Donald Trump is running a historically awful campaign

Donald Trump is running a historically awful campaign
Credit: Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump is infamous for ignoring any advice that runs counter to his "gut." That’s a good thing for his opponents; it’s clear that he would be better served listening to seasoned political operatives.

In May, Politico reported that his “team [had] built a comprehensive 2020 reelection plan around winning a slice of black and Hispanic voters." That "plan" was grounded in delusion--late last year, a few outlier polls found Trump, who won 8 percent of the Black vote in 2016, at 25-30 percent among African-American voters this year. The conservative media promoted the dubious findings and Trump and the members of his inner circle apparently believed they were legit.

Now, seemingly blind to how public opinion has rapidly shifted toward the Movement for Black Lives, they're doubling down on their "law and order" dog-whistles air-raid sirens. Trump believes he won in 2016 with his brilliant demagoguery of "Mexican rapists" and "political correctness" run amok, despite the fact that he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots and only lucked into the White House after then-FBI Director James Comey's announced that he was re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails caused a late shift against the former Secretary of State in the polls.

Now, having proven incapable of containing the spread of Covid-19, the Trump regime has settled on a new message (or non-message) according to The Washington Post: “'They’re of the belief that people will get over it or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day,' said a former administration official in touch with the campaign." According to the report, White House officials "hope Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day." That is not going to happen. The White House can stop talking about it but the rest of us won't and that can only reinforce the perception that Trump is out of touch and doesn't care about people like you.

But the strategic choice that may prove to be the most bone-headed is their relentless efforts to lower the bar for Joe Biden. Trump and his supporters in the conservative press have painted the former Vice President as a drooling convalescent who, as Trump said, "doesn't know where he is and what he's doing," and may not "even know[] what office he's running for."

Biden is famously prone to gaffes. He stutters, and has senior moments -- confusing dates or saying "millions" when he meant "thousands." He's a man of another era who doesn't have much of a filter. We've all known older people like that, and those kinds of stumbles do not indicate dementia or any serious degree of cognitive impairment. Trump, who doesn't seem to know anything about the world around him even after three years in the Oval Office and routinely mangles the English language, is lobbing those stones from a glass house.

Trump and Biden will probably debate several times before November. Usually, campaigns try to set a low bar for their candidate and raise expectations around their opponents for good reason. Thanks to the campaign's ludicrous attacks on Biden's mental acuity, all Biden has to do is hold his own during those debates to be declared a winner by default. They couldn't possibly make it easier for the Biden campaign to defend an obvious line of attack than by engaging in ludicrous hyperbole about his cognitive acuity.

As I wrote the other day, when pundits point out that with four months to go until Election Day, it isn’t too late for Trump to turn his campaign around, what they’re really saying is that there’s sufficient time left on the calendar for a candidate who grasped why he or she was losing to change course and abandon a clearly failing strategy.  Trump believes he is sitting in the Oval Office because he's a genius whose reactionary rhetoric won over the American people. He is too narcissistic to do anything but lash out at his perceived enemies, and that's not going to fly in an election that will ultimately be a referendum on his performance in office and the movement he leads.

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