Is Trump really ‘the Mark Twain of American politics’?


Photo by Pau Casals on Unsplash

Two Democratic Party political consultants are giving the United States (and some other parts of the world) the jitters. Despite a slew of national opinion polls showing that Donald Trump trails his Democratic rival Joe Biden, Arick Wierson and Bradley Honan have warned that the president may quite easily win re-election.

Trump, they say, might really “be the Mark Twain of American politics – in that reports of his political demise may be grossly exaggerated.”

Their argument can easily be summarised in two words: Incumbency and insipidity.

Trump is the incumbent and benefits from that fact, write Wierson and Honan.

As for Biden, he is insipid and lacklustre, they say, and he suffers from that.

That’s the basic logic of their takedown of the phenomenon they dismiss as “Democratic groupthink”.

Though Wierson and Honan see it as a Democratic notion, there is a growing sense among broader national and international constituencies that Biden is doing better than Trump.

Strategists, activists, pundits and players in the US and the wider world are beginning to consider the possibility of a Biden presidency.

Even the stock market has begun to factor this in.

And if anything, Democrats are trying to downplay the opinion polls out of acute nervousness about a rerun of 2016 when the narrative about Hillary Clinton’s prospects was relentlessly positive but the result was ultimately negative.

Just days ago, leading Democrats, not least Debbie Dingell, a Democratic representative from Michigan, declared at an online Biden fundraiser: “Some people say, ‘Oh look at the numbers’. I don’t believe these numbers”.

Dingell added that she had started to refer to herself as “Debbie Downer” because she remained pessimistic about both polling numbers and Democratic prospects of a sweep of the White House, House and Senate.

Some might say Dingell is one of many Democrats who are over-correcting for their confidence four years ago.

Perhaps Wierson and Honan – veteran political strategists – are too.

In any case, their argument for caution about a Trump defeat is worth noting but not because of the cited reasons – Trump’s incumbency and Biden’s alleged insipidity.

In fact, there is a quite different reason to be circumspect about a likely Biden victory. “Trump’s numbers are down by a lot less than one would expect given, well, everything,” write Wierson and Honan.

Spot on.

Trump should be doing much worse in the polls and Biden a great deal better.

According to the latest Fox News poll, Biden is leading Trump by 12 points – up just 4 points from May.

Biden is up just one point from October with white voters without a college degree in the swing states that Trump won in 2016, according to The New York Times / Siena College Poll.

As for non-White voters, that same poll says Biden is up only two points among Black voters from 74% in October 2019 and up just one point among Hispanics from 35% in October 2019.

What this means is clear: nothing is certain. Only on the morning of 4 November (if all goes well) can we truly be sure who to expect in the White House for the next four years.