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If United States President Donald J. Trump seems a little more irritable and whiney, and testy and belligerent than normal (and he is normally irritable, whiney, testy and belligerent at the best of times) it’s because he can read public opinion polls just like the rest of us.
Editor’s Note: First of two parts. The next column will focus on the United States Senate and the Democrat's chances of retaking control of that house away from the Republicans. It will run in the Cape Breton Post and online on June 17.
And what he is seeing in the American polling data from both liberal and conservative news sources must either make his blood run cold, or boil, depending on his mood. For what he is seeing is the spectre of his defeat in the presidential election on Nov. 3, just six months away.
Remember that in 2016 Donald Trump won the White House for the Republicans by defeating the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton even though Clinton won some three million more votes than Trump. Clinton won 48.2 per cent of the popular vote compared to Trump’s tally of 46.1 per cent, but the American constitution stipulates that victory in the Electoral College, not popular vote totals, is the key to the White House. And Trump won the Electoral College vote by winning in four key battleground states – Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio.
As I’ve said before in this column, if Trump wants to retain the White House in 2020, he needs to maintain his support base in the deep south and the mid-west states, and hold all four of those battleground states.
And this is why the current polling must be driving the President nuts. While Trump’s base of support in the south and the mid-west remains strong, realclearpolitics.com, a superb compendium of major American national and state polling data, shows Trump in difficulty in the states that he cannot afford to lose.
Just last weekend Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential contender was ahead of Trump by 3.3 per cent in Florida, by 5.5 per cent in Michigan, and by 6.5 per cent in Pennsylvania. The only battleground state in which Trump was leading Biden was Ohio, by 3.0 per cent. But then Biden had a 2.7 per cent lead in nearby Wisconsin, a state won by Trump in 2016.
In just looking at national head-to-head matchups between the two contenders, the current polling advantage is also favouring Biden and the Democrats. CNBC has Biden leading Trump 48/45 per cent; the Economist shows a Biden lead of 47/42 per cent; Quinnipac reports Biden leading over Trump by 50/39 per cent; and even Fox News, historically Donald Trump’s go-to source for news and wisdom, shows Biden beating Trump by 48/40 per cent.
To Trump, this is proof positive that he is being mistreated and disrespected, the most put-upon president in American history. A president treated even worse than Abraham Lincoln.
If the American presidential election had been held last weekend, Trump would have lost, big time. But the election was not held last weekend, and it won’t be held for another six months. And six months can be an eternity in politics, especially in these strange times of COVID-19.
If Trump wants to retain the White House in 2020, he needs to maintain his support base in the deep south and the mid-west states, and hold all four of those battleground states.
So watch to see American politics just get uglier and more and more angry and divisive as their November election day gets closer. Trump is sensing that he could lose this election and he will be lashing out at Biden and the Democrats and the media, and any group, or thing, or nation, that he sees as an enemy. Or a convenient target to rally his base and those who voted for him last time.
So look to see him attack, in no particular order, women’s rights advocates, Mexicans, the World Health Organization, China, free trade agreements, gun control advocates, Muslims, those supporting the cautious reopening of state economies, those critical of hydroxychloroquine, the European Union, environmental advocates, those supporting health-care reform, Iran, and probably Canada.
The president has already said he wants to close the American border to all beef imports, most of which come from us. Rest assured we will get drawn into Trump’s war of words.
More about the upcoming American election season, and the Democrats chances of retaking the United States Senate, in my next column.
Dr. David Johnson, Ph.D., teaches political science at Cape Breton University.