There’s an old axiom in sports that goes something like this: if you’re playing your opponent’s game, you’re losing. As a sports fan, I can attest to this. Countless times I’ve seen teams lose that should’ve won, and invariably in almost every case it was because they didn’t have the discipline to stick with their game plan. Instead, they panicked and started playing on their opponent’s terms. If you go to the masthead of this blog you’ll see a quote from the legendary hall of fame coach, Vince Lombardi, which reads, “The best defense is a good offense.” And the best offense is one in which you’re setting the agenda and dictating the terms.
It’s no different in politics. The most difficult thing for a campaign to manage successfully is message discipline. Winning campaigns excel at it; conversely, losing ones suck at it. While I did not bother to tune in to night one of the apocalypse – to quote one of my friends, “I would rather have root canal without anesthesia” – I did manage to catch the “highlights,” if you could call them that. The overall theme can best be summed up this way: “If you elect Joe Biden, it will be the end of civilization as we know it.”
You can always tell the losing football team in the fourth quarter; they’re the one throwing the ball deep downfield looking for the quick touchdown to get back in the game. They haven’t the time to play ball control, so they’re hoping to catch the defense napping, and if they do score, pray that the offensive coordinator is stupid enough to be reckless with the football. Nothing like a couple of three and outs or a pick six to turn a rout into a nail biter.
According to the RCP average, Biden is ahead of Trump by 7.6 points. More importantly, he is polling at an even 50 percent. That means that Trump would have to run the table with the undecided vote just to get even, which isn’t likely to happen. The Trump campaign knows this. That’s why they’re panicking. I’ve seen the GOP revert to scare tactics before at their conventions, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this. Not even Stephen King could conjure up such a horror show.
The objective should be obvious: Trump knows Biden is beating him in the suburbs. He figures if he can frighten that part of the country just enough, he can get away with every fuck up he’s committed over the last three and a half years. He’s counting on Biden to piss his pants and go on the defensive. It’s the old Willie Horton playbook, only on steroids.
Trump desperately wants to make this election about anything but him. With every fiber of their being, Biden and the Democrats must resist. Instead, they must keep the focus where it belongs: on Trump and what he is doing to this country.
It was Trump’s mangled response to the Coronavirus that led to 180,000 people losing their lives, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and parents being forced to choose between sending their kids to school or keeping them home. It was Trump’s trade war with China that led to record numbers of farm bankruptcies in the Midwest and rising consumer prices. It was the Republican tax bill that Trump signed into law that capped the state and local tax deduction at $10,000 and did away with the $4,050 personal exemption that middle-class families who own a home count on every year to make ends meet. It was Trump’s legal challenge of the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court that now threatens the healthcare coverage of millions of Americans. It was Trump who tear-gassed peaceful protestors in Washington D.C. so he could have a photo-op in front of a church holding a Bible in his hand. It was Trump’s executive order deferring the payroll tax and promising to repeal it permanently if he gets reelected that will lead to the Social Security trust fund going bankrupt by 2023. It was Trump’s “Boycott Goodyear” tweet over their decision to ban MAGA hats that led to a drop in company sales of 6 percent. And it is Trump’s Postmaster General who is deliberately slowing down the mail, putting at risk the ballots of countless voters this fall.
If you’re Team Biden and the Democratic Party, these are the issues you want to run on every single day between now and the election. This is how you win the White House and control of the Senate. Not by responding to a fear-based campaign that hasn’t been relevant since the ’70s, but by running on actual issues that directly impact the lives of every single person in the country, and more importantly, will actually persuade the majority of undecided voters to vote blue in November.
Think about it for a moment. Did you hear a single thing last night that you feel would convince a Biden supporter to switch his or her allegiance and vote for Trump? I didn’t think so. For the last four years, this president has excelled at two things: scaring the shit out of as many people as possible and dragging his opponents down to his level. Well, his act is wearing thin, and Biden is proving to be a far more resilient (i.e., more disciplined) opponent than Hillary Clinton was in 2016. Imagine that: the guy who couldn’t get passed second base without tripping over himself is ahead in the polls with just under 70 days to go. Who’d’ve thunk it?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This election is Biden’s to lose. Trump needs more than a Hail Mary pass in order to win. He needs a Biden collapse. And the only way that can happen is if Biden panics down the stretch and starts playing Trump’s game.