Until recently, it seemed almost impossible that Donald Trump would be returned to the White House in November. He lagged quite markedly in key battleground states and his blasé attitude towards the Coronavirus sat poorly with voters. Whilst cases surged and deaths rose, Trump’s chances of re-election dropped.
Recently, however, things have begun to change. Trump has restarted his regular Coronavirus briefings, a move said to be in part behind his increasing popularity. Consequently, Biden’s lead has narrowed quite significantly in some states. In Florida, the former Vice President’s lead has halved to just 4 per cent.
Simultaneously, improving macroeconomic data shows the US is moving towards an economic recovery. Last week, we learnt that the US added 1.8m jobs in July, a figure that beat estimates comfortably and delivered a third consecutive month of bumper jobs numbers.
It is, however, hard to know how much of the headline improvements in the macroeconomic space can be attributed to congressional stimulus money. As that money dries up and negotiations for further stimulus stall, the economic recovery may sputter somewhat.
Democrats handed Trump a victory when they declared yet another round of stimulus negotiation ‘disappointing’. We cannot know the true dynamics of the discussions and so we cannot know which side is the ‘worst’ party or whether both sides are as bad as each other. In absence of a stimulus deal, Trump has vowed to do what he can through Executive Orders. This includes a much-vaunted payroll tax ‘cut’, extension of unemployment insurance payments and a continuation of the moratorium on evictions.
Whilst talks are not over, the Republicans can use this time to portray themselves as the party that actions support for the American people. By contrast, Democrats appear wedded to a social pipe dream with a hefty price tag. They appear more interested in redefining, rather than restoring and improving America.
Going forward, the GOP should stress unity as the nation recovers. Trump could even acknowledge what has gone wrong, although I am sure he would be loath to do so. His businessman credentials were a hit in 2016 and they likely still have clout.
It would be most effective now to add a slight twist to his old lines and stress his ‘get things turned around’ business experience. The Wollman Rink example is a probably a good one. Meanwhile we edge closer to campaign debates, where Biden will likely struggle. To avoid his signature gaffes, he will have to rehearse fiercely and risk appearing scripted and robotic. This is particularly unfortunate as Biden will be up against a man who won the Presidency using feisty tell-it-how-it-is one liners during debates.
All in, therefore, the GOP still has a fighting chance if they play their cards right. A dash of humility and candour from the President would go a long way as America reopens and reflects on the past few months. Using this tactic, I predict that Trump could expose Biden’s weaknesses on a whole host of issues both new and old without reminding the electorate too much of his own perceived heartlessness during Covid. When used in conjunction with a continuing economic recovery and positive vaccine developments, the Trump campaign may still secure a victory – even if it is a narrow one.
By E Carter