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(This week: The surprise format of the Republican Convention – No post-convention bounce for Biden – Will there be one for Trump? – the Senate contests that will determine control of the upper chamber – and a word from “Across the Pond” about the European view of the 2020 Presidential Election)
Its Monday. Must be time for another convention
It’s a new week, a new Monday in August, and that means a new convention. The question, after the masterpiece of programing offered by the Democrats last week, was how could Donald Trump one up the Democrats when it comes to the GOP convention? The Democratic gathering, charmingly choreographed, was scripted, had something of a plot, building each night like a mini-series and then with a rallying inspiring Joe Biden speech at the end. The Dems used their tech edge to great advantage.
Ah, but remember, they’re up against a TV pro. He was the star of his own reality show, the Apprentice, and “you’re fired” was a catchphrase for years. The show had several successful seasons. It was a Donald Trump production through and through and the President and his production team showed they knew a thing or two about how to craft dramatic, believable reality television. So, when the convention became virtual, something the President was not happy about, to my surprise at least, he seems to have made a successful pivot. It’s taken more than a few on both sides by surprise. He tapped into his old network of “The Apprentice” producers and writers and has crafted a true, made for TV, reality show convention.
One of the first things reality TV likes to do is surprise the audience. Which the GOP did in the first few hours of their gathering. It was barely noon on the first day of the convention and President Trump was officially nominated. Heck, they barely got past the opening gavel before he became the official 2020 GOP standard bearer. Such a rapid nomination is a first. Under normal convention procedure it’s not until the second or third night when the final vote takes place. Not this year. What’s more, he added another surprise, he made an appearance, on the first day, at a nearby location in Charlotte. Nominees, particularly sitting Presidents, usually watch from a distance.
Trump is appealing to who exactly?
One thing about reality television is that its entertaining. So, fellow politics watchers, expect a few more programing surprises. That’s how you attract and keep viewers. However, one thing Donald Trump was spared, and Joe Biden was not, is having to appeal to any other wing of the party. Because, at the moment, there isn’t any other wing of the party. The Republican Party, for now at least, is an extension of Donald Trump. Not the other way around. There are no moderates on the speaking schedule, no former GOP presidents or GOP nominees, and little that says the program is aimed at anyone except the Trump base. Expect lot of red meat. However, don’t be surprised, given the speakers roster, if there isn’t a little bit of an effort to make Donald Trump seem a bit more human and compassionate. The Republicans, and the Trump campaign know this is a weakness – empathy matters – and while Trump does a terrible job trying to project this trait – others may try to do it for him. We’ll see how that works.
No Post-Convention Bounce
The post-convention bounce is that little bump up a new nominee gets in the polls after his or her convention. Romney and Obama got one, Hillary got one, curiously Donald Trump did not, but since he went on to win the election, that remains an outlier. Alas, it doesn’t seem, at least according to fresh polling, that Joe Biden got a convention bounce. A couple reasons. One, he already holds a substantial lead, and two, maybe there weren’t enough people watching a streaming convention in the first place to impact national opinion. Also, this isn’t a normal year. We have COVID, we have going back to work distractions, going back to school worries, and severe economic worries. So, maybe the conventions, for either party, aren’t really going to affect much of anything when it comes to public opinion.
Like I said last week, you can’t Gerrymander the Senate, but there is no doubt that at the moment, the states in play, indeed the states overall, tend to favor the GOP. Maybe. The seats considered likely to go to the Democrats are Colorado and Arizona. Strong Democratic opponents and two weakish GOP incumbents. But, factor in Democrat Doug Jones’ all but guaranteed loss in Alabama, and the Democrats are still shy two seats if they want a majority of the upper chamber. That’s even if Biden wins and a Democratic Vice-President is there to give the Democrats their needed tie breaker. That said, it now turns on places not so easily turned, with strong, though “not that strong” incumbents, like North Carolina (Tom Tillis), Maine (Susan Collins) and Iowa (Jodi Ernst). Each has the potential to shift to the Democrats, but in an historical context, that would still represent some heavy lifting. If, however, Biden’s poll leads hold, if there are Biden coattails, or conversely, if Trump drags down one or more of these candidates, a shift is at least possible. Right, now, most of the money, when it comes to the future of the Senate, notionally speaking of course (I never bet on elections) seems to be on a tie or a Republican hold.
A View from Across the Pond – by Ross Duncan
It is striking that in the UK, the portrayal of November’s election is about Donald Trump and Donald Trump only. He holds centre stage, with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences understood almost entirely in relation to him. Biden receives relatively little consideration or coverage, beyond the fact that he is the candidate running against Trump.
Indeed, Biden is viewed simply as “Not Trump”, rather than as a candidate in his own right. Perhaps this is inevitable, considering Biden’s status as a compromise nominee who avowedly declares himself to be a ‘transition candidate’. Nevertheless, this contrasts sharply with the 2016 election, where Hillary received far greater scrutiny both as a candidate and as an individual.
I also get the impression that, like in the United States, many in Britain believe that Biden’s victory is inevitable. The mainstream media certainly seems to think so. Even after four years, they haven’t entirely come to terms with Trump’s victory, let alone the prospect of him winning again in November. As I argued last week, however, this position is a mistake: Trump can win in November, and Biden’s victory is not inevitable.
Being on my side of the Pond certainly doesn’t change that.