As a new weekly columnist at this publication, I would like to introduce my readers to my column, “Carson’s Commentary.” Every Thursday, I will throw my two cents at whatever political happening most compels me to rant to no one in particular. But that’s enough about me.
Let’s get down to business — the most hyped election of our lifetime occurs exactly two months from today. And the battle between President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden looks quite different than it did just a month ago. August was a month dominated by the nominating conventions of both parties, a persistent pandemic, and the typical savagery that forces itself upon any election season. Let us break down its implications on the 2020 election:
Candidate Ads: August’s biggest splash in this regard goes to Biden’s “Vetted” ad, which was released by his campaign on Aug. 5. The ad opens innocently enough, as Biden stands next to his 1967 Corvette Stingray and says, “I like to drive. I used to think I was a pretty good driver.” Endearing enough, right?
Well, not to a certain Bill Stevenson of Wilmington, Delaware. The former owner of a nightclub near the University of Delaware, Stevenson was Jill Biden’s first husband from 1970-75. According to him, the marriage ended after Jill cheated on him with then-freshman Senator Joe Biden in 1974. The kicker? Stevenson allegedly found out about the affair after Joe crashed Jill’s Corvette (owned by Stevenson) into another parked car and crunched the bumper.
Stevenson’s exposé seemingly comes in response to “Vetted,” which suggests that the Biden campaign has flipped the script on Biden’s defensive tendencies and forced the hand of his disgruntled opponents. The Trump campaign’s latest ad (“Past vs. Present”) continues his penchant for highlighting Biden’s cognitive decline. As “Past vs. Present” lacks the clever nature of “Vetted,” I call this round a win for Biden.
Organization and Policy: As I stated earlier, August hosted both the Democratic (DNC) and Repbulican (RNC) National Conventions, at which Biden and Trump were formally nominated by their respective parties. Although there were bright spots, I was not particularly impressed by either convention.
The DNC’s variety of speakers — from pop star Billie Eilish to lifelong Republican John Kasich — was ambitious and handled well. However, the demographics within the Democratic Party’s base have blurred in the Trump era, thus making it harder to unify what Joe Biden calls the “Obama coalition.” The spectrum of Biden’s support ranges from Antifa socialists to “Never Trumpers” like Kasich and former Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent. If the Democrats hope to win in November, they must be sure to energize, rather than alienate, their base between these extremes.
On the other hand, the RNC confirmed what we already knew about Trump’s ability to energize his base. Republican policies may be unclear, but the party’s establishment has become unwavering in its support for the president. Likewise, Trump’s portrayal of the “ACAB” crowd as radical has worked wonders in dividing Democrats and upholding his image as a law-and-order candidate. But the fact remains that his administration’s handling of the pandemic has been unpopular, which continues to hold Trump back.
What do the polls say? Biden has a slight edge, but that isn’t saying much, given all that has unfolded under Trump in 2020. In fact, the tide could actually be turning in favor of the president. Trump seems to lack the usual incumbency advantage, but his position — precarious through most of this pandemic — has improved significantly since the conventions.
At the end of July, Trump trailed Biden by four points in a national Emerson College poll (50-46%). Another Emerson poll released on Monday showed Trump’s deficit cut in half to two points (49-47%). Perhaps the president is riding a wave of momentum from the RNC and a strong stock market recovery in the midst of this year of mayhem. Since its low point on March 23, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has rebounded to its December 2019 highs. If the Trump Administration can address the unemployment spike brought on by the pandemic, there is no reason that the president should lose this election from an economic standpoint.
What’s next? A continuation of the response to unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, wars over mail-in voting, and the anticipation of a debate in 26 days. See you next week!
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