Why Trump could win a second term

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS --  It would be a huge mistake to write off the 2020 U.S. presidential race result as a foregone conclusion. Many did so in 2016, taking as a no-brainer that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump. Some self-deluded Clinton supporters found it so impossible to believe that Trump had won that they have spent much of his first term in denial, attempting to blame it on unproven meddling by foreign bogeymen. Polls show former Vice President Joe Biden in the lead by an average of about 7 points nationally. In reality, the figure is meaningless. Regardless of who they claim to support, 51 percent of Americans of all stripes believe that Trump will beat Biden, according to a Pew Research Center poll from last month. And they have every reason to be correct.

Trump has never enjoyed the support of the majority of Americans, so itís a mistake to read too much into popularity polls. Hillary Clinton was more popular than Trump in 2016, but she still lost to him for one reason: Trump won the Electoral College math contest and beat Clinton in enough of the swing states to put him over the line. Remember when Bidenís Democratic Party opponents dropped like flies leaving Biden as the last man standing, uncontested, in the primary race? The party had evidently come to the conclusion that Biden represented the partyís best shot at defeating Trump for the simple reason that he could pull off victories in the swing states against Trump and thereby prevent a repeat of the 2016 shock loss. And thatís all itís really going to come down to again this year ó barring any wild and unforeseen event.

Trumpís big advantage over Biden is that his core support is much more unshakable, with 66 percent of his supporters backing him strongly, compared to only 46 percent of Bidenís, according to the Pew survey. But whatís even worse news for Biden is that his supportersí main reason for backing him is that he isnít Trump. This effectively reduces the election to a referendum on Trump himself, and places the presidentís fate largely in his own hands.

A series of presidential debates have been set, and for the first time voters are going to be able to see how each fares against the other without any safety net. If Biden fails to aggressively challenge Trumpís often liberal and freewheeling approach to provable facts and reality, then Trump will win. If Biden lets Trump define him ó leading voters to believe, for example, that heís a tax-and-spend liberal whoís going to take away their hard-earned money and curtail their freedoms ó then Trump will win. If Biden comes across as less psychologically astute than Trump, then Trump wins. Normally debates arenít a major deciding factor, as most voters lean strongly one way or the other ó unless thereís a glaring reason for them to change their mind. And given that we havenít yet witnessed a direct, unassisted matchup between these two men, surprises may await.

Democrats have also placed far too much stock in uncontrollable events that theyíve leveraged to bash Trump. Much of everyoneís year has been dominated by the coronavirus crisis, and Democrats have leveraged Trumpís handling of it against him. They havenít proven, however, that Bidenís actions would have led to a much different result, as the virus seems to be running its course everywhere in the world with little regard to political machinations.

Using the current state of the U.S. economy against Trump is also a non-starter as most people realize that extrinsic factors related to the COVID-19 fiasco are primarily responsible for this predicament. Trump could even feasibly argue that Bidenís statements suggesting that heíd be more favorable to shutting America down would have caused even more economic carnage.

Pointing to Washington establishment elites ó from former Trump administration members to military brass ó who are all now coming out of the woodwork (sometimes even with tell-all books) to dish dirt on Trump may backfire. It was a strong disdain for this establishment that enabled Trump to seduce voters in the first place. Cries about Trump breaking a system that the silent majority of voters of all stripes already felt was rife with corruption is only going to allow Trump to paint Biden as a swamp creature himself. And for all of Bidenís talk of bringing dignity back to the White House, voters may just chalk it up to being forced to choose between sophisticated mafiosos of the establishment machine and scrappy Trump hoodlums. In this matchup, the underdog may hold more of an appeal.

In any case, Team Biden would be committing a critical error in treating this race like a cakewalk. That happened four years ago, and the Democrats are still wiping the cream pie off their face.