Stop me if you have heard this before: Trump will lose, Biden is riding high in the polls, Trump campaign is pulling backs on ads, etc. Polling continues to show, minus outliers, Biden is polling extremely well in battleground states (paging Hillary Clinton) except for Pennsylvania and Florida.
Amateur analysts, myself included, will say this and that cost Trump the election. Course, we have four years of material to go with so you can pick a ton but in my mind there are three top reasons. And no, tax cuts for businesses is not one of them (sorry, AOC).
The first is easily what sunk the GOP’s house majority in 2018 and ironically, gave them their majority in 2010; healthcare. A large part of Trump’s success in neutralizing the issue in 2016 was his past stances on nationalizing care and going after the GOP establishment on a host of issues. Clinton very much ran on expanding the ACA but was mum on how.
Fast forward a year and Trump presided over arguably what was the messiest effort ever by the GOP to repeal and replace, then eventually just replace, the ACA. The effort ultimately was shot down by John McCain and the party later turned to an issue which far more unifies the party; taxes.
Even after 2018, Trump’s team and Senate Republicans had no plan to replace or modify the law. Meanwhile, a pending lawsuit before the Supreme Court from over 20 states to repeal the law has helped define the Trump White House really has no future ideas on how to replace the law. In poll after poll, voters who rank healthcare as their top priority, favor Biden 3 – 1.
Only 40 days before the election has the White House decided to give a middle finger to Congress and execute a number of reforms themselves. The set of proposals would preserve covering those with pre-existing conditions (by far, the biggest cost driver of care), give seniors a $200 Medicare card and lower pharmaceutical prices by executive fiat. Unfortunately, the plan is more a set of ideas than a plan to execute as the drug companies are opposed and HHS does not even know if it can issue the checks for seniors.
The problems reflect the issues Republicans have always had on the issue of protecting patients, lowering costs and improving competition. Sound bytes like socialized healthcare and throwing grandma off a cliff sound great but in reality neither is remotely close to the truth.
Another reason why Trump might lose in November was his response to COVID – 19. The only reason the President is remotely competitive is because the focus has shifted among voters to trying to overcome the virus to living with the virus and growing the economy. Amid more Americans dying, the President is trying his darndest to focus solely on the economy.
The problem is the drip, drip, drip bit of news about his response to COVID has made this shift fully impossible. From reports of discord among his staff and Fauci (my favorite little fascist) to the interview he held with Bob Woodward where he said the virus was “deadly” and did not respond to it sooner because it would hurt his reelection prospects, the campaign has been in damage control mode. Unable to control the news in any meaningful way, the White House is at the mercy of forces it cannot control.
The final reason why Trump could lose is nothing related to the campaign but rather how he won in the first place. Trump surprised in 2016 largely because he railed against the system and had no governmental experience. But, that is why running as the outsider has its downsides.
The President has not changed DC in any meaningful way. He has not appointed people who know how to change the system nor have loyalties to a man who could turn on them in an instant and thus pursue his agenda. This means much of the President’s agenda, even one to drain the swamp, has stalled. His supporters (myself hesitantly included) are drawn to support him as a trade-off to protect the values we have. But, running on an agenda of success is a bit much for this White House to claim. It is a bit like Joe Biden claiming he has done a lot for communities over 50 years.
There are other reasons why Trump could lose. His mouth, his personality, his lack of core convictions, the list goes on. Ironically, if anything, Trump might be the short-term pain the GOP needs to feel to enjoy long-term success however.
Trump has instilled conservative jurisprudence at the federal level for a decade or more and perhaps longer if he can push Amy Coney Barrett across the finish line to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
More importantly though, Trump’s populism, raw as it is, has proven appealing to minorities traditionally resistant to the GOP. The trade-off has been the loss of white college educated voters but these same voters were trending blue far before Trump. As whites shrink as a percentage of the population, inequality grows, and Democrats increasingly become an unstable coalition of well-off whites and minorities, the GOP will increasingly be defined by class and become less white as a result. In 2024, if a Biden administration has run America for four years, expect a GOP nominee to run who personifies a softer populist tone in style if not substance. Ironically, the man who may preside over a cataclysm for the GOP in a month may be the one who defines the GOP moving forward.