spoke to a conference hosted by the Ripon Society in which he argued that Trump would need to push Biden’s “negatives” up to secure he re-election. “For them to have any hope of winning this election, they are going to have to drive Joe Biden’s negatives up also over 50%,” he explained.

The pollster added, “the Trump base is so strong in support of the president that it’s going to be fairly easy for them to do so.”
So Goeas thinks the Trump base constitutes more than 50% of the public? In most polls, Trump has never even briefly reached 50% approval. And Goeas thinks Biden isn't already despised by the Trump base?

The pollster also indicated that Trump should go back to talking about the issues that Americans actually care about, such as the economy and employment. He said:
“I truly believe we are at rock bottom right now in the presidential race for Donald Trump. The advantage he usually has is when he is talking about the issues, particularly talking about the economy or taxes or jobs. His numbers go up because he gets a majority support in the country for those issues. I think, unfortunately, both the combination of the coronavirus months that we have gone through and the social and racial unrest that we have gone through, what people are hearing from him is not his policies, but they’re hearing and seeing his persona. So, it is the worst of all worlds for Trump.”
But Trump and his supporters are talking about the economy -- how great it was, how great it will be soon -- all the time. Everyone misreads the polling on this. If Trump is still getting good marks from poll respondents for his handling of the economy and he's losing to Biden badly, that means the economy is not the issue Americans are voting on. How hard is this to understand?

And why couldn't Trump have popular policies on the pandemic and racial injustice? I mean, besides the fact that he's Donald Trump?

Let's turn to Fred Barnes in the Washington Examiner. What's his brilliant advice?
I’ve argued that Trump should (and probably has plans to) clean up his act for the final three or four months of the campaign. By this, I meant that he would, in effect, alter his personality. He’d cool down and no longer spend large amounts of time acting self-centered, obnoxious, and defensive.

He did exactly that in the closing weeks of the 2016 race after the Hollywood Access tape appeared to have ruined his chances of winning. He became disciplined. His speeches were mostly prepared, and he read them. He curbed his habit of ad-libbing constantly.

It worked, but not by magic. Trump changed into a more likable person, or at least a less unlikable one. Was he faking? Sure. Politicians have been known to do so. And yes, the new Trump was temporary. The old Trump returned, all too soon.
That parenthetical phrase "(and probably has plans to)" is hilarious. Do you see any evidence that Trump plans to dial down his personality between now and November?

I don't believe Trump won in 2016 because he was less Trumpy at the end of the campaign. I believe the last-minute revival of the email non-scandal tipped the race to Trump, with help from the Russians, Wikileaks, Jill Stein, cable channels that broadcast Trump speeches in full, and elite news organizations that hyped every negative story about Democrats. But hey, believe what you want, Fred.

So if we put these two sets of recommendations together, Trump should be nicer and should be nastier toward Biden, simultaneously. That sounds easy! Who else wants to weigh in?

Newt Gingrich has some thoughts. First, he insists that the polls are wrong and we really have no idea who's winning:
“Nobody has a clue,” he told RealClearPolitics. How can the polls tell anyone anything, he added, when the “elite media has been so unrelentingly hostile to Trump that an amazing percentage of people don’t want to even say his name.” In other words, he believes in a silent majority.
I find the notion of "shy Trump voters" hilarious. These are the people who claim to be big and tough and rugged and heavily armed, while we're just a bunch of soy boys and snowflakes -- and yet they're afraid of ... pollsters? On the phone? What do they think is going to happen to them if they tell a pollster that they're backing Trump in November -- George Soros will have them killed? And if they think the evil Soros can find out what they told a pollster, shouldn't they be more afraid of actually voting? Won't Soros really have his vengeance if he finds out they pulled the lever for Trump (as he certainly will, being a supervillain and all)?

But Gingrich does believe Trump can improve his odds, with a few simple steps:
First, he must put the economy back on track—“people have to have a feeling by September that we are going to come out of this.” (Gingrich suggests a payroll tax cut.) Second, he needs to manage the pandemic—Gingrich says that Italy got the virus under control “and that’ll happen in the States.”
Oh, is that all? Just revive the economy and contain the virus? Piece of cake!

(And I love the fact that Gingrich thinks a payroll tax cut would be the ideal solution in an economy with double-digit unemployment. Can't really benefit from a payroll tax cut if you're not on a payroll anymore, can you, Newt?)

What else?
Third, he ought to double down on the culture war—Gingrich says do it now.
Yes, because that's working so well for Trump right now. And why is this a good idea for Trump?
Even when silent, he says, the majority is watching. They have watched individuals fired for wrong opinions, such as the Boeing executive who was forced to resign after an op-ed he wrote opposing women in the military surfaced -- more than three decades after the fact. They also watch when the powerful are forced to offer public apologies for espousing the “wrong” opinions, such as Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, who quickly walked back comments about kneeling for the national anthem.
Gingrich has spent the past 26 years of his life as a famous person and spent much of the previous half-century trying to become a famous person. He has no idea that most people are never quoted or listened to at all by the general public, and thus have no idea what it's like to be "canceled." Most of us spend our lives "canceled" because no one cares what we think. Conservatives love to collect grievances, even other people's, but why would anyone else care about a football star or CEO having these experiences?

So to sum up: Trump should be polite, and should also be obnoxious about Joe Biden and the activist left. Victory is assured!

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