Hampered by a grossly incompetent response to the worst public-health crisis in decades, President Trump, according to the latest round of polling, could be setting himself up to lose by a brutal margin if he continues to slip in key swing states and fall behind among some of his most important demographic groups. As former advisers publicly question his commitment to reelection and GOP operatives anonymously suggest he may drop out if polls don’t improve, Trump and the campaign are taking steps to return to a more competitive position. Unfortunately for the president, it’s unclear if these steps will make things better or worse.
On Saturday, Politico reported that Jared Kushner is “expected to play an even more active role” in the reelection effort — though handing things over to the president’s son-in-law tends to be a sign that a Trump administration initiative is about to stall or tank rapidly. And on Sunday, the Washington Post reported that the president’s big plan to make up a two-digit polling deficit is a nickname swap: “Trump has recently been asking advisers whether he should stick with his current nickname for Biden — ‘Sleepy Joe’ — or try to coin another moniker, such as ‘Swampy Joe’ or ‘Creepy Joe.’ The president is not convinced that ‘Sleepy Joe’ is particularly damaging, and some of his advisers agree and have urged him to stop using the nickname.”
Trump even gave one of the new insults a run on Sunday:
Just as the charge of corruption could backfire, considering the president’s own familiarity with the practice, other campaign messages may not hold up under scrutiny. According to the Post, the “campaign plans to deploy a theme casting Trump as a builder … who has pushed ahead with construction of a new wall at the southern border.” As of June, the Trump administration has built only three new miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
As the campaign attempts a “transition to greatness” amid multiple historic crises, the president does appear to be making some sound, if minor, decisions. According to Politico, following his failed rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump has taken a “more hands-on role in the campaign,” has “expressed openness to adding more people,” has refocused “his efforts in individual battleground states,” and has “grudgingly conceded that he’s behind” in the race. (Perhaps more important than any campaign decision is the phenomenon put forward by data scientist Solomon Messing, who proposes that “people who think the leading candidate will win by quite a bit report voting at about a 3 percent lower rate,” a dampening effect that could be a great boost for the incumbent if polling stays at its current level.)
Publicly, however, Trump appears to be relying on the standard set of crutches he pulls out whenever his electoral prospects look sour. As the U.S. emerges as the only nation with a second spike in cases and the administration attempts again to repeal Obamacare without any replacement plan, Trump was seen on Sunday holding a printout of an article that read: “Trump rally gives Fox News largest Saturday night audience in its history.”