Anyone without red-tinted blinders and who isn’t wearing a MAGA hat should know by now that Donald Trump is really hurting. A tranche of high-quality polls not only show him trailing badly behind Joe Biden nationally, but either behind or uncomfortably close in states he needs to win in November.
So why haven’t more outlets gotten “cease and desist” demands from the Trump campaign, as CNN did earlier this month when it released a poll showing Trump trailing Biden by 14 points? Well, it’s because, according to Politico, Trump is facing reality–he really is in danger of being a one-term president.
Part of the problem, according to several of his own advisers, is that Trump’s undisciplined approach simply won’t cut it against Biden. It has been amply demonstrated that Trump has a tendency to shoot himself in the foot. The Washington Examiner recently uncovered one example. It arises from one of Trump’s recent pet peeves–voting by mail.
With it becoming apparent that there will not be a vaccine for coronavirus until next year, there have been calls to expand access to voting by mail. The argument is simple–or at least, it should be. No one should have to choose their safety and their right to vote.
However, opposition has come from a very important quarter–the White House. For some time, Trump has railed about how voting by mail is an invitation for Democrats to rig the election.
Never mind that there is no evidence whatsoever that voting by mail is riddled with fraud, or that it provides foreign countries an open invitation to interfere with the vote. But it turns out that Trump’s claims are problematic for another reason. They may actually be hurting his own party.
Recently, Rice University conducted a survey of how registered voters in Harris County, Texas–which includes Rice’s hometown of Houston–feel about voting by mail. It found that while 68 percent of the county’s Democrats are very likely to vote by mail, only 42 percent of Republicans are willing to do so.
According to Rice political science professor Bob Stein, there was a marked decline in how Houston-area Republicans felt about voting by mail that can be directly tied to Trump’s 280-character tirades on the subject. Stein noted that before Trump started railing about the evils of mail-in ballots, 46 to 47 percent of Republicans who responded to the survey in the early stages were willing to vote by mail.
Stein also noticed that 38 percent of Republicans were very unlikely to mail in a ballot–and of that total, almost half had previously voted by mail. The average age of those voters was 67–firmly within the demographic at the most risk for catching coronavirus, and also the demographic Republicans are counting on the most to vote for Trump in November.
For Stein, the conclusion is obvious–Trump is hurting himself with these tweets. As Stein put it, the message the Trump campaign is effectively sending is “don’t vote by mail, it’s unsavory, it’s associated with Democrats.”
A similar phenomenon appears to be playing out in Pennsylvania. For instance, in Northampton County–home to Easton, in the Lehigh Valley–local Republican chairwoman Lee Snover says she isn’t pushing mail-in voting. Snover explicitly told The Philadelphia Inquirer that she and her colleagues were “kind of listening to Trump on this.” Even though Pennsylvania recently allowed all voters to request a mail-in ballot without specifying a reason, Snover says that a number of voters have told her, “Trump doesn’t want us mailing it in, (so) I’m not mailing it in.”
Now why could this end up hurting Trump in November? Well, in the event of a second coronavirus wave, people who didn’t request a ballot might be reluctant to vote in person. Combined with polling places in Georgia, Kentucky, and Wisconsin being closed earlier this year due to poll workers’ concerns about catching the virus, it could significantly depress Republican turnout efforts.
Even without Trump’s tweets, Republicans are already hurting in the race for mail-in ballots. In Pennsylvania, a whopping 71 percent of mail-in requests came from Democrats. In Florida, over 300,000 more Democrats enrolled in the mail-in ballot program–an advantage that has sent state Republican officials into panic mode.
Trump’s upset win four years ago came because literally everything broke right for him. But he either doesn’t know or doesn’t understand this. He’s made almost no effort to reach out beyond his base. And now it seems that he may be hurting himself in his efforts to warn about voter fraud.
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