Trump in Trouble

Things are not looking good.

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump participate in a tree planting ceremony in honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day Wednesday, April 22, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump participate in a tree planting ceremony in honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day Wednesday, April 22, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

While he overcame long odds to get elected in 2016, the outlook is even worse for his re-election bid this coming November. The economy is in collapse and his management of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been well received.

The RealClearPolitics average of national polls shows Joe Biden with a comfortable 48.3 to 42.4 lead. Indeed, every included survey shows Biden up at least 4—with the notable exception of Fox, which shows a tie.

The latest Reuters poll shows Trump losing in three key Midwestern battlegrounds.

Republican President Donald Trump trails Democrat Joe Biden among registered voters in three Midwestern battleground states that he narrowly carried in 2016 and are seen as crucial to winning November’s election, according to an Ipsos public opinion poll conducted exclusively for Reuters.

The poll, which ran from April 15-20 in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, showed 45% of registered voters said they would support Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, while 39% said they would support Trump.

It also found that Biden, vice president under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, has an advantage of 3 percentage points among registered voters in Wisconsin, 6 points in Pennsylvania and 8 points in Michigan.

Moreover, WaPo’s Greg Sargent notes, “Coronavirus is invading Red America, new data show. That’s ominous for Trump.”

new analysis from demographer William Frey finds that coronavirus is now spreading into whiter and more Republican-leaning areas of the country. Despite initially being concentrated in blue and urban areas, it has slowly extended into new parts of the Midwest and the south, into outer suburbs and small metropolitan areas, and into parts of the country carried by Trump.

[…]

As of mid-April, the majority of residents of counties that have just become high-coronavirus areas are in the South, Midwest and West. Under half reside in urban cores; more than half live in suburban, outer-suburban, small-metro and rural areas. Nearly half of those counties’ voters picked Trump in 2016.

[…]

If this continues, it could badly complicate the debate over social distancing for Trump. As Frey noted, the perception that high-covid counties are overwhelmingly urban and Democratic “underlies a lot of these protests that are going on,” because the general sentiment among protesters is, “We’re not like that.”

The usual caveats apply. Election Day is still a long way from now. And voter suppression efforts in many Republican states may well be enough to offset the loss of white voter support.

But I just don’t see how Trump gets anywhere near the thresholds he needs to win re-election. He’s been underwater in popularity ratings since his second week in office and even Republicans are complaining about his poor handling of the ongoing crisis.

We’re nearing 50,000 dead from COVID-19 and will likely surpass the death total of the Vietnam War next week. And, while he’s not responsible for all of them, a lot fewer would have died had we been better prepared. That’s on him.

We’ll almost certainly still be in a deep recession—if not a literal depression—when voting takes place. And there’s a good chance that we’ll also be in a second wave of COVID-19. Assuming the first one abates at all.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    I think it looks bad for him, too. But then, I thought it looked bad for him in 2016. Who is going to monkey around with crazy accusations at the last moment this time around?

    To be fair, I think last time a lot of people were motivated to turn out to vote against Hillary Clinton. Not that I agree with them, but she is a deeply polarizing figure, and Biden isn’t.

    16
  2. Kathy says:

    [..]with the notable exception of Fox, which shows a tie.

    Does it show black Sharpie marks?

    33
  3. An Interested Party says:

    I think it looks bad for him, too. But then, I thought it looked bad for him in 2016. Who is going to monkey around with crazy accusations at the last moment this time around?

    No crazy accusations will detract from the fact that he has been a complete disaster with his response to the Coronavirus and no amount of lies will be able to distract from the fact that the economy is also a disaster…both of these things are happening on his watch…blaming Nancy Pelosi or whoever will not help him escape the blame for the mess he’s made…

    18
  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    Fox News polls have Trump down by 8 points in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Quinnipiac has him down 4 points in Florida. Nate Silver’s average of polls has him 9 points underwater – this despite the natural tendency to rally to a leader in times of crisis. Imagine FDR fighting WW2 with 43% support.

    It’s going to take a lot of GRU trolls and Republican voter suppression to overcome that.

    22
  5. Modulo Myself says:

    When Scalia died the GOP didn’t flinch. I can see a similar theory being put forward. 2020 was unique and so it’s unfair to have a presidential election this year, or any elections in the fall. Just put things on hold for a bit. 40% voters deep down have the minds of the John Birch Society–they’re eugenicists who believe the libs, Jews, blacks, gays, commies, and Orientals did this to America. Cancelling his election for Trump’s base will be payback for making him look bad.

    Question is who else goes along with it.

    10
  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Latest QU polling (4/22) from FL…Biden up by 4%.
    Fox News polling (4/22) has Biden up by 8% in PA and MI.
    A Marquette poll (4/1) had Biden up by 3% in WI.
    If those numbers hold…we no longer have a President with an orange spray-on tan.
    Republican voter suppression is an issue…but the WI Primary a couple weeks ago tells me Biden may still overcome.
    In Nov. 2020 the Senate is just as important as the WH.

    14
  7. inhumans99 says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    It really is looking more and more likely that the only reason he won is due to Clinton having been on the ballot. It also tells me that even with all of the voter suppression efforts from the GOP the past few years the best they can do is ensure that his base votes GOP but not really grow the potential # of GOP voters, which means they put a lot of time and effort into wasted efforts (ask the GOP how that worked out for them in 2018 when the Ds took the House, and how that worked out for them in WI when people went to extraordinary lengths to vote against the R candidate).

    Instead of saying something cute like I hope James is right, I am actually going to say that I really do feel he is correct that our President does not understand the trouble he is in. Also, McConnells’ words to tell the states that prop up states like his to go to hell and no federal bailout funds for you is not helping the cause to get his guy re-elected.

    I remember that in the last election it was noted that a lot of R politicians in the state of TX had gotten lazy and not really had to fight to get easily re-elected in the past so it was a bit of a shock that some R politicians lost their seat. I guess it was only a brief shock to the GOPs system as they seem destined to repeat the past. Many folks with an R in front of their name have not really been tested in tons of states that lean Republican but I think they might be in for another rude surprise when they wake up on November 4th.

    2
  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    I checked the polling for FDR and came across this Gallup comparison of high water marks for presidents:

    Obama: 67%
    George W. Bush: 90%
    Bill Clinton: 73%
    HW Bush: 89%
    Reagan: 71%
    Carter: 74%

    Truman: 87%
    FDR: 83%

    Trump’s high point? 49%. Despite all the hate for the first black president, Trump has never done better than three quarters of Obama’s numbers. Trump’s overall average is a pathetic 40%.

    25
  9. MarkedMan says:

    I suspect that Republican voter suppression efforts may backfire, since it is currently focussed on stopping mail in voting. They assume this will hurt minorities the most, but if it forces the elderly to decide between going to the polls and waiting with hundreds of other people for hours, they may elect to give this one a pass. And the elderly are the largest supporters of Trump.

    12
  10. Teve says:

    People keep saying spray tan, but didn’t someone figure out a few months ago that Trump is using Bronx Colors BHC06?

    https://shop.bronxcolors.com/product/boosting-hydrating-concealer/

    4
  11. Kathy says:

    I think there are two weapons Biden and the Democrats can effectively deploy against Trump in this election year. They can be identified as:

    1) “I take no responsibility at all.”

    2) States are on their own.

    America will likely be in recession after the economy opens up. Once the various outlays run out, or provisions for taking them do, there will be mass layoffs in several industries, primarily travel and oil and related fields.

    But adding pandemic time dilation to political time scales is uncharted territory. Who knows how that will play out.

    8
  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    In case you need a theme song for your anti-Tiny virtual get together.

    The Liar Tweets Tonight

    7
  13. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I recall back in his first year his approval rating was 36% at one point. Trump boasted that it was “almost 40%, which is not bad.”

    Sure, Don.

    6
  14. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    I think I’ve mentioned before orange concealer, or I suppose foundation(*), is especially good for concealing dark features.

    He also does a lousy job blending it in the eye area. it looks as though he goes to sleep with an eye mask under some weird carrot version of UV light.

    Or, just maybe, he has some kind of unique skin condition. Maybe it can be named after him: Trump Discoloration, or Trumposis. (People suffering from Trumposis can lead normal, healthy lives with Bidencia. Side effects may include satisfaction and well-being. Ask your doctor about Bidencia).

    (*) Typically foundation matches close to one’s natural skin tone, or at least some kind of human natural skin tone.

    8
  15. mattbernius says:

    And voter suppression efforts in many Republican states may well be enough to offset the loss of white voter support.

    James, if it was possible (and would be welcome) I would hug you through the internet for writing this.

    I know you’ve written this before. Still, the clarity and conviction with which you write about it is just great — especially given the fact you are at the end of the day a center-right Republican at heart.

    10
  16. gVOR08 says:

    If the election were held today, Trump would lose biggly.

    I think the odds are also against him in November, but far from a lock. Incumbency is a big advantage, but in 2016 he was a blank slate and people saw what they wanted to see in him, now he’s a known. In 2016 we had a big 538 effect (unfair name, as 538 had it only 2:1 Hillary), everyone thought Hillary was a lock so a lot of Ds stayed home. (And Comey felt free to play stupid games.) Hillary was a bad candidate, but only because the GOP character assassination machine had been working on her for years. An uncertain primary season and COVID seems to have distracted the GOPs from pushing anything really effective against Biden and it’s getting late. And, I hate to say it, but it matters, this time Trump’s not running against a woman with a black guy incumbent.

    But. But. Larry Bartels favorite “fundamentals” model puts a lot of weight on change in real disposable personal income in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Change compared to previous quarter, not compared to a year ago. If he gets really lucky, come October Trump could be looking at a low point in infection and death rates and an economic recovery. Personal income could be rising dramatically. We don’t have to be out of recession if it looks like it’s getting better. If Trump can claim victory over the virus (it doesn’t have to be anywhere near true for him to claim it) and he has a rising economy, he has a chance. The GOPs, and FOX, have not yet begun to lie.

    And it”s not enough to get rid of Trump. We also have to get a Senate majority or it doesn’t matter.

    14
  17. Teve says:
  18. wr says:

    @gVOR08: ” If Trump can claim victory over the virus (it doesn’t have to be anywhere near true for him to claim it”

    He’s already claiming it — at the same time he’s blaming everyone else for how bad it is. If he keeps doing his daily press briefings, it won’t matter what he says in October — no one other than the hardcore Trumpies will believe a word he says.

    5
  19. Kingdaddy says:

    @Kathy: There’s a simpler explanation: he is a stubborn, noxious person who doesn’t listen to anyone, preferring instead to attack anyone who might be trying to actually help him.

    His application of bronzer is ridiculous.
    His comb-over is ridiculous.
    His inability to tie a tie correctly is ridiculous.
    His baggy suits are ridiculous.

    But who is going to tell him how to tie a tie better? It’s almost as if, just looking at him, you could have guessed that he would drive away every competent person willing to give him useful advice.

    8
  20. Joe says:

    @Kathy:
    How many “I take no responsibility at all” desk plates do you suppose the White House has received to place on the Resolute Desk? It should be engraved in stone and I can think of one stone in particular it should eventually grace.

    4
  21. SC_Birdflyte says:

    I’m trying to look on the bright side, despite leaning toward pessimism relative to politics. For my money, Biden should focus above all on picking a VP nominee whom he can groom as a successor (his age makes this especially urgent). But he should also put together a team of surrogates who will fan out across the country and will trash every GOP nominee who isn’t ready to move away from Trump. It’s unlikely to happen, but I want to see as many Repubs as possible – good, bad, and ugly – go down to defeat in November.

    8
  22. DrDaveT says:

    James, that would be an awesome photo for a caption contest.

    2
  23. Kathy says:

    @Joe:

    I thought that stone would say “This is all your fault!” Or perhaps “Greatest corpse EVER!!!”

    2
  24. senyordave says:

    For the campaign, I want the Democrats to adopt this mantra:
    We don’t blame Trump for the coronavirus, we blame him for his response.
    Assuming they have debates, if they have an opening statement, I want Biden to turn to Trump and say something like:
    Mr. President, nobody blames you for the coronavirus, but you are to blame for the terrible response. You said “I take no responsibility at all”. That doesn’t cut it. Harry Truman had a sign on his desk saying “the buck stops here”. He had that because the president is the one person who is ultimately responsible.

    8
  25. the Q says:

    Not to rub it into you Hillary slurpers, but she was TOXIC. Look at the Dem elections since that poison has not been on the ballot….almost record mid term gains (40) in 2018, Biden gets 420,000 more votes in the Michigan primary than the wench…YUGE record or near record turnouts in SC, VI, TX,NV

    Too bad you dense, corporate neolib Dems can’t admit Bernie would have beaten Trump in 2016 and spared us this national nightmare.

    The Clinton team has been disastrous for the Dem party and good riddance if we never hear from either of them again.

    3
  26. Liberal Capitalist says:

    You know, looking at that picture, I would be sad for Melania, in the role that she is in.

    But she will do well, in the divorce, and the settlement, after the Trump presidency ends.

    So there’s that.

    6
  27. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @the Q:

    Just a question, as you seem to know (or position yourself as one who knows) so much…

    Is your name “the Q” related to those who follow QAnon? If so, I would love to hear more of your beliefs. Thanks.

    8
  28. mattbernius says:

    @the Q:

    Too bad you dense, corporate neolib Dems can’t admit Bernie would have beaten Trump in 2016 and spared us this national nightmare.

    Man whose candidate could not reliably win statewide primaries outside of his home state in two elections in a row somehow magically thinks that he would win in the general and blames everyone else for his preferred candidate’s failings.

    Next up: there’s no difference between corporate neolib Democrats and Trump!

    Next next up: why are you being mean to me and let me tell you exactly why I won’t vote for Biden.

    Next next next up: why real real folks like me should voting for Trump to ensure Bernie wins in 2024.

    Next next next next up: Let me just grab everyone’s toys and set them all on fire because some people just want to see the world burn to teach you a lesson and ouch I just cut off one of my fingers with my own edginess…

    27
  29. Kathy says:

    @the Q:

    Chelsea 2024?

    2
  30. Lounsbury says:

    @the Q: Ah childish Bernie Broism.

    Of course Mrs Clinton was a terrible candidate, a certain commentator (as well as the Bloggers) all keep saying that.

    The idea that Bernie, with pre-made attack ads ready to cue up (Soviet Union, Sandanistas, Cuba) and his (as demonstrated this round) refusal to walk back from being in the end a Sov adjacent sympathizer with convincing-only-to-the-sympathizers, would have beaten Trump is ridiculous. Branding Bernie – without any real effort and with rather plausible and even founded basis is ridiculously easy.

    Biden’s over-performance rather says the opposite of Bernie.

    Of course we all should wish that Madame Clinton had not deceived herself into thinking she was a Presidential candidate, rather than an eminence grise, more a Kissinger than a Reagan.

    5
  31. Nightcrawler says:

    @Teve:

    That ad is amazing.

    2
  32. MarkedMan says:

    @the Q: Let me see if I get this right: Bernie couldn’t win against Horrible Hillary but he would have won Republicans. And we are stupid if we don’t see that. Got it.

    7
  33. Jen says:

    Once again, for the slow ones in the back, Hillary Clinton received 3 million more votes than Trump. Were they where she needed them to be? No. Decidedly not. Was she at a 69% approval rating when she left State? Yes, she was.

    Biden, however, will hopefully not make the same mistake of assuming WI, MI, and PA (and, OH) are in the blue column and will fight for every vote.

    10
  34. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kathy:

    Oh god, please no. Does Chelsea have any personal accomplishments that she can tout?

    3
  35. KM says:

    Leave it to the BernieBro to try and derail the thread towards their favorite shiny object. The mere fact that someone who’d write a post as offensive as that think their support doesn’t reflect badly on their candidate is laughable. Folks saw BernieBro hate, looked over at MAGAt hate and realized it’s cut from the same cloth. After all, so many BernieBros went over to Trump – the complete opposite of what Sanders is supposed to represent – just goes to show if you lay down with dogs, you get fleas.

    Trump revels in his terrible followers. Sanders was cautioned to jettison that kind of toxic trash twice and he didn’t. If Sanders didn’t pick up his own cult was scaring away voters he needed, that’s on him. Trump went out his way to collect these little lost sheep and it never occurred to Sanders to ask how they could abandon the revolution so quickly? They just changed one cult of personality for another. I think Sanders has some great ideas and I look forward to him working with President Biden to make them happen. He could help shape a great legacy in these unprecedented times by helping get our healthcare in shape and getting a better deal for workers. I do not look forward to whiny BernieBros crying he’s a sellout and they’d be better off with anti-establishment Trump.

    5
  36. Kathy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    She’d be a better president than Ivanka 😛

    2
  37. An Interested Party says:

    Cancelling his election for Trump’s base will be payback for making him look bad.

    Hmm…the consequences of even trying that will be quite ugly…nothing like a little uncivil war, I suppose…

    Not to rub it into you Hillary slurpers, but she was TOXIC.

    To very much rub it into you, Joe Biden (you know, that other corporate neolib Dem) is going to be the next president of the United States…

    2
  38. gVOR08 says:

    @DrDaveT:

    James, that would be an awesome photo for a caption contest.

    It got better. Trump asked Pence and Mother to help. This made for four people with no idea what they’re doing on two shovels. Awkward.

  39. Pylon says:

    Hilary wasn’t a great campaigner. But she got 3M more votes, and lost very narrowly in swing states after (a) Comey broke protocol twice by first talking about her investigation (which was a nothing burger) and not at all about Trump’s (which wasn’t); and (b) Bernie supporters stayed home or voted for Stein.

    5
  40. Teve says:

    Too bad you dense, corporate neolib Dems can’t admit Bernie would have beaten Trump in 2016 and spared us this national nightmare.

    Yeah, and Gonzaga totally woulda beat Virginia in the championship if they hadn’t lost to Texas Tech two rounds prior! 😀 😀 😀

    6
  41. Tim says:

    I’ve been thinking (hopefully) lately about what a lame duck Trump administration will look like once he loses and whether it will make any difference in his behavior and (lack of) decision-making.

    Thankfully, it will at least be short, though plenty of damage can be done in 2-1/2 months. One thing is certain. There will be a flurry of despicable pardons issued in his final days.

    2
  42. mattbernius says:

    For the record, for a variety of reasons Hillary was a flawed candidate. Some of those reasons were of her own making, some of those came down to two decades of attacks on her. Some of those were just plain structural weakness for the Democrats.

    And yet, for all those weaknesses, Bernie couldn’t beat her at the ballot box in the primaries. So, again, how does that translate to “of course Bernie” would have won in the general?

    3
  43. Gustopher says:

    @mattbernius: Bernie would have brought out new voters, but only in the general election — not the primaries. Bernie’s new voters are frightened of primaries.

    4
  44. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: assumes facts not in evidence.

    1
  45. Sean says:

    This article is just another great example of the stupid “wokeness” in our culture. Just look at the way it is written with things like the following:

    “A new analysis from demographer William Frey finds that coronavirus is now spreading into {whiter) and more Republican-leaning areas of the country. Despite initially being concentrated in blue and urban areas, it has slowly extended into new parts of the Midwest and the south, into outer suburbs and small metropolitan areas, and into parts of the country carried by Trump.” *parenthesis mine*

    You can argue all day that this is what the data/demographics show, but trying to fight racism with, well…more racism is just disheartening. Oh? That’s not really racism? Yes it is, it is exactly what it is when you think about it. It isn’t like the other option in 2016 was a person with darker skin tones, or nor will it be in 2020. Whether Clinton, Biden or Trump- we clearly have only one choice…ahem, white. And, there is the real rub. Even more troubling, it seems folks are willing to put anyone in the highest office who fits some demographic rather than who is actually most qualified for the job. Is it only okay going forward as long as the person isn’t male, white or…orange?

    How come people are not noticing this trend? It is my view that we are actually conditioned by our very establishment to think on their terms instead of really noticing what is occurring. They are always asking us about our “race and ethnicity” on job applications, or collecting data. I think that they created the problem so they can create the solution. It is always government that knows best and nobody plays these race cards better. How cheapening it must feel to Barack Obama to ever learn that his way was “paved” for success. Did he or didn’t he actually earn it?

    Have there been systematic inequalities in the past? Absolutely, and we should be aware of them as to not repeat them ever again. Yet, here we are apparently doing just that.