Here’s Why Donald Trump Is So Nervous About The Election

President Trump's negligent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has damaged his re-election prospects so thoroughly, it has his campaign in panic mode.
President Donald Trump speaks to the media at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, on Thanksgiving in Palm Beach, Fla. Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

President Donald Trump speaks to the media at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, on Thanksgiving in Palm Beach, Fla. Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

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Six months out from the 2020 election, the coronavirus outbreak has hurt Donald Trump politically in a way that impeachment and the Russia investigation could not. It has cost Trump his lead in the polls. Where Trump once had a nationwide lead over Joe Biden, even while he was in the middle of the impeachment trial, he is now trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee by anywhere between 3-9%.

As can be imagined, Trump was not too happy when he heard about these figures and, reportedly, yelled at his 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, before threatening to sue him. However, Trump’s poor polling is not down to his campaign manager. This turnaround is the result of two issues. First, the public are unimpressed with Trump’s handling of COVID-19. Second, Biden is staying out of the way as Trump digs his own political grave, a strategy that seems to be working for Biden.

Before coronavirus reached America, Trump had a moment to act that could have secured him a huge moral and political victory. He could’ve prepared hospitals, ensured the country had enough PPE, held meetings with governors to discuss how states would react, ensure that appropriate steps were taken to address the financial impact of the virus on businesses and ordinary Americans, and liaised with world leaders to organize a coordinated international response.

If Trump had done all of that, even his biggest critics would not have been able to fault his efforts, regardless of the result. However, instead of acting, Trump ignored warnings dating back as far as November that the country was unprepared for such a pandemic. He repeatedly dismissed any claims that enough wasn’t being done and he failed to take note of a further dozen warnings, at least, that were included in the President’s Daily Brief, according to reporting by The Washington Post. Also, the previous president, Barack Obama, asserts that Trump failed to accept the baton handed to him on taking office, to take reasonable precautions to ensure the USA was prepared for a pandemic.

The United States has surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and the official coronavirus death toll has seen more Americans die in these last few weeks than lost their lives during the conflicts in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined. If the Trump administration’s approach had been different, if the White House had listened to and followed the advice of medical experts from the moment the first warning was received, the situation would, undoubtedly, not have been as disastrous and deadly as it has turned out. In time, we will probably discover that every country has made mistakes in their response to the coronavirus pandemic. But the USA’s handling of the crisis seems especially chaotic and mismanaged.

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Up until this point, Trump has been able to coast through his presidency with the power of rhetoric. While people can criticize what Trump says and how he says it, his words resonated with enough Americans to win him the presidency and secure a firm base of support that hasn’t wavered in the face of all previous challenges he’s faced. But this is different. A global pandemic isn’t the Russia investigation or impeachment. It’s not an issue that can be won with a war of words. It is a situation that requires competence, leadership, and a well thought-through strategy. None of that has been exhibited, in the public’s eyes, by the White House throughout this. That is the first and clearest reason Trump is watching his re-election chances slip through his fingers.

It is clear that Trump’s strategy for charting a path to a second term in office will be to blame China for the spread of the virus. In this regard, he has received support from others, such as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. It might also be that Trump will blame the economic consequences of the pandemic on those state governors who have opposed his efforts to prematurely reopen the economy. What is less clear is whether the American people will concur with Trump’s assertions.

The second reason why Trump is getting nervous about the election in November is Biden’s, so far, successful strategy of staying out of his way. There are many who believe that Biden should be going after Trump on a daily basis, criticizing him for the White House’s failings and bringing back the well-used attack lines that we became familiar with in the 2016 campaign, including attacks on Trump’s character, dishonesty, and true motivations behind staying in the White House. However, Biden has rejected that approach and is, instead, standing to the side while Trump digs his own grave. After all, why would he waste his time fighting Trump for the spade?

The country is currently focused on one issue and how the President deals with it. There is no reason to believe that if Biden savaged Trump on a daily basis it would help Biden’s poll numbers. In fact, it could actually hurt his chances in November by giving Trump a way out, an ability to shift the conversation away from coronavirus and onto a feud with the former Vice President.

Instead of focusing on battling Trump, Biden is able to take a much more strategic route to the White House. Aside from Russian interference, sexism, and the Comey letter, Hillary Clinton lost for two reasons, perhaps buoyed by those factors: she was unable to win over a large and diverse enough coalition of voters and she didn’t appeal to the electorate in key battleground states. Biden has been focused on those two counts. He is dedicating this moment in time to build up his base of supporters, wooing everyone from Sanders supporters to establishment Democrats to never Trumpers and everyone in between.

Instead of saying ‘it’s my way or the highway’, Biden has made it clear that he will listen to every group, from independents to centrist Democrats to those on the progressive wing of the party, adopt their ideas, building a wide-ranging policy platform that appeals to people across America. Polls have also shown that Biden has been successfully winning over key battleground states, places like Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Without, at least, three of those four states, Biden will lose in November. That’s why now is the perfect time to show those states what he will do for them, something that can be done clearly without launching into a dogfight with the President.

A perfect storm is brewing that could potentially hand the election to Trump’s Democratic opponent. While presidents once feared an October Surprise, Trump is facing something much worse: a surprise that lasts the whole election year. Instead of being able to run for re-election on a positive message, he’s consistently on the back foot, defending himself. While there’s still a long way to go before Election Day, Trump is right to be getting nervous.

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Opinion // 2020 / Coronavirus / Donald Trump / Elections / Joe Biden