After five plus years of Donald Trump as candidate and Oval Office occupant, it is hard to believe anything could be called a surprise. Yet, Coronavirus-positive Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien promised there would be, not one, but a series of October surprises before the election was over. Well, he was right!
Just eight days into October, the Trump campaign has provided what, in any normal world, would be considered one jolt after another. The White House is now the “People’s Petri Dish.” Both Donald Trump and Mike Pence violate their oaths of office to defend and protect the Constitution, refusing to confirm a peaceful transfer of power should they lose the election. Trump declares contracting a disease which has killed more than 213,000 Americans is a “blessing from God.” And just this morning, we learned Trump required physicians who treated him at Walter Reed Hospital in November 2019 sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), privacy already ensured under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as White House doctor Sean Conley reminded us on Saturday.
Weird? Unconventional? Lacking transparency? Absolutely. Surprising? Not so much. But that does not mean there have not been October surprises. Here are two examples.
Surprise #1: Voter Enthusiasm
The Trump campaign has argued for months the outcome in 2020 will be based on the quality of the vote, not the quantity. I am not referring to anything related to the GOP’s efforts to suppress the vote by disqualifying significant numbers of potential Democratic ballots. In this case, the issue is enthusiasm for the candidate, an argument perpetuated by the mainstream media. Fortunately, the data suggest just the opposite.
Many of the polling organizations, particularly those that now engage in daily tracking, divide their respondents into two categories. For example, yesterday’s Fox News poll included 1,107 “registered voters” of which 1,012 self-identified as “likely voters.” Among the registered voters, Biden held an eight point lead. Surprisingly, among likely voters the margin jumped to nine percent. The same is true of the latest Ipsos survey. “Registered voters?” Ten percent. “Likely voters?” Twelve percent.
After personally working on way too many losing campaigns, there always comes a moment when “time for a change” means looking for your next career opportunity. Based on White House leaks, it is clear the West Wing copiers are now running overtime as staffers replenish their supply of resumes. (There is a PPE joke there somewhere, but I will leave that for another day.) Voters also know when it is over. Especially when casting a ballot becomes a health risk. When the candidate is self-destructing, why would anyone want to march into battle when the war is all but lost?
Ironically, it is the 2016 election which has sustained Democratic enthusiasm. Not so much because blue-leaning voters are hell-bent on casting a ballot for Joe Biden or Kamala Harris. Memory of the upset four years ago is the motivating force. Come hell or highwater, these voters have vowed not to take anything for granted and will do whatever is necessary to deny Trump a second term.
Surprise #2: Trump Campaign Strategy
Last night Newsweek on-line ran an article with the following headline, “Trump Campaign Cancels Almost $7 Million Worth of TV Ads in 3 Midwest States.” To be specific–Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin–three states which the Trump’s advisors kept saying were critical to his re-election. Every news outlet for the past 24 hours has presented this announcement as evidence the Trump campaign coffers are as depleted or worse as being reported since mid-summer. In short, the Brad Parscale “Death Star” seems to have imploded for lack of fuel, much like Parscale himself.
After eight days of more attempts at political suicide than most candidates commit in a lifetime–the first debate, testing positive for COVID-19, scuttling COVID-19 relief–Trump added one more. Was it the Dexamethasone talking? It just did not make any sense, until you see what the campaign did with the recaptured funds. They moved these resources to Arizona, Florida and Georgia.
I know, this still does not hold water. Even with those three southern tier states, Biden still would secure more than the required 270 electoral votes. But what if Trump’s goal on November 3rd has nothing to do with winning either the popular vote or an electoral college majority. What if, instead, it is solely to create a viable case for a legal challenge of the results.
Trump’s hopes of a credible case of voter fraud depends on one thing, demonstrating states governed by Democrats made the difference in the outcome. However, if Trump loses Arizona, Florida and/or Georgia, geopolitical doppelgangers of Trump’s America, that argument vanishes into the ether. Especially if the three contested senatorial races in Arizona and Georgia also trend blue. A rebuke of the last four years in states where the GOP has already done everything it can to make it as hard as possible for Democratic leaning voters to exercise their franchise would be fatal.
So what makes this a surprise? For one of the few times in the past four years, it appears “Trump and the Psychophants” (great name for a band with Don, Jr. as the front man) actually plotted a clear, reasoned strategy and have taken the tactical actions needed to implement it.
The only remaining question is whether this October surprise has any chance of becoming a November mega-surprise (or should I say a MAGA-surprise in which MAGA would mean “Making Americans Go Abroad”). Stay tuned
For what it’s worth.