Trump reelection imperiled by controversy

Trump reelection imperiled by controversy
Source: Patrick Semansky, The Associated Press

As the 2020 presidential election in the United States grows closer, the polling lead established by Trump’s Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, appears increasingly unassailable, buffeted by Biden’s own quiet campaigning and numerous controversies surrounding the Trump administration and its 2020 reelection campaign.

Although castigated as “Basement Biden” by supporters of President Trump, as in one ​tweet by Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (a reference to Biden remaining at his home in Wilmington, Delaware for several months during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic), President Trump’s dominance of the headlines has not translated into any positive campaign developments.

With national polls showing ​Biden’s current lead far exceeding any margin of error, the Democratic challenger remains in a strong position, even with several months of campaigning remaining before the November election.

Biden also holds a commanding lead in key battleground states and has even converted states that were previously ambitious Democratic targets into more realistic battlegrounds in which President Trump may be forced, at the very least, to devote more time campaigning.

Texas, which holds a significant 38 Electoral College votes and has not been won by a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976, appears to be a tossup between Trump and Biden, with various polls showing both candidates enjoying ​narrow leads of several percentage points.

Florida, which was narrowly won by President Trump in the 2016 election, now looks like favorable territory for Biden, with one ​July 7-10 YouGov poll​ showing the former vice president with a six-point lead.

A common refrain from the Trump campaign and President Trump’s Twitter feed is that such polling is unreliable and deliberately misleading.

In June, President Trump claimed negative polls of his reelection chances were ​”suppression polls” and pointed to polling in the 2016 election, which generally favored Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, as evidence of their unreliable nature.

The Trump 2020 reelection campaign has, however, dominated news headlines in contrast to the Biden campaign’s ​more muted approach​, which has so far opted for small-scale and virtual campaign events in contrast to the large rallies favored by President Trump. Yet, Trump’s dominance of the headlines has rarely come uncontroversially, which has only further solidified Biden’s polling lead.

Trump’s recent rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, drew widespread derision for being staged during an ongoing pandemic with few precautions taken within the indoor arena. Several campaign officials were pictured removing stickers that had been placed in the arena prior to the event by the Bank of Oklahoma Center’s management to encourage social distancing.

The city of Tulsa’s health department subsequently stated that President Trump’s rally “likely contributed” to an increased number of coronavirus cases in the city, furthering the perception that Trump was unwilling to acknowledge the current crisis.

The rally was also mocked online for its lackluster attendance, despite ticket reservations (many by young people who hoped to prank and disrupt the Trump campaign) being billed by Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale as ​“[the] biggest data haul and rally signup of all time by 10x.”

Intended as the physical relaunch of President Trump’s reelection campaign, Tulsa instead epitomized the problems President Trump faces in trying to generate enthusiasm for his reelection during a period of widespread economic discontent as a result of an ongoing pandemic.

Yet, weeks after this campaign misstep, the Trump camp has managed to only generate more criticism, giving the Biden campaign much to profit from.

An event on July 3 held by President Trump at Mount Rushmore raised eyebrows and consternation for the ​contents of Trump’s speech​, which The New York Times criticized for delivering a “divisive culture war message” that did little to unite the nation and address social divisions on the eve of the US’ celebration of its independence.

President Trump’s administration has also found itself increasingly embroiled in costly battles that may further damage the president’s chances of winning reelection.

Faced with lawsuits from numerous higher education institutions, including one lawsuit spearheaded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that gained the backing of over 200 universities, the Trump administration was ​forced to rescind an ICE policy that required international students present in the US to leave the country if their studies transitioned to taking place fully online.

Although President Trump has dominated headlines, the Biden campaign has continued planning for a possible victory in the fall. The campaign recently announced an ​ambitious green energy, infrastructure and jobs plan​, pledging to invest US$2 trillion in four years in this sector.

If current patterns hold, the announcement may prove to be a window into a future Joe Biden presidency.

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