But don’t count the president out: his approval ratings are, as of today, nowhere near Bush’s when he left office.
WASHINGTON—The Trump project has gone to seed.
That’s the view of quarantined information traffickers in the nation’s capital, anyway. It’s late spring, just months into an already turbulent decade. And Donald Trump is doomed.
The emergence of SARS_COVID2 has understandably given Prosecco-swilling prognosticators the heebie jeebies. The smart set is now as confident of the president’s political demise as they were of his invincibility a season ago. On Valentine’s Day, a week after Trump’s Senate acquittal—the third in U.S. history—he was considered unstoppable.
But now, all that’s a lifetime from May Day. And it’s Joe Biden who’s licking his chops.
Or so goes the conventional wisdom. This is, of course, the kind of thinking that left the former vice president for dead before winning his South Carolina stronghold. And for high priests in dreamland, Andrew Cuomo is sitting even prettier. The New York governor is architect of America’s most belabored, but assuredly most performative, response to the pandemic. It would seem—like a nuclear blast radius—that distance from national power at Cinco de Mayo assures proximity to it come Christmas. That view means Donald Trump’s days are numbered.
Would that it were so simple. A fact: Trump’s poll numbers versus Mr. Biden have been in the commode for a while. Last spring, Trump sacked his pollsters who showed him losing to Mr. Biden. The Republican elite hardly protested. On a foreign trip last year, I watched a Republican delegation assure anyone who wanted to hear that Trump’s triumph in 2020 was a done deal.
That was a mistake. When reinforcements in the polling department provided the same verdict this April, the president replied with understandable astonishment. “I’m not losing to f**king Joe Biden,” Trump is rumored to have told his campaign man Brad Parscale. Mr. Parscale is the mastermind of a campaign slogan now worthy of opéra bouffe: “Keep America Great.”
The president drew the short straw, even if sanguine Republican National Committee researchers can’t measure. He is facing his toughest possible opponent. Yes, Mr. Biden.
Both party establishments underestimated Barack Obama’s longtime lieutenant, including Barack Obama. Republican members of Congress last fall were preparing to go to war with Elizabeth Warren. Unless Biden deputizes her on his ticket, as is plausible, the right won without firing a shot. And in winter, conservatives prepared to confront a codger bent on bringing socialism to the States.
But hope sprung eternal only for Joe. Biden’s logorrheic lectures are target practice on Twitter but solid gold in the pews of African American churches, inner city school boards, and country stump stops that gave Biden the nomination, and may yet, the presidency. There is a deeply uncomfortable power struggle between the African-American establishment, to which the not black, Irish Biden owes his present authority, and the more liberal demographic popularizing socialism in America. Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez won gentrifying neighborhoods in New York.
Such is the terrain of the cold civil war in the Democratic Party. Yet, these trenches are also misunderstood by a Republican Party that believes an ancient allegation of sexual assault will dislodge a politician challenging a figure accused of at least twenty-three such transgressions. It would seem we’re closer to the twilight of an era of sexual reckoning than we are to the end of the careers of either President Donald Trump or Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
But it’s now Trump’s turn in the bargain bin.
Unlike an apparently unpunishable pundit class, those with both mouths to feed and money to put in say this race is a tossup. On PredictIt.org, shares of Donald Trump can be purchased for fifty-one cents. A Biden bid costs forty-three, a steal made possible only by suckers who buy into the idea of the Cuomo circus, or Hillary Clinton’s worst run for the White House yet. I’d be tempted to buy both shares.
The ghosts of 2008 haunt the GOP, the year the right last relinquished the White House amid economic catastrophe. But unlike twelve years ago, the earth hasn’t opened up and swallowed the president’s approval ratings.
Trump’s support, in the low forties, is nearly double the twenty-two percent that George W. Bush had when he left office. And though Vice President Mike Pence may be terrified of being dumped from the ticket this summer, he can sleep a little easier knowing that he’s a galaxy away from the thirteen percent Richard Cheney left office with.
Trump can plausibly run against Biden’s long career as a Beijing booster. One-size-fits-all government overreach has given Trump an opening to appeal to minorities and low-income earners decimated by the economy’s sudden closure. Places of peripatetic employment—like Las Vegas, Nevada, an epicenter of the economic catastrophe—could be receptive to a message that Biden promises more lockdowns and then some. And if Trump were to lead the U.S. exit from Afghanistan, as is being considered, he’d give Americans the opportunity to vote for the first president in decades who ended a war, not just started one.
So, for some, I’ll be the bearer of bad news: We are a long way from November.
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