Cliff’s Take: The Great Unraveling

Trump’s Strategy – Divide and Conquer – No Longer Working

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  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs
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Trump is in a funk.  Many analysts have seriously discounted his chances in November—it is all Biden these days.  Trump’s numbers truly stink—whether we look at the horse race polls or his approval ratings—the news is not good. 

Trump’s superpower —the inability to feel shame and the ruthless application of his shamelessness—has now become a cringeworthy fontrum for many as he fumbles to find his message.  It is not looking good for him.  However, we still are four months out from election-day.  Much can still change.

I detail below what I think is the most relevant polling of the week.

  1. Trump’s stupor. Many analysts cite Trump’s dismal horse race against Biden or the slippage in his approval numbers.  We have Trump at 38% percent approval in our most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll.  These numbers are, indeed, important.  But I think more telling is the wholesale implosion of trust in government’s ability to deal with the pandemic.  Look at the numbers below.  They are striking.  This probably will be Donald Trump’s legacy. Fed trust and coronavirus approval


  2. Beware of false positives. Again, the polling numbers are bad for Trump.  Our own national polling gives Biden a 6-point lead.  But voters have not yet focused their full attention on the election. Instead, they’re still more concerned with the mundane day-to-day.  As such, the farther out, the less accurate the polls tend to be.  See the table below.  Beware of horse race polls right now!  Reliable polls


  3. 2020 is all about restoring trust in government! America has had enough of governmental incompetence and gridlock.  The pandemic has only exacerbated our already dismal view of government.  Voters will be focused on this core problem when selecting their president in November.  Whomever owns “trust” will be the denizen of the White House in 2021. Most important trait


  4. Biden’s trust factor. Biden soundly defeats Trump today on the all-important issue of “restoring trust in government.” We even see Biden doubling down in his campaign messaging on this. Trump, in contrast, is all about the blame game right now—not a very unifying message.  But does Trump have any other play besides division and suppression?  Doesn’t look like it. This puts him in a bind. What worked in 2016 won’t work in our 2020 COVID-19 world.Biden trust in gov


  5. Partisanship of COVID-19 easing. There is nothing but tribalism around reopening the economy.  Democrats see things as moving way too fast; Republicans too slow.  Look at our most recent ABC News/Ipsos poll—the data is telling.  We can understand Trump’s strategy to ease up—it is all about placating his base.  But what comes first, the chicken or the egg?  Is it Trump priming his base to think a certain way?  Or his base conditioning him?  There is a fine line between genius and madness. Trump’s confusion of what is the chicken and what is the egg may be the death of him politically. We will see. Reopening the economy


If you would like a more in-depth summary of the above, please see my most recent Morning Briefing interview with Tim Farley.  As always, be safe and stay sane.

For more information, please contact:

Clifford Young
President, U.S.
Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2016
[email protected]


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The author(s)

  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs