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Trump is running out of time to craft an economic agenda for reelection as Biden gains ground

  • July 15, 2020

After first pledging to “defeat the invisible enemy,” one of the terms he uses for coronavirus, Trump said: “We are going to rebuild the economy, we’re going to bring back jobs from all of these foreign lands that have stolen our jobs on horrible trade deals. We are going to continue to make great trade deals.” At that point, Trump pivoted from the economy to the border wall. 

Given exchanges like that one, it’s easy to see why Trump might prefer to focus on culture-war issues such as the Black Lives Matter protests and the removal of Confederate monuments.

“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children,” Trump said in a speech at Mount Rushmore over the Fourth of July that offered a preview of how he plans to frame the election. 

Earlier this month, Trump attacked a recent decision by NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at races, and he demanded that Bubba Wallace, the league’s only full-time Black driver, apologize after NASCAR officials investigated a noose found in Wallace’s garage.

Trump has hosted official White House events featuring police officers, called racial justice protesters “thugs” and encouraged violent responses to peaceful demonstrations. He signed an executive order increasing the penalty for vandalizing federal monuments in response to the toppling of statues featuring slave owners and Confederate generals.

On Tuesday night, Trump tweeted: “You your children won’t be SAFE in Biden’s America, and neither will anyone else!” 

For Trump, this is all part of a wide-ranging effort to style himself as the candidate of “law and order,” and Democrats as the party of lawlessness, crime and mayhem. Yet several Republican donors and strategists say Trump’s pivot to law and order is a mistake, one that risks alienating voters the party needs if it hopes to build a winning coalition in November.

“Trump’s a businessman first and foremost, and focusing on the economy is a pillar of Trump’s success, along with judicial appointments and his America First agenda,” said Dan Eberhart, a Texas-based Republican political donor and a Trump supporter. 

“This recent pivot to law and order and culture wars is ill-conceived and will ultimately not convince the pursuable centrist voters Trump needs to defeat Biden,” Eberhart told CNBC. “Though it was just launched, it’s already time for a U-turn.” 

“The voters Trump is losing right now are white, college-educated men, the ones who actually respond best to economic messaging,” said Matthews, the Republican pollster.

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