Donald Trump Knows the Power of Incumbency
Author: Greg Valliere
September 17, 2020
IT’S HIS STAGE: From the virus to Israel, from a fresh demand on stimulus spending to the re-start of Big Ten football, Donald Trump owns the stage.
TRUMP STUNNED INSIDERS with the scope of his comments yesterday, which dominated the news cycle. Four examples:
1. Stimulus spending: Trump caught Senate Republicans off-guard with his demand that they go for “much higher” outlays — perhaps along the lines of a $1.5 trillion compromise advocated by centrist House “Problem Solvers” who are getting heat from constituents who want a generous pandemic aid bill.
This threw a life preserver to Nancy Pelosi, who’s eager to drag Trump and Steve Mnuchin into talks that could produce a big spending bill. And it will allow her to portray the Senate GOP as heartless for proposing a much more modest bill. The stimulus talks may be back on track; Trump wants a bill.
2. Mocking the head of the CDC: Trump said Dr. Robert Redfield must have been “confused” when he praised wearing masks and said vaccines may not be readily available until well into 2021. Trump wants them by the Nov. 3 election. Redfield backed down a bit later in the day, but his reputation is now shot and there’s more proof that Trump has politicized the virus and has little use for his scientists.
3. Mideast peace: Only a bold president could pull this one off — Trump has prompted speculation that more pacts are coming after Israel signed agreements with the UAE and Bahrain in a celebratory photo-op at the White House. Iran and Hezbollah are the clear losers as a new Mideast coalition takes shape; could closer ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia be next?
4. Big Ten football: “It’s my great honor to have helped,” Trump tweeted as the conference decided to resume football games later this fall. This is a big deal in states like Ohio, which venerates its Buckeyes. One Big Ten athletic director said that Trump “had noting to do with our decision” — but Trump took credit anyway.
BOTTOM LINE: Trump is a whirling dervish, a born showman, setting the debate. He’s a bull in a china shop, while Joe Biden can hardly be described as dynamic. We’ve said all summer that people who underestimate Trump do so at their own peril, and his audacious performance yesterday proves that.
TRUMP OWNS THE STAGE: What’s next? He may block the Tik-Tok deal, or he may launch an offensive on Biden’s dealings in Ukraine, or he may ratchet up the trade war with Europe. The incumbent makes the news, and the low-keyed Biden seems content to play defense — as his lead in the RealClearPolitics aggregate of all polls slips to 5.9%.
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