Jun 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump’s superpower turns to kryptonite

Chart of polls Biden vs Trump

Screenshot from CNN

No president in our lifetime has enjoyed a more mesmerizing, seemingly unbendable hold on his political base than Donald Trump. He shifts their views on big topics like the FBI or Vladimir Putin and retains their support regardless of what he says or does.

Why it matters: This connection is turning fast into a liability for Trump and the entire GOP because the president and his mostly white, mostly male base are on the opposite side of most Americans on the epic topics of our day — wearing masks, combating the coronavirus, and condemning racial inequality and police brutality.

  • They are now basically egging each other on. 

President Trump this morning retweeted (then deleted) a video of a man in a golf cart with a "TRUMP 2020" sign who yelled "white power!" at Trump critics.

  • Trump added the note: "Thank you to the great people of The Villages," a retirement community in Florida. "The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall."
  • White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere told reporters: "President Trump is a big fan of The Villages. He did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters."
  • The White House did not respond when asked whether Trump condemned the supporter’s comment.

When the tweet was still up, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only Black Republican senator, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union":

  • "[Y]ou can't play it because it was so profanity laced. The entire thing was offensive. ... I think it's indefensible."

The context: Advisers both inside and outside the White House have urged the president to tone down his violent rhetoric, which many worry could escalate racial tensions and hurt him politically, Jonathan Swan reported.

The big picture: Top Republicans have told us for five years that Trump’s base will ultimately cost the party power.

  • The nation is growing too diverse and too progressive.
  • These Republicans warned that tough-guy, noninclusive action and talk would backfire — first with minorities, then with educated white people.

The polls suggest strongly this is unfolding in real time.

  • In addition to the N.Y. Times polls above, which showed Joe Biden with strong leads in the six top battlegrounds (subscription), the Fox News poll this week showed Biden up 9 points in Florida, and tossups in Georgia and Texas — Republican strongholds — and North Carolina.

Between the lines: N.Y. Times columnist Ross Douthat writes (subscription): "[W]hat was likely to be a slow-motion leftward shift, as the less-married, less-religious, more ethnically diverse younger generation gained more power, is being accelerated nationally by the catastrophes of the Trump administration, which is putting states in play for Democrats five or 10 years early."

The response: Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communications director, told me:

  • "This election, like all elections, will be a choice. In this case, a choice of President Trump’s record of building the best economy anyone has ever seen with the experience to do it again, versus Joe Biden’s record. ... With four months to go before the election, Americans will understand these differences. ... They won’t want to take a chance on Joe Biden."
Go deeper