James Oliphant at Reuters offers an analysis of what the RNC taught us this week about the Republican strategy for November.
He writes that Donald Trump used all of his reality-show talents to try to win back supporters alienated by his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He desperately needs to change the subject from a pandemic that has killed 180,000 Americans and shackled the US economy, and find a way to blame Democrats for the violence on the streets.
Oliphant observes that Republicans largely abandoned talk of the health crisis as if it had abated, in favor of reminding voters of the robust economy that existed beforehand. During the Democratic convention the previous week, Joe Biden had very much put the focus on holding Trump accountable for his actions during the outbreak.
“These two conventions have offered very different pictures of reality, in terms of where our country is now and what our future may hold,” says Christopher Devine, an expert in US elections at the University of Dayton in Ohio.
Trump’s convention depicted the president as a champion of “law and order,” taking aim at voters who do not approve of his divisive and inflammatory rhetoric but may be jittery about months of protests over racial injustice and police brutality that have sometimes turned violent.
“This is their attempt to nail down the base and mobilize them to get out and vote,” said Kathleen Dolan, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“But I do think he is trying to peel away some of those undecided women, the people who he’s calling the ‘suburban women.’”
But in reaching out to suburban voters with unapologetic tough-on-crime messages, while showing little empathy for the protesters who demand racial justice, Trump may have further bolstered Black American support for Biden, already strong.
Jim Messina, who was President Barack Obama’s campaign manager for the 2012 reelection, said Republicans’ fiery rhetoric against protests could turn off independents who want an end to the bitter polarization.
“Trump has gone so far right that he’s left the middle for the taking,” he said.