Orange Man Wins Bigly

If you read MSM, especially Canadian MSM, the US Presidential Election is over and Joe Biden will cruise to an easy victory in both the popular vote and in the swing states where US elections are decided. The polls say so. End of story.

It is trite to point out that the polls said the same thing about Hillary in 2016, yet here we are.

Elections are about a lot of things, policy, personality, demographics, ground game, likeability and so on. They serve as an outlet for the fears and frustrations of the electorate and an opportunity to express tribal loyalty. The 2020 US Presidential Election is really an up or down vote on Donald Trump.

In 2016 Trump short circuited the system by providing an alternative to a genuinely despised woman whose “turn” it was. If I had a vote, which I don’t because Canadian, I would not have voted for Trump, I would have voted against Hillary. I did not like Trump the man and was not at all excited at the prospect of “President Trump”.

This has changed a bit for 2020. He’s still an Orange Oaf but, in the face of multiple challenges, COVID 19 being only the most recent, he has managed to execute the office far better than I anticipated. No new wars, lots of new judges, de-regulation, tax cuts, a booming pre-COVID economy which led to very low unemployment generally and record lows for Blacks and Latinos. He has shown remarkable restraint in the face of the Antifa/BLM provocations and deference to the place of the States in the American Constitution on both COVID and the riots. For a rank amateur, often advised by people who did not share his agenda, Trump’s first term was a success.

Which is just one of the reasons I think he will be given a second term.

There are lots of others. Up until he beat COVID (we hope) in a weekend, Trump was running a real, old time, campaign. Flying into swing states and doing hanger rallies in places no Presidential candidate has been to in a century. Pulling 10,000 here, 20,000 there. And, of course, harvesting the data on all the people who wanted tickets.

The boat parades (apparently not organized by the campaign), truck parades and car parades, the spontaneous rally outside Walter Reed, even the Trump supporters greeting Biden when he occasionally campaigns, all indicate real enthusiasm for Trump. Biden’s campaign knows it can’t put on this sort of show so it is not even trying.

Trump is, first and foremost, a showman. He loves the crowds, the cheers, the signs. He has developed a rally “patter” with entertaining asides, imitations, jokes, insults all worked into the teleprompter material. His timing isn’t perfect but he never runs into “Please clap.” moments. Most of all, Trump always looks like he is having a ton of fun being with his people.

Now, if that was the whole of the Trump campaign it might very well beat the lame effort of the Dems and Joe Biden; but it is not:

“Although Stepien faces an unprecedented challenge — trailing in some national polls by double-digits with an unpopular incumbent in the midst of a pandemic — he has what Republicans believe is a crucial advantage over Democratic opponent Joe Biden: the Republican Party’s sophisticated, billion-dollar get-out-the vote operation.

Trump Victory, the joint operation between the RNC and the Trump campaign, has an army of 2,000 paid field staffers in 17 states and more than 2 million volunteers making phone calls and knocking on doors. The field operation claims to have made more than 90 million voter contacts in the cycle, including 12 million door knocks since they resumed the practice in June.

In just the last week, according to Trump Victory spokesman Rick Gorka, volunteers have knocked on more than 533,000 doors across the key states of North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Georgia.” cnn (September 10, 2020)

For years political consultants maintained that campaigns were won with advertising mainly on TV. Markets were saturated, consultants well paid – it was like selling soap. Now, fewer and fewer people are watching TV and if they are they have more than five channels to watch. National markets have collapsed, local markets are fighting for a share of fewer and fewer viewers. People get their news, their entertainment and their political views from the fragmented, siloed world of the internet. On the internet you can target very specifically, but you cannot really reach an undifferentiated mass audience.

Trump’s campaign figured that out in 2016 but it has had four years to figure out how to bypass both TV, mainstream media and the internet’s silos. A phone call is fine but the ultimate outreach to the undecided voter in key states is good, old fashioned, door knocking. It’s a big country, but in the states which matter, hundreds of thousands of direct contacts and a big data operation can make a huge difference.

Demographics matter too and here Trump has a huge advantage, he has nowhere to go but up with black Americans and Latinos. In 2016 Trump got 8% of black votes. According to exit polls in 2016 Trump got 29% of the Latino vote. For the past four years Trump has made a point of courting black and Latino voters. More importantly, in the pre-Covid economy employment rates for both groups hit historic highs. Will that translate to votes? I suspect it will, the question is how many. Much is made of the “shy” Trump vote. Realistically, you would have to be a very brave black person in a black community, to show any support for Trump. We’ll see how that goes but a tiny increase – and I mean 3% – in Trump voting in black and Latino demographics would have huge electoral consequences.

The final piece of the Trump victory is the gift of Joe Biden. No one hates Joe in the way people hated Hillary. He’s old, a bit dazed, corrupt, lousy at retail politics, bereft of policy and saddled with a VP candidate someone referred to as Hillary in blackface. But no one hates him. They just don’t like him very much. Even his supporters have bumper stickers saying “Settle for Biden”.

Incumbency is tough to defeat. People know who Donald Trump is. There are plenty of people who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and are looking forward to not voting for him in 2020. Just as there are lots who voted for Trump and will again. But no one is affirmatively voting for Joe Biden.

Which leads to the final reason why Trump will win. People who support Trump will all show up, most of the people who hate Trump will show up too, though likely not all – and there is no one who actually supports Joe Biden. Elections are decided by the people who actually vote. Trump’s job is to make sure every single one of his supporters and leaners (secret or otherwise) feels motivated enough to vote. And that is exactly what Trump and his organization are doing.

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11 thoughts on “Orange Man Wins Bigly

  1. John says:

    It is going to be interesting. If someone put a gun to my head I would say that Biden will take it but I was wrong in 2016 and I could easily be wrong now. After all the electoral college seems to have a built in bias for republicans.

    But let me make an argument for Trump losing. One of his major strengths was the economy and jobs but covid has hurt the economy and now he is showing a net 4 million jobs loss on his watch.

    Also, his handling of the covid has been very poor all the way along. His debate performance was not great but what he needed to do was to broaden his base and it seems to be shrinking.

    For me, a major blow against him was when the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine wrote a letter criticizing the governmental response to the pandemic. Something that has never happened before. Of course I am a bit of a nerd so things like this tend to count more with me than with the public.

    Right now Biden is up over 10 percent in the polls and it has been a much more consistent lead than what Clinton had in 2016 which was all over the place. if he can hold this lead to above 5% then I think he can take it. If Biden’s lead falls to less than 3 percent then it is Trumps. In between it is anyone’s guess.

  2. Jay Currie says:

    We’ll see what the GDP number looks like Friday. You are right that the COVID lockdowns and such like have hurt Trump. But decent numbers Friday and he could be back in the game.

    I disagree on the handling of COVID. I don’t think any Federal government could have done a whole lot better simply because so much of the response is, constitutionally, at the state level.

    I do agree that you are a bit of a nerd 😉 and that the impact of the NEJM is likely somewhat limited.

    Against the Biden “up over 10%” I would suggest that the sheer enthusiasm of the Trump supporters and the fun they are having in their campaign means they will actually vote. Biden is barely campaigning, looking very old and no one is going to vote for Biden.

    I think this is becoming a referendum on Trump. Up or down. Biden has become irrelevant. Are there more people who like Trump enough to get out and vote for him or are there enough people who hate Trump and will get out and vote against him?

    Last time there were plenty of people who voted for Trump because they hated Hillary. No one “hates” poor old Joe. So will they “Settle for Biden” and will that motivate them to go and endure the crazy lineups which the poor Americans have to deal with to vote?

    [On Twitter today a guy asked non-Americans to describe their “voting experience”. I hate smug Canadians, but, seriously, federally and provincially, it is ten minutes in and out. There are some things we should be smug about. Here’s the link to the thread:

    Here's an interesting question for non-Americans: what's the longest you've had to wait in a line to vote? And how difficult was it to vote?#Election2020— Brandon Tozzo (@BrandonTozzo) October 12, 2020

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js)

  3. John says:

    I think that you are correct when you say that it has become a bit of a referendum on Trump. And as you point out it is ironic that one of the motivating forces last election was that people hated Clinton but this time it is people hating Trump.

    And while the only thing we can agree on in regards to the polls is that they will not be accurate, I don’t think Trump will be successful if he is more than 5 points behind. While the EC does provide a bias towards Republicans, I think that a 5 % difference is enough to overcome it.

    However I strongly disagree with your comment about the Federal Government’s handling of COVID. You can say it is implemented at the State level but as in Canada at the start of the pandemic the provinces took their lead from the Feds. After they had a chance to consider the situation they developed differences (that is why they all had somewhat similar policies and actions at the start but a very wide range of policies in how they opened up).

    You could argue that the response was appropriate in the early stages since we were not sure what we were dealing with, however that would only excuse their actions up to about April.

    The Trump Administration’s refusal to follow the basic science is inexcusable. For example the Administration’s actions to discredit science and scientists that did not support their policies has done a huge amount of harm. Even something as simple as data collection should have been coordinated at the Federal level. Suffice it to say that the Federal response has been abysmal and I think Trump will pay for it on election day. How much is anyone’s guess.

    One final thing that I see starting to become important is that a number of people are recognizing that Trump tends to be a divisive person and white that seems to energize his base a lot of moderates are moderate specifically because they don’t like division. Biden has picked up on this and is playing it well.

  4. Fred from BC says:

    Very well said, Jay (as always).

    I feel exactly the same as you about Donald Trump…wealthy Democrats like him, especially the New York variety, just leave me cold (yes, yes…he’s a ‘Republican’ now. Sure he is…).

    Never watched his show, never read any of his books, and think he’s an arrogant and immature boor. But running one of the most despised women in America against him was a huge mistake, as you say…and he really hasn’t done all that badly by most measures. On foreign policy he is surprisingly good; not only *not* starting any more wars (as the strident Trump-haters kept saying he would do) but withdrawing US forces from trouble spots where they didn’t need to be. I was slightly concerned once when the left accused him of “abandoning our allies” (the Kurds, I think it was), but it turns out that he had an actual plan: pull US troops out of certain areas to force NATO and the UN to start pulling their own weight (why should the Americans have to do all the heavy lifting all the time?); lo and behold, it worked.

    Then there’s the justice issues, like the illegal use of the FBI and intelligence agencies to spy on Trump and his associates. Then the legal and regulatory ones, where he has apparently slashed both taxes and red tape. His handing of gay rights issues and abortion has been nowhere near as divisive as the naysayers were warning everyone they would be, and the ‘he encourages white supremacy!’ thing tuned out to be just as real as the Russian collusion farce.

    (you want to see the most racially-divisive President in US history, look at Barack Obama)

    You can’t argue with his success in trade and the economy, either…as you said, the US economy was *booming* right before COVID-19 and more blacks and Latinos
    were working than had been working for the last 50 years (that’s like an entire generation, right?). The public isn’t stupid, and they aren’t going to blame Trump for the actions of the Chinese government.

    As for COVID-19, yeah, not as big a deal as the Democrats would like to make it. How can anyone possibly hold Trump to blame for that while excusing Andrew Cuomo, Bill Blasio and Nancy Pelosi (to name just a few) for *their* actions? The ongoing riots, the deaths and the massive property damage in the Democrat-run cities is also nothing do do with Trump, and he won’t be blamed for those, either.

    If I were American, like you I would probably hold my nose and vote for Donald Trump anyway…because it’s not like the Democrats gave me much of a choice.

    But win or lose, Trump has served his purpose: he has put both the Republicans and the Democrats on notice that the status quo is longer safe. The American people have always held the real power, and they *will*, if you push them hard enough, use it if they have to.

  5. Jay Currie says:

    Fred, I agree with your overall comment and, particularly, your last paragraph. But here is the thing, if Trump loses the start he has made at clearing the elites, draining the swamp, goes with him.

    I think he is going to win. But if he wins he needs to clean house in a big way. He was naive going in. Now he has held the office for four years and has a clue. More Ric Grinell, less Chris Wray.

    The interesting thing is that if, as I suspect, the Trump vote is huuuge, his coat tails could deliver the Senate and the House.Trump unleashed would be a glorious, if slightly frightening, thing to see.

    • Fred from BC says:

      I think he’ll win too, Jay. And if he does: look out. All those responsible for the spying on his campaign, the fishing expeditions attempting to intimidate and criminally charge everyone connected to him, the lying to federal judges to get FISA warrants, the Fusion GPS Russian collusion BS, the Ukraine fiasco…all of those people need to be held accountable.

      If Bill Barr won’t do it, he’ll be replaced with someone who will (I hope).

  6. Gary says:

    Did Trump do a bad job on Coronavirus or was it others?
    He wanted to shut the borders but people with higher foreheads were fighting him not to do the most significant first step in a pandemic. Always nice when people are on one side of an issue flip flop and blame you for not doing what you wanted,…. because they were fighting you.
    Ie 6 months ago
    https://theintercept.com/2020/03/05/coronavirus-trump-closing-borders/
    Anyway,… Taiwan immediately instituted a lockdown re COVID you visited Taiwan you stayed in isolation for 14 days a major fine for violators. Only 7 dead, ie 1/1000 th or so Canadas mauling. I mean it was here half a year before Dr Tam said wear a mask,…. But in Taiwan they said to in January while Canadian universities were censoring people for talking about a pandemic that was killing thousands.
    So people said it has to be fought internally and in Pearson three unscreened flights a day were landing from China, laughably one person died in the airport otherwise they would have been wandering through Toronto infecting who knows how many people. In the USA who knows how many landed and now both countries are messed up because of the lets fight it internally crowd. It was hardly all Trumps fault.

    The SARS outbreak, which reached 29 countries, was ultimately contained using traditional public health measures, such as testing, isolating patients and screening people at airports and other places where they might spread the virus, Gostin said. The strategy is simple: If sick people can be stopped from infecting healthy people, the disease will eventually die off.
    https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-02-18/sars-coronavirus-china-epidemic

    But if you want to blame people for COVID-19 don’t leave out Winnipeg.

    In Taiwan there are 7 people dead from COVID because they did what Trump wanted to do. Not 7 thousand, or 7 hundred. 531 infected Seven dead. Are they awesome at washing their hands or what.

    • John says:

      Thanks Gary, I am not sure that the people encouraging him to keep the boarders open were the same people who then criticized him for doing so.

      My comment in regards to science can be nicely summed up by the editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum”. I would link to it but Jay’s site seems to swallow my posts when I put links in. There are other specific examples that I could cite if you wanted.

      However I think it is best summed up by your reference to Taiwan. You are correct they have done very well and if you look at why they think they are successful, one of the main reasons is they have a culture of wearing masks. The letter “Masks and medical care: Two keys to Taiwan’s success in preventing COVID-19 spread” published in Elsevier collection on the pandemic. Contrast their position to what Trump advocates and the difference is evident.

      • Fred from BC says:

        “and if you look at why they think they are successful, one of the main reasons is they have a culture of wearing masks. ”

        That’s why we have fared so well here in BC, I think, despite Trudeau not banning air travel from Asia in the early days of the pandemic.

  7. Terry Rudden says:

    Since I called it so badly wrong last time, I’m hesitant to speculate. But to counter a couple of your points, Jay:
    – There’s not doubt that Trump’s base are more enthused and motivated than Biden’s. Given that Trump’s profession is marketing, and primarily self-marketing, that’s hardly a surprise. However, The glum Democrats who sat at home in 2016 out of either overconfidence or under-enthusiasm are coming off a brutal four year practical demonstration of the consequences of their neglect.
    – Biden’s polling lead, both fir popular vote and electoral college seats, is at this point wider than Hillary’s was. More important, however – Trump is trending down at this point, not up.

  8. John says:

    I will also add one point to Terry’s above. When in doubt follow the money. Biden’s campaign raised a record $365 million in August and promptly beat it by raising 383 in September. The average donation was $44. Now, money isn’t everything but it speaks to the level of involvement. That is a huge number of people who are contributing each month.

    Trump still has a good shot at re-election, but his best shot at changing the trend of the polls is at the next debate and that will be a very delicate line. He performance in the last debate was good for his core supporters, but it harmed him with the broader public. To appeal outside his base he will need to tone down the rhetoric, accept that the moderator’s job is to moderate and talk about his specific plans and policies. If he can do that, then his core will feel he caved and start to doubt him.

    And of course by then about 25% of the vote will have be cast in advanced voting so he is fighting an uphill battle. Will there be a group of conservatives who will hold their nose and vote for him – sure. There will also be a lot of people who will hold their nose and vote for Biden. I don’t think the polls reflect these people so that is why I think Biden needs to be ahead by 5% in the polls to have a good chance.

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