The Bulwark Presents
The Triad by JVL

A Victory or a Landslide?

There are now two likely pathways for the 2020 election. And neither one is good for Trump and Republicans.
June 30, 2020
Featured Image
(Collage by Hannah Yoest / Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

1. Tick Tock

Another weekend of runway is gone and Trump isn’t turning this race around.

He’s falling further behind.

In the first week of June I wrote that the cake was almost baked. Trump had 20 weekends until Election Day to stop his slide, find a floor, make up ground, and then get within 4 points of Joe Biden—which is a level he’s never been in this race.

And what happened for Trump this weekend?

  • Breaking news that his good friend Vladimir Putin has been paying bounties for the killing of American soldiers.
  • Runaway virus infections in Florida, Texas, and Arizona—each of which is close to a must-win for him to have any chance at being reelected.
  • And the president tweeted out a video of a supporter yelling “White power!”

So no. Not a great weekend for the Trump 2020 campaign.

And now 15 percent of the clock is gone.

How bad are things for Trump? Politico talked with a bunch of sympathetic Republicans inside and outside Trump’s orbit and the mood seemed . . . utterly macabre. The party is beginning to prepare for a landslide loss that could make Jimmy Carter feel good about himself.

But this line in the Politico piece really caught my eye:

Behind the scenes, Trump and his team are taking steps to correct course. In the week since his Tulsa rally, the president has grudgingly conceded that he’s behind, according to three people who are familiar with his thinking. Trump, who vented for days about the event, is starting to take a more hands-on role in the campaign and has expressed openness to adding more people to the team. He has also held meetings recently focusing on his efforts in individual battleground states.Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who effectively oversees the campaign from the White House, is expected to play an even more active role. [emphasis added, obvi]

That’s . . . the plan? Trump is down double-digits. 125,000 Americans—and counting—are dead. The economy is in the crapper. And Trump 2020’s big plan is to send in . . . Jared?

It’s one thing for down-ballot Republicans to walk the plank for Trump when he’s Making America Great And Stuff. But the real loyalty is whether or not they take their lumps when Trump is so checked out that he turns the party’s entire electoral future over to Jared Forking Kushner.

Even so, I have every confidence that Republican candidates will pass this test. They’ll drink the Kool-Aid.

Because that’s what Republican voters want them to do.

In a sense, I don’t even really blame the elected members of the GOP. Like Donald Trump himself, they’re just a lagging indicator. This is what the Republican party base wants now because this is what the Republican party base is.

Winning the White House didn’t change that. And neither will losing it.

2. There Is No “Better”

Trump’s response to the Russian bounty story is a good example of why his campaign’s problems are intractable.

The story broke on Friday.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the revelation was “Fake News” because he had never been briefed about any Russian bounty program.

Maybe this is true and maybe it is not.

But for the president to offer “No one told me about this big important thing” as a defense is an advertisement for weakness.

It’s an admission that he has no control of his own government.

Trump would have been better off saying something like,