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Play or Trade Donald J. Trump?
Dr. Louis Perron - Political Consultant Dr. Louis Perron - Political Consultant
Monday, November 2, 2020


I have told every client I have advised during the past thirteen years: elections with an incumbent are foremost a referendum on the incumbent. And that changes the dynamics in many ways because if voters vote for a challenger, they merely express a wish. If they vote on an incumbent, they render a verdict. Remember Volodymyr Zelensky famously telling incumbent president Petro Poroshenko during the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election: "I am not your opponent. I am your verdict."

The question for American voters then - as former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel eloquently says - comes down to this: play or trade Donald J. Trump?

There have been incumbent presidents who successfully changed their election campaigns into more of a choice rather than a referendum. George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2012 come to mind. Unfortunately for Trump, it is just his very nature that he wants all attention on himself. Even when he tried to make this a choice, such as during the first debate, he did it in a way that ended up being all about himself. And talking of this election as a choice, I find it remarkable that Joe Biden ends months of campaigning in an extremely polarized country with a net positive approval rating: 51% favorable vs. 44% unfavorable.

Looking back at the campaign, it is sort of ironic that a guy like Trump, who started fundraising on the day of his inauguration, is now being outspent massively by Biden. Of course, the coronavirus did not help Trump's reelection chances. Speaking of a verdict, 57% of voters disapprove of the job Trump does on the coronavirus. And that has as much to do with him as with the coronavirus. Worldwide, quite a number of political leaders have actually benefitted from the corona crisis in the polls.

By all this, I am not saying that Trump is sure to lose. The Trump campaign is obviously all about turning out the base. The Republican ground game apparently includes 3'000 paid staffers and 2.5 million volunteers. Let us not forget that Trump does have an enthusiastic base (which would probably not vote Republican if it weren't for Trump). And despite the media hype about the changing electorate, Trump's stronghold, white voters without a college degree, is still the biggest voting bloc in the USA making up 39% of the electorate.

But in addition to one hell of a ground game, it would probably take a rather big polling error and luck in the electoral college for Trump to pull off a victory. Sounds like a déjà-vu? In the rather unlikely event that Trump does win, much of the industry of political pollsters and pundits will have to restart from scratch.

Check out some of my recent media quotes on the campaign in pieces for Zenger News picked up by Forbes, The International Business Times and on Swiss national television.

Dr. Louis Perron is a political scientist, consultant and TEDx speaker based in Switzerland. During the past years, he has helped two dozen candidates and parties win election and referendum campaigns.

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