The world will now be in waiting. Those who have nails left to bite will do so. Pulses will at times go off the charts. Between now and November 2nd, arguably the most polarising and hostile American election in the nation’s history will unfold. Either we fasten our seat bolts for another four years of Donald J. Trump or we face a range of differing Democrat possibilities from President Joe Biden, President Bernard Sanders or even President Michael Bloomberg, who if successful, will have proved that billions of dollars can get you the White House.
The case for Trump rests on a number of powerful foundations. The US economy is faring well. If you believe that it still is “the economy stupid”, then sign up to the Trump bandwagon. Jobs matter and dollars in voters’ pockets is a winning ticket. Whether Trump is responsible for this current economic well-being in the US will matter to very few. That said, research has indicated that perhaps the economy is less the decisive issue that it used to be for the electorate.
Secondly, Trump is the incumbent. In 31 Presidential elections, the incumbent candidate has won 21 times. The last time one lost was George H Bush in 1992. Trump has the branding and name recognition. He will fly no doubt with Air Force One, one of his preferred background props for photo-calls to all the key states he has to retain. As in 2016, he will hardly have to purchase airtime. The media still has this love-hate relationship with him that guarantees he will dominate the airwaves and not just the twittersphere. This was the stand-out feature of the 2016 campaign. Trump was always able to fight on his terms because he controlled the narrative of what it was about. As the incumbent, he will also have little difficulty in raising funds.
Thirdly, the Donald does have an extraordinary talent for simple messaging that cuts through to his base, repeated and repeated until it is emblazoned on the consciousness of all who listen. In contrast, who remembers what Hillary Clinton’s campaign was about in 2016? In short it was just “I’m Hillary. Vote for me.” Everybody still knows what Trump was about – ‘Make American Great Again’, ‘build the wall’ and ‘keep American jobs’. It never required detailed plans or strategies nor did they exist. He blasted his rivals with trite little nicknames, but regrettably for the tone of politics, this works. Trump knows how to work his crowd, his base and that is all he thinks he needs. His opponents face a juggernaut, and the challenge is how to derail it.
Fourthly, Trump has a narrative about what he claims to have delivered even if yet again it does not stand up to much scrutiny. He did pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and renegotiated a new North American free trade deal. He moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem. He claims to have defeated Isis and did launch an operation that ended with the death of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the then Isis leader. Now as a result of the January 3rd strike, Trump can boast about having slain Qassem Suleimani as well. He will argue in his usual bold style that this shows that America’s enemies now fear the US once more. Trump can also argue he is pulling forces from many of the ‘endless wars’ in the Middle East, even if in the near future he has to reinforce them to protect against any Iranian retaliation. He rattled the NATO alliance with demands for greater contributions. The wall may not have been built but who can argue he was not tough to the point of brutal on immigration.
Finally, Trump has wonderful opponents from his perspective. If Clinton had no story to tell the American people in 2016, one wonders if any of the current Democratic crop have one either. Can these contenders win on an ‘anyone but Trump’ ticket? It is conceivable but unlikely. All the impeachment fanfare looks as if it is doing him no long-term damage, and if anything provides him with a ready get out clause in front of the electorate, it is that the “Do-Nothing Dems” have blocked him at every step, in tandem with the evil fake news media.
The Democrat corner also has some potent points should their candidates deploy them effectively. Trump’s approval ratings are dire, and have never at any point in his Presidency risen above the disapproval figures. The Federal Reserve has lowered its growth projections for 2020’s GDP to just 1.9%. The US under Trump has become an international laughing stock, summed up perfectly at the recent NATO mini-summit when Canadian, French and British leaders were all caught making fun of Trump. Trump’s off the cuff overtures to North Korea have reaped zero rewards and who knows what Kim Jong Un may do to burst the Trump bubble this year. Peace in the Middle East is even further away and US forces are now engaged in defence of the mega-US embassy in Baghdad. Democrats may also want to highlight how the US saw the highest number of mass killings on record in 2019.
Events between now and November can disrupt all the informed predictions made in January 2020. An international crisis or another major scandal could harm Trump with a war with Iran, a possibility if all sides are not careful. The likelihood is that Trump will be the one continuing to shape events and the narrative. The question is can he do that to his own advantage?
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