Commentary: No wonder Trump is in a snit. Biden is crushing him in polls
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Commentary: No wonder Trump is in a snit. Biden is crushing him in polls

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No wonder President Donald Trump has been in a snit lately.

A new poll shows the president trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden not only nationwide, but in a half-dozen crucial swing states for the November election.

And yes, it's early, and in this topsy-turvy world who knows what might happen in the next four-and-a-half months. But, yeah, "he who would be emperor" has much to worry about.

And it's all his own doing.

Interestingly, for the past three months the presidential campaign has dropped down the list of things to which Americans are paying attention. A potentially deadly pandemic, stay-at-home orders and a crashed economy will do that.

But those interrelated crises have also kept Biden off the stage, which - either incidentally or intentionally - has kept the focus on Trump. Usually, that's bad for a presidential challenger, and Biden, of course, is the master of the gaffe.

But Trump also regularly hangs himself with his own tongue (more than 19,000 lies and misstatements since taking office, according to the Washington Post's tally). And since March Biden has enjoyed the benefits of not drawing much attention - positive or negative - while Trump has continued to display his nonexistent gifts for governance and moral leadership.

The latest polls, from the New York Times and Sienna College, show Trump trailing Biden in Wisconsin (-11 percentage points), Michigan (-11), Pennsylvania (-10), North Carolina (-9), Florida (-6) and Arizona (-7). You can play with those numbers and the electoral map here to game out different scenarios, but for an incumbent to be that far behind at this stage of a reelection bid is not a sign of a healthy campaign.

In fact, George H.W. Bush, the last incumbent president to lose an election, saw his approval rating drop to 29% in July 1992, after Democrat Bill Clinton successfully focused the campaign on "it's the economy, stupid."

It was a different scenario then, especially with third-party candidate H. Ross Perot galvanizing voters deeply dissatisfied both with the federal government and with the major political parties, and willing to back a billionaire political neophyte. Look at them as early Trump voters.

Sure, Trump has his base, and his approval rating in the low 40s is better than Bush's nadir, but it's nowhere near where an incumbent president would like it to be.

He has lost or is losing swing support in those states that will decide the Electoral College vote. Meanwhile, the tide of protests against anti-Black racism combined with the continued strength of the Democrats' progressive wing - as displayed in some of the Democratic congressional primaries on June 23 - signals energy if not necessarily behind Biden, then definitely against Trump.

If there is a silver lining to the pandemic and economic crisis, it's that the nation has witnessed the importance of having a president with competent executive skills, an appreciation for and reliance on facts in making decisions, and a determination to put the needs of the nation ahead of his own political or personal interests.

The question is, will voters in the swing states still recognize that importance come November? And if so, will they see Biden as the better choice?

___

ABOUT THE WRITER

Scott Martelle, a veteran journalist and author of six history books, is a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board.

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

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