The Trump Campaign Needs Better Messaging Down The Stretch

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We are now less than 100 days from the historic 2020 election and the Trump Campaign has some work to do. Polls should certainly be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, as enthusiasm for Biden doesn’t match what they present. With that said, citing the “Hillary has a 98% chance of winning” headline and coping about 2016 polls isn’t going to help Trump get re-elected. I definitely believe that Trump has taken a legitimate slide in recent months. This is likely due to the virus and all that has come with it.

Whether you want to believe it or not, the reality is that Americans have largely given Trump poor grades on the virus. According to a recent AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research Poll, Trump’s pandemic response approval rating has plunged to a new low. Just 32% of Americans approve of President Trump’s COVID-19 response, down 12 points from an initial survey in March. Job approval numbers have also been in the red for the President, with his RCP average down nearly 5 points since March. Trump’s RCP average approval rating slid from 47.3% to 42.2% from March 30th through July 24th.

The Trump campaign appears to believe that the virus is responsible for the dip as well, given the choice for new campaign manager. In place of Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign will now be headed by former Chris Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien. Stepien ran Christie’s re-election campaign for Governor of New Jersey in 2013, an election in which Christie cruised to victory.

Election Day, 2013 of course took place nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the state of New Jersey. A big factor in Christie’s re-election was voter confidence in his handling of the disaster.

If you remember the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Christie was praised for his response. He was on the ground in a rain jacket and toured affected areas with then President Obama. This happened during a heated re-election campaign for Obama, a race in which Christie had firmly backed Mitt Romney. Christie put politics aside during his meeting with Obama, at least optically, while refusing a request from the Romney campaign to visit. This drew the ire of many on the right, who felt as though Christie spurned Romney while delivering a political gift to Obama.

None of this was relevant to the Christie campaign, however, as their goal was achieved. Christie came off looking like a strong leader who is able to put politics aside in order to alleviate a crisis, and the voters awarded him with re-election.

Chris Christie and President Obama survey Hurricane Sandy damage in 2012 Photo Credit: Reuters

How relevant is this to the Trump campaign in 2020? It’s hard to tell, given how polarized the current political climate is. Stepien should certainly help in terms of virus response image, however, which Trump desperately needs. Bill Stepien also can’t be worse than Brad Parscale, as campaign messaging took a turn for the worst towards the end of the latter’s tenure.

In recent months and especially at the height of the riots, the Trump campaign appeared more interested in pandering to staunchly anti-Trump demographics as opposed to his core base. All the, “DEMONcrats are the real racists” nonsense doesn’t resonate with anybody because it clearly comes off as pandering. Black people don’t want to be pandered to, and Trump himself does a fine job of appealing to potential black voters the right way. The President’s message to African Americans has always been something along the lines of countering racism claims with historical alliances dating back to the 80’s along with a message on jobs. Unemployment numbers were at historic lows for African Americans and Hispanics prior to the pandemic, which is something the Trump campaign routinely touted.

That was and is a good message that the Trump campaign should stick to, but the pandering must end. Potential Trump voters don’t care about Joe Biden sponsoring the crime bill, or being against gay marriage prior to 2008, or the fact that the KKK was started by Democrats. Again, that message clearly comes off as pandering.

Black people know that Republicans generally support tough on crime policies. Black people know that the KKK was started by Democrats, but that this was a long time ago and political allegiances have shifted drastically. I’m not going to say that “southern strategy” is as accurate as it is often presented, but the reality is that “Democrats started the KKK” has no relevance to anybody. It’s a played out strategy and when African Americans hear it, there certainly isn’t enthusiasm.

For Trump to win re-election, he must focus on working class voters in the rust belt. Calling the Democrats “racist” for things Trump voters support is just stupid, and the current Democrats have pivoted so far left that pandering to their core is futile.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden has been portraying himself as America First and recently released a brilliant ad with that messaging. The ad focuses on Biden’s Senate tenure, a career in which the former Vice President garnered a reputation as a working class Democrat. Cuts of a young Joe Biden riding Amtrak to Washington are blended in with shots of working class Americans. Dilapidated towns are shown and a tone of tough times is laid out, but then there is also a message of hope. The message of the ad is that Biden will fight for the American worker. On the Trump side, the war room Twitter account has been busy tweeting about how Joe Biden did a racism in 1998.

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Of course I don’t believe for one second that Joe Biden will be any more America first than Trump, though the orange man certainly has work to do himself. Trump has been leaps and bounds better than Biden, however, on messaging alone if nothing else.

Action wise, Trump has withdrawn from multiple disastrous free trade agreements such as the TPP and has successfully re-negotiated NAFTA on more favorable terms. The administration has also re-negotiated trade deals with the EU, expanded economic cooperation with Poland + other growing, less EU-centric Eastern European economies, and re-structured deals with other allies, such as Japan.

Trump also withdrew from the lopsided Paris Climate Agreement, a truly “America last” policy. Under the agreement, the world’s main polluters – China and India – would be given a pass on emissions reductions over the first 30 years while the U.S. and Europe would set stringent goals. It was argued that China – a government that is obviously very honest on the world stage – needed a pass since the West industrialized long before. It’s hard to argue that the Paris Climate Agreement wasn’t structured around helping the world catch up with the U.S., something most backers would proudly endorse as a good thing. After all, Western imperialism ruined the world according to the left.

Interestingly enough, the U.S. actually reduced emissions in the year following the withdrawal, while China’s grew at the highest rate in seven years. Germany, France and other European backers of the agreement also raised emissions.

So we certainly shouldn’t expect any America first policies from a President Biden, or whoever is pulling the puppet strings on what increasingly walks and talks like a corpse. That doesn’t matter though. What matters is how Biden comes across to voters. In chaotic times, Biden’s America first theatrics could appeal to swing voters. “Democrats are the real racists” appeals to nobody, and it especially doesn’t appeal to working class voters who handed Trump the Presidency.

Good economic numbers in the coming months coupled with a better virus response could certainly turn things around. The debates, or an inevitable Biden attempt to retreat from them, can only help Trump. He either eviscerates a clearly mentally declining Biden or the Vice President weasels his way out of the debates. Neither will help Biden.

Trump’s “law and order” messaging has also been good and it appeals to potential voters far more than parscale’s strategy was. Over 60% of Americans supported using the military to quell the riots, so Federal crackdowns in Portland, Seattle and Chicago should help the President’s numbers. The, “mobs dragging citizens from their cars and setting government buildings on fire are the good guys” messaging appeals to nobody, despite what university-minted commies believe.

Trump can still win re-election, but the reality of a deteriorating situation needs to be recognized. The Trump Campaign needs better messaging down the stretch.

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