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What Are Trump's Options to Better His Chances in the Election? Part 3

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What Are Trump's Options to Better His Chances in the Election? Part 3

2020-06-15 21:47:35

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump wearing MAGA hat (Image source: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

In the first two installments in this three-part series, we have examined why Donald Trump can't unilaterally change the date of the election and what he could do to possibly better his chances of winning in November. If things continue along the same path, what are his chances compared to the presumptive Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden? 

One thing that many discuss is that in 2016, many Democrats were very sure that Trump was going to lose to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He did, in fact, lose the popular vote, though he still refuses to admit it, by 3 million votes. He won in the electoral college, however, taking some states narrowly that had been assumed she would win.

What were the polls saying in June 2016, though? Like Biden, polls were giving Clinton a double-digit lead. They also had some interference from Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson taking a small chunk, so even with double digits, she still didn't have 50 percent. 

But this was before Russia intercepted emails from the Democratic National Committee and before they were published in WikiLeaks. It was in the midst of the drama of Clinton's scandal of using her personal email server when she was secretary of state. Former FBI director James Comey went back and forth between clearing her and reopening the investigation, nailing the coffin shut a few days before the election, announcing there were still issues. She looked to be a lock to win at that point, but her favorability dropped.

Conversely, Trump had a scandal of his own with the Access Hollywood tape that showed him discussing women in unkind, vulgar terms. In the end, it seems voters decided they would rather take a philandering sex abuser than someone whom they didn't think was telling the truth. 

Four years later, though, Trump has become notorious for not telling the truth, so that changes the game a little. Biden, however, is seen as an honest grandfatherly type, no matter how much Trump and his cronies try to push the idea that he was doing something illegal in Ukraine to help his son. The narrative just isn't playing out. Nor is the narrative that he is also a sexual abuser. Tara Reade has had difficulty with believability after her claim about Biden. He's still seen as being more honest than Trump.

What will hurt Trump the most, though, in 2020, is the knowledge that voters know who he is now, whereas they didn't in 2016. He promised many things to appease his base, but he never released plans of how he would do it. He's also been secretive about his finances. He has bucked tradition and refused to release his finances before the election in 2016. He promised he would later, but four years later, he still hasn't. 

Despite this, voters are still giving him the edge to fix the economy over Biden. This is because people were doing well before the coronavirus hit.  He was riding the financial trajectory that was started in 2009. The Great Recession started in 2008 under former President George W. Bush, and in the first year of former President Barack Obama's presidency, the economy bottomed out. He turned it around, and it continued on an upturn.

Trump was elected based in part on him being able to fix the economy. He did provide corporate America with a tax cut, insisting it would trickle down to increasing household income, but that point was never really reached

Despite this, the economy was still much better than the lowest point in 2009, and Trump took the credit. It seemed like he planned on riding that wave to Election Day, but the coronavirus pandemic hit, unemployment hit incredible highs, and the stock market plummeted, tanking the economy.

Trump had no fix. The only thing he could muster was to demand businesses open again to get people back to work and get the economy moving. It's beginning to pick up, but it's going to be far from normal by November. The Federal Reserve chair is predicting unemployment will be 9.3 percent by the end of the year and 6.5 percent by the end of 2021. And again, this isn't something Trump did to fix it, it's just a natural progression as places begin to reopen and people start going back to work. 

This will leave voters having to decide whether they trust Trump enough to ride the tide with him, knowing he has no quick fixes, or whether they will trust Biden.

But along with the pandemic, there was another issue that picked up importance this year, and that's race relations. The death of George Floyd at the knee of a police officer changed everything. 

In 2015, 34 percent of black voters said race relations were extremely important to them. In June 2020, 61 percent of black voters say the same. That's a big change. Additionally, 42 percent of Americans as a whole are saying it's extremely important to their vote this fall. This makes it as important to them as the economy and health care, which was affected as well because of the pandemic.

Where does this leave us? Trump holds a slight edge with respect to the economy. He notoriously suggested odd things during the health crisis, namely ingesting Clorox and the like, yet is still making moves to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, at a time when people need it the most. 

And that last issue of importance is race relations. Many people will never be able to forget the site on Memorial Day of the National Guard and the Park Police removing peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets from Lafayette Square so that Trump could walk to a nearby church and hold up a bible for a photo op, never entering into any type of worship at all.

Conversely, Biden does extremely well with black voters. He leads Trump 88 to 9 percent with black voters in a poll taken after Trump walked to the church, numbers that are slightly better than Clinton's in 2017. He's seen as the best at handling race relations, too, with 52 to 34 percent. 

But once you take away all the numbers and positioning, many people will never forget that they spent their Memorial Day holiday either locked up inside or wearing a face mask because Trump refused to recognize the pandemic as a problem until it was too late. And at the end of that weekend, they watched Trump walk, without a face mask, to a place of worship for a photo op after tear gas was used on Americans exercising their First Amendment rights.

Many Americans are never going to forget that. 

Be sure to also read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

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