With 20 days to go until November 3, it’s no secret the president’s reelection campaign is in trouble. Joe Biden leads him in national polling averages by 10.6 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight. Biden is leading in all ten battleground states, nine of which went for Trump in 2016.
The source of Trump’s troubles is clear enough: He’s lost his advantage among seniors, college-educated white voters, and even some white working-class voters. The strategy he has pursued since beginning his reelection campaign — energizing his base while attacking Democrats as captives of the “radical left” — isn’t working, in part because of his epic mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn ruined “his” economy.
It’s clear by now that Trump has decided to deal with the failure of his strategy by doubling, even tripling down on it. Check out these lines (reported by the New York Times) from his October 13 rally in Pennsylvania, an appearance that his staff had telegraphed as a return to normal campaigning after his brief COVID-19 quarantine, and remember this is the president of the United States speaking:
“Suburban women: Will you please like me?” he asked. “Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, OK?”
Even though he was on the other side of the state from Philadelphia, and speaking in a long-distressed former steel community, Mr. Trump boasted that he had “saved suburbia” in America.
Begging suburban women to reward him for the racist arguments that by all accounts have repelled them is a bit counterintuitive. So, too, is this well-worn attack on Joe Biden as senile:
“I’m running against the single worst candidate in the history of presidential politics, and you know what that does?” Mr. Trump said. “That puts more pressure on me.” He added: “Can you imagine if you lose to a guy like this? It’s unbelievable …”
“He has no idea what he’s saying,” Mr. Trump said, returning to Mr. Biden’s mental health. “How the hell do you lose to a guy like this, is this possible?
It does not seem to have occurred to the president that his attacks on Biden’s age and alleged infirmities might be contributing to his struggles with seniors, an existential threat to his reelection. Around the same time as his Pennsylvania rally, he retweeted this slur on Biden as a nursing-home “resident”:
In other respects, Trump was relying on his traditional message in Pennsylvania, with the volume cranked up to 11:
Joe Biden and the Democrat Socialists will kill your jobs, dismantle your police departments, dissolve your borders, release criminal aliens, raise your taxes, confiscate your guns, destroy your suburbs, and drive God from the public square …
Biden has made a corrupt bargain — in exchange for his party’s nomination, he has handed control to the Socialists, Marxists and Left-wing Extremists. If he wins, the radical left will be running the country — they are addicted to power, and God help us if they get it.
It didn’t quite match Trump’s description of Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris as a “communist” and a “monster” on Fox Business last week, but he has long solidified a reputation as the most over-the-top red-baiter since Joe McCarthy (who at least had the rationale of an actual Cold War with an actual communist regime).
Perhaps Trump is under the impression that shouting at swing voters and convincing his base that the opposition is literally satanic will close the gap with Biden, or at least create the sort of parboiled atmosphere in which he can contest an election loss. Or maybe he’s written off 2020 and getting a start on his comeback campaign of 2024, when he will fight to bring back private property, God, and the suburbs.