Monday, September 28, 2020

Cornered! Trump is losing degrees of freedom

Jonathon V. Last in The Bulwark poses a question: “When is the last time the sitting president of the United States accused his opponent of using performance-enhancing drugs and demanded that he take a drug test following a debate?”

Obviously, the answer is: Never. Because prior to this moment our country has never had a president who was both psychologically and cognitively unbalanced.

But Trump’s bizarre drug-test demand isn’t just a symptom. It’s an indicator of how desperate he is.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) has more on this.

As Trump demands pre-debate drug tests, Team Biden fires back What does it say about a president’s level of pre-election panic that he’s fixated on a weird theory about performance-enhancing drugs?

Over the weekend, Trump put this in writing for the first time, publishing this missive to Twitter:

“I will be strongly demanding a Drug Test of Sleepy Joe Biden prior to, or after, the Debate on Tuesday night. Naturally, I will agree to take one also. His Debate performances have been record setting UNEVEN, to put it mildly. Only drugs could have caused this discrepancy???”

Asked at a press briefing yesterday whether this line of attack was an attempt at humor, the president replied, “No, I’m not joking.” He added, “People say he was on performance-enhancing drugs. A lot of people have said that. A lot of people have written that…. Take a look. Why don’t you just check it? You can check out the Internet. You’ll see.”

That line, “a lot of people”, is standard Trump fare. He makes these claims based on nothing other than “a lot of people.”

Soon after, the Biden campaign issued a statement that read, “Vice President Biden intends to deliver his debate answers in words. If the president thinks his best case is made in urine, he can have at it. We’d expect nothing less from Donald Trump, who pissed away the chance to protect the lives of 200K Americans when he didn’t make a plan to stop COVID–19.”

Cornered!

Jonathon Last continues.

Here are the baseline facts as we sit a little more than one month away from Election Day:

  • Biden currently leads Trump by > +7 percent in the national polling average.
  • Trump has never been closer than –3 at any point in the race, and even that margin was brief—just two days in April.
  • Trump’s net approve/disapprove is currently –9. He has been net-negative on this measure since February 3, 2017.
  • Taken together, Trump’s net negative approval rating and trailing of Biden are historic. In the advent of modern polling, no sitting president has ever been this unpopular and this far behind, this consistently, ever.

Trump’s pathway to victory—already very narrow—has continued to shrink.

Consider the shifting theories of victory Team Trump has put forward over the last four years:

  • First, they insisted that they would remake the Republican party and broaden its appeal creating a new, Reagan-like realignment and political majority.
  • At some point following the midterm elections, they abandoned even the pretense of trying to win a majority of the vote in 2020, and placed their faith in the hope of winning an Electoral College majority while holding Biden’s popular vote victory to +3 points.
  • Over the summer the idea of holding Biden to only +3 gave way to the hope that they might get to 270 Electoral Votes even if Biden finished +5.
  • Within the last month, the idea of winning in the Electoral College on election night has, itself, disappeared. The campaign now hopes to be able to use litigation and the courts to manufacture an Electoral College victory after the fact.

This progression of victory scenarios is not what you see from winning campaigns.

As of this weekend it is public that (1) Trump’s tax returns are (at least) politically problematic and (2) He is about to have $300 million in debt mature.

And finally, tomorrow night’s debate with Joe Biden is Trump’s last chance to change the dynamics of the race.

What you have here is a powerful man who is cornered. Who knows that he is cornered. And who knows that we know it, too.

I mention all of this because it suggests to me that the danger for America is increasing, rather than decreasing. The eyewall of this storm has is still out to sea. And it’s bearing down on us.

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