All You Need To Know #6
Welcome to episode six of All You Need To Know, a series where I explain good political news. Let’s start with the Six States That Matter:
- In Florida, Trump is down by 6.4%
- Pennsylvania? Down by 7.8%
- Wisconsin? Down by 6%
- Michigan? Down by 7.7%
- Arizona? Down by 2.8%
- North Carolina? Down by 2%
Now let’s compare the polling to election day in 2016:
- Florida has swung 8 points away from Trump
- Pennsylvania? 8 points
- Michigan? 8 points
- Wisconsin? 7 points
- Arizona? 6.5 points
- North Carolina? 4.5 points
So it’s safe to say that things aren’t going well for Trump, electorally. This week he demoted one of his main campaign guys. He recently had to cancel a rally because signup numbers were low. Covid is continuing to spiral out of control in the states, and increasingly people are blaming Trump. They tried blaming Fauci but so far that seems to have backfired. Oh, and today 20 seats moved into the “likely Democrat” column for control of the House, which was already looking impossible for the GOP. Oh, and there’s a group called the Lincoln Project making attack ads that are getting under Trump’s skin and getting a lot of traction.
Oh, and his niece wrote a tell-all book that broke sales records explaining how broken the whole family is. Plus Biden keeps outraising Trump, meaning now he’s cutting into Trump’s “cash on hand” significantly, which used to be a big advantage. Biden used some of that money to buy ads in Texas, a fact that should make any GOP operative’s blood run cold. So it’s a tough time to be a Republican. And it’s an even tougher time to be Trump himself.
But why? A lot of ink has been spent explaining Trump and how he operates, and why he seems incapable of leading in these moments. We all know the story: he’s a narcissist, and in his rush to make everything about him, he often messes up his own strategy. So we all understand that’s his Achilles’ Heel. But I don’t think the Biden campaign is getting nearly enough credit for the way they’re using this against him. Because big leads like this don’t just happen. It takes a strategy. And they’re executing at a very high level.
Let’s use the policing as an example. Huge majorities of Americans agree that communities need more local investment, and that racism is a real thing that needs to be improved. So if you were coming up with a phrase to express that in a political debate, you might say “Invest In Our Communities” or “Police Can’t Do It All” or “Support Black Communities.” And any one of those ideas would get majority support, and make Trump have to explain why he disagrees with such obvious ideas.
But instead the left settled on what the head of the Black Congressional Caucus called “one of the worst slogans of all time” and I agree: Defund the Police. Unsurprisingly, that awful phrasing turned ideas with broad acceptance into something that polls in the mid-30s, which is even less popular than Trump himself. It’s more than bad political strategy, it’s so bad I’m not convinced it wasn’t a parody of a bad slogan that somehow caught on. It’d be like asking people to spay and neuter their pets with the phrase “Kill more puppies.” It’s that bad. Frankly, it might be worse.
So I was a little concerned when “Defund” became a big topic, because that meant Joe Biden would have to respond to it. And I was concerned he’s accidentally hand Trump and the Republicans a free wedge issue. I can imagine the commercials and signs now: “Biden thinks you don’t need police. Vote Trump.” But Biden was too smart for that. He aligned himself with experts on this issue by saying things needed to change, but that he didn’t support defunding. He thinks federal aid should be predicated on meeting certain standards, he believes in investing in communities, he believes in de-militarising our police forces, and he knows racism is a real problem we need to keep tackling as a society. That is the correct answer. At least if you want to be president.
The same thing happened with toppling statues of George Washington. Some on the left believe his statues should come down, which vast majorities of Americans disagree with. When asked, Biden drew a line between the slave-owning traitors who fought against the United States in the Civil War and the founders of the country. Again, that is the right strategy. It leaves Trump trying to explain why he’s so excited by statues of racist war generals who lost the Civil War trying to make sure black people couldn’t become free. Whereas if Biden had overstepped and said George Washington’s statue needed to come down, that’d be the issue. One he’d be on the losing side of.
I’ve been watching this story with great interest. I think the conventional wisdom is that Biden is old, and uninspiring, and has a stutter, and can barely string sentences together. I see something different. I see an absolutely brilliant campaign that’s executing a flawless “rope-a-dope” strategy right under everyone’s noses. Trump is trying everything, nothing is sticking, and his polls sink more every day. This isn’t an accident, and it’s nothing to take for granted.
And the Biden campaign isn’t, for what it’s worth. When asked about their chances, they’re so careful they sound paranoid and superstitious. They know things could all fall down around their ears in a single news cycle. They know the polls will tighten. They know they have 100 days to go. And they’re acting accordingly. That’s the good news.
See you next week!