Trump deploys 2016 playbook, Biden expands 2020 battle ground
Trump has tried to paint Biden as a corrupt politician just as he did with his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton, and indulgently watched his supporters chant “Lock him up,” a 2020 version of “Lock her up”.Updated: Oct 25, 2020, 18:37 IST
President Donald Trump appears to have gone back to the 2016 playbook for the final nine days of the 2020 race for White House, hoping to pull off a similar win, with not much help from polls or pundits.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden, on the other hand, has kept the focus on the present and is seeking to expand the battleground states. He will be addressing two rallies in Georgia, a solidly Republican state, his campaign announced on Saturday. Earlier in the day, Biden and his former boss Barack Obama hammered Trump at separate rallies on his failure to contain Covid-19.
“There’s something going on. It happened this time four years ago. This time more,” President Trump told supporters at a rally on Saturday in Ohio, a battleground state he had won easily in 2016 but now leads Biden by a precariously thin margin of 1.5 percentage points in the FiveThirtyEight weighted average of polls.
Trump has begun portraying himself, starting with the last debate, as an outsider, and has striven to paint Biden as a corrupt politician just as he did with his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton, and indulgently watched his supporters chant “Lock him up,” a 2020 version of “Lock her up”.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien told The Washington Post, which first reported Trump’s back-to-2016 strategy, “There are striking similarities to the president’s campaign in 2016 — a tight race, an enthusiasm advantage and clear momentum down the stretch for Donald Trump.”
Trump had indeed trailed Clinton in polls at this stage in 2016 by similar margins — by 6.1 percentage points (43.2-49.4) in the FiveThirtyEight average on October 24, 2016. Four years since, Trump trails Biden by 9.1 percentage points (32.8-51.9). Not exactly the same, but not too far apart either.
There are crucial differences though between the 2016 and 2020 races: Trump is the president, for one, with a record to defend or flaunt, and not just a candidate; both he and Clinton had high unfavourable ratings in 2016, but this time, there is a huge gap — Biden is seen far more favourably than both Trump and Clinton (compared to her ratings then).
Biden, meantime, is seeking to expand his advantage by taking the battle into Republican territory: Georgia, where he will address two rallies on Tuesday, hoping to flip a solidly conservative state that has not voted Democratic in presidential elections since 1992.
Citing previous day’s number of Covid-19 infections, the former vice-president said, “Yet at the debate on Thursday night, Donald Trump was still saying, ‘we’re rounding the corner… it’s going away … we’re learning to live with it’.”
He added, recounting his own remarks from the debate, “But as I told him, we’re not learning to live with it. We’re learning to die with it, and there is a dark winter ahead.”
Obama was scathing in his remarks on his successor. “Eight months into this pandemic, new cases are breaking records,” he said. “Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself.”
That was a reference to Trump’s own bout with Covid-19. The president has since recovered and resumed campaigning energetically, addressing multiple rallies every day. But White House staffers have continued to test positive for the deadly virus, with new reports adding vice-president Mike Pence’s chief of staff and a political adviser to the growing list.