It’s getting late early.
President Donald Trump privately reassures Republicans worried about his deficits towards Democrat Joe Biden, noting that there are three months left until election day and reminding them of the last-minute events that propelled his return to 2016.
But four years later, the dynamics are very different.
Helpers are increasingly concerned that the 2020 campaign may already be framed as a referendum on Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and will feature a historic shift towards remote and early voting options. The president’s campaign scrambles for a reset, halting the ads while struggling to find both a cohesive message and a way to get the president safely on the road in front of voters.
Trump added to the uproar by publicly questioning whether the election should be delayed while arguing without merit that the tilt towards postal voting will lead to widespread electoral fraud. The suggestion drew a rare reprimand from Republicans, many of whom have quietly warned the White House that it could be interpreted as an admission the president was losing and could hurt their chances of retaining the Senate.
And they warned that time is running out: The first state to hold an early vote, North Carolina’s vital battlefield, begins the process on September 4.
“He loses and the course of the race is moving away from him,” said Steve Schmidt, senior adviser to Republican John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and opponent of Trump’s re-election. “People vote at some point: even if there is some kind of political pick-up for the president in October, it doesn’t matter to those who have already voted. “
A sudden halt in Trump’s expensive TV commercials last week highlighted the campaign’s challenge. It came just two weeks after a staff restructuring and two months after Trump’s previous campaign manager unleashed a ‘Death Star’ advertising blitz on Biden that only coincided with the president’s even greater drop in support.
The campaign played down the commercial break, saying new campaign manager Bill Stepien wanted to analyze when and where Trump’s commercial was delivered. A significant amount of TV advertising time has already been set aside from Labor Day until the election, and the campaign announced it would restart advertising on Monday.
The purchase was made taking into account the new electoral calendar. The adage that most of the United States doesn’t start paying attention to a campaign before Labor Day has only been dismissed in a year in which the novel coronavirus has killed more than 150,000 people in the world. United States and rewrote the rules of American society.
The new ad campaign will be a nationwide buy but will also target early-voting states. Trump campaign officials have said that in August the focus will be on states where more than half of the ballots are cast before election day.
“The digital countdown on the wall may show 90 days, but we all know the timeline is condensed with early voting,” said campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh.
Yet the Trump campaign has hesitated for weeks.
He struggled to land effective punches on Biden. Trump and his allies have recently sought to link Biden with far-left elements in his party, a difficult choice for a moderate who has been in the public eye for more than four decades.
The campaign has all but ended competition in Michigan, and privately recognizes deficits in vital battlefield states like Florida, Wisconsin and Arizona, while insisting the margins are manageable. and smaller than what is reflected in public polls. They also downplayed the chances of losing Republican states reliably, although Trump made a campaign stop in Texas last week.
Trump’s support collapsed after the pandemic hit U.S. shores and crushed its economy. With the Republican National Convention shrunk and rallies seemingly impossible to hold, Trump is running out of stopped pieces that are making headlines to change the momentum of the race.
Many around the president focus on debates as perhaps the best chance, pushing for more confrontations with Biden to increase the chances of the former vice president wavering on stage.
“A lot of people will start voting before September 29. The idea that they wouldn’t have seen a single presidential debate by then strikes me as ludicrous, ”said former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump ally. “I think we should either move the dates or add additional debates.”
The president’s advisers are also trying to reinvent a campaign without its trademark gatherings. Trump has attended both smaller campaign rallies and official events in swing states – he attended one of each in Florida on Friday – and White House aides are preparing a calendar full of day trips for the weeks to come.
The agreement is also being revised. Trump will likely visit several times during the last week of August, when the massive rally was originally scheduled. He is expected to stop in North Carolina for a radically revised convention day.
Trump will also deliver an acceptance speech at a high-profile venue on Thursday in what would have been convention week, according to campaign and White House officials who requested anonymity to discuss the planning.
And although Trump usually took a multi-week vacation to his Bedminster, New Jersey golf course in August, there isn’t one currently scheduled for this month.
The President pointed out to councilors that it was later in August 2016 when he brought Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to his campaign, the winning combination to head the campaign. But the president was late until the end of October, when FBI Director James Comey announced the reopening of an investigation into Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, a seismic event that reshaped the race.
As Trump casts doubt on the integrity of this year’s election, questions swirl about access to the vote during the pandemic as well as the potential for greater foreign electoral interference. Campaign advisers are increasingly placing their hopes on the unlikely occurrence of another big October surprise, such as the development of a coronavirus vaccine.
But some Republicans believe there is still time to provide a more effective response to the virus at the center of his dossier for a second term.
“At the rate at which news and events move in 2020, it doesn’t necessarily mean that time is running out,” said Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush. “Much of the public will not care what they say about law and order and the economy until they overcome the barrier of COVID first.
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