Analysing the polls, while being a great hobby of mine sketches only a rough depiction of the public mood. 87 (reputable) national polls have been made public since the start of May. All 87 of which show former Vice President and recently crowned Democrat challenger to Trump, Joe Biden ahead by between 2%-15%. By my rough calculations, Trump could win the Electoral College realistically if he was 4% behind under most conditions and thus be re-elected. So depending on which national poll you look at, it has been quite close for a while, but with Biden having a distinct advantage. However, Hillary Clinton found out the hard way that national polls were not painting the exquisite picture that she thought would result in her victory. Trump had then and has now a great ‘enthusiasm gap’, his supporters will in their own words ‘‘crawl over broken glass shards’’ to vote for him. Trump has also restructured his campaign team and has a new campaign manager. He has refocussed on the theme of law and order.
But how is Trump playing these riots to his advantage? Surely this is his America, he is the President, is he not?
His first response is to flip the narrative and paint the ‘mostly peaceful protesters’ as they are continuously described by swathes of the American media, as ‘thugs’, ‘violent rioters’ and ‘anarchists’. Many Republicans are even making the claim that these protesters are funded by left-wing groups to cause specifically targeted trouble to specific law makers such as Rand Paul. We will see if these claims are substantiated in due course, no doubt. This strategy has been attributed as being divisive and of course it is, however looking at the situation as objectively as one possibly can, both sides are obviously to blame for this division. Trump is certainly weaponising American polarisation for his own gain, but so is the media monopoly, the corporate conglomerates that oppose him so viscerally.
In terms of his actions also, by sending in homeland security to defend specific and key institutions such as the courthouses, drawing attention to their importance, weaving in the perceived success of his criminal justice reforms to his answers to media questions make them effective rebuttals. Deploying the National Guard to reduce the unrest while emphasising the fact that the cities with these problems are democrat run, with democrat mayors and city councils with democrat majorities is political craftsmanship straight out of the Trump playbook. Trump also consistently brings up the need for state governor’s consent when answering questions about these riots. His repetition of these facts further reinforces to his supporters and to many independents that the blame for any delays to this action or any lack thereof should not be left at his door, thus covering him politically quite comprehensively.
Fast forward to today and although many of the big name pollsters and election prediction models show Biden marginally ahead, the ‘smart money’, the betting odds are now quickly aligning to consistently favour the President’s re-election (55%-65% chance). The momentum is on his side and the enthusiasm gap remains gargantuan. Watch this space.