Trump's Changing Status as a Presidential Candidate

In 2016, many were asking themselves how, out of 300 million people, did we end up with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the final two presidential candidates. Both seemed to be widely unpopular. Though Clinton had a large lead in the polls, those numbers can be largely misleading. This quickly became apparent to many after Trump won the presidency back in 2016. Despite the lead Clinton had indicated by the polls taken at the time, polls can only really show the momentary decision of people. Come voting day, much can change, and it can change that much more between each election, especially when looking at the altered positions of those who hope to be reelected.

The 2016 polls defined limitations of the U.S. polling system and made the reality of its reliability that much more obvious. When a poll is taken it shows the immediate momentary decisions of individuals. For example, one poll specified that Clinton had the support of 52% of voters while Trump had 38%. This didn’t mean that Clinton maintained a lead in support, it just meant that at the time of the poll, only 38% said they supported Trump. With hindsight, Clinton was leading in the polls but actually had a very moderate amount of real support from voters. In another poll from CBS News, Clinton was 14-points ahead of Trump. However, this number actually fluctuated dramatically over time over a range of 10-points, leaving the truth of Clinton’s lead highly subject to question. So far and with only 15 days until the election, Joe Biden’s lead on Trump has not even dropped to as low as a 5-point lead.

In the United States, voting is based on the electoral college system. Each state has a certain number of electoral votes based on the total number of representatives that particular state has in Congress. There are a total of 538 electoral votes and, in order to win the presidential election, a candidate must gain more than 270 electoral votes, half of the total. A CNN poll taken just after the first presidential candidate debate and Trump’s positive coronavirus test showed 57% of participants supporting Joe Biden. This is a rare number in presidential elections, the last time it was seen being in 1984, in favor of Ronald Reagan during his reelection campaign who went on to win 500 of the 538 electoral votes.

Of course, Biden is not Reagan, nor are their campaign circumstances at all similar. However, if there were ever a time when the nation needed a strong win rather than a call so close that people are left unsure and unsatisfied, it’s now. Even still, comparing the upcoming 2020 presidential election to the 2016 presidential election is unfair, despite the obvious similarities.

mail in ballot with mask by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash Photo by Tiffany Tertipes from Unsplash The public remains polarized and anxious. Changing Commander in Chief during a global state such as this one is not ideal. Throughout U.S. history, presidents have peacefully handed over power to their president-elects. But already, Trump is suggesting he may refuse to leave office should the votes seem unsatisfactory, going so far as to state he believes there is a “ballot scam” and that “they’re scamming us”, the “they” seeming to refer to the Democratic party. This was stated shortly after 9 military ballots were found discarded in the trash in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, 7 of which were for Trump. An investigation was conducted into the discarded ballots by the FBI and the Justice Department. It was concluded that the ballots had been incorrectly discarded into the office’s trash by a seasonal contractor helping the elections office in Pennsylvania. Said contractor was quickly removed and asked not to return.

With the election so close, the whole world is watching and waiting. Accusations and low-blows are being and will continue to be dealt even when it’s all said and done. The likelihood that this should end peacefully and quietly seems to get lower and lower everyday. Each candidate is facing a tight-call election during a time when running a successful campaign is hindered by a global pandemic and a global movement for equal rights and recognition. Previous standards do not apply to this election, as if the past year wasn’t already unpredictable.

In 2016, Trump was relatively new to politics apart from his run for president in 2000, whereas Hillary Clinton’s name was widely known, inside and outside of politics. However, this did not win her much favor and for many, was proof of her inability to hold office. Trump entered the 2016 election with a relatively clean slate, so to speak, in reference to political ideology and what he could offer the country. In comparison to Clinton, this seemed like the better option. No matter the “side” you’re on, there is no doubt, Trump was loud and made himself heard. Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist, stated that “whether you agreed or not, you knew,” in reference to Trump’s campaigning in 2016. He regularly held the attention of the American people and is considered to have had “the most combative online presence” of any presidential candidate in modern history.

Political graffiti in Asheville Photo by Michelle Bonkosky from Unsplash

However, Trump now faces the history of his actions in the last four years and must answer to the American people for his mistakes and misjudgments. In 2016, there was a much larger portion of the population unwilling to vote than at present. Now, the fervor with which people wish to cast their ballot grows everyday. Out of voters who find both Biden and Trump to be unfavorable, the majority still chose Biden. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump won the vote of the undecided, giving him an extra 17 points, the difference showing in three states, giving him a lead in the number of electoral college votes. However, this year undecided voters are consistently leaning towards Biden, giving him a predicted greater-than 20-point lead on Trump.

As Trump’s 2020 election campaign has gone on, his rhetoric has become less and less clear. He regularly focuses on his past victory against Clinton and avoids facing his current one, Biden. The younger generation that is now able to vote is increasingly unsure of his capability as president and have decreased faith in his promises. People no longer want a president who shows the thing he is most capable of, is attacking others. In 2016, voters indicated they trusted Trump more than Clinton and there was general agreement, influenced and other, with his rhetoric against Clinton, suggesting she was “crooked”. This level of trust has deteriorated largely since the previous election. As Gorman said, back in 2016, it didn’t matter if you agreed with Trump or not but you knew his intentions, his ideas. Gorman, among many other Americans, do not feel Trump’s 2020 campaign is following the same order.

However, similar to 2016, Trump has made himself heard yet again, to the dismay of some. Despite the coronavirus, Trump has continued his in-person campaigning, cancelling rallies only once he tested positive for the virus himself. While this has angered some who feel their safety is being disregarded, many others still attend his events. This seems to be a potential weak point for Biden, who has cancelled numerous in-person events. While this shows regard for safety and a certain level of responsibility, there is no denying the possibility of negative consequences. Campaigns are defined by a voice and said voice’s opinion. Without interaction with the people, there is little trust. Fewer campaign stops on Biden’s side creates a sort-of “noise-vacuum” which Trump has a gift for filling.

While elections are unpredictable, commonalities tend to guide us to think there is really only one potential outcome. Some expect to see Trump pull-through, despite the odds outlined by the polls. Others expect the numbers to mean more. With people less afraid to speak their minds and more righteous fights being fought, the nation needs someone who understands, listens and respects this. While it’s arguable that either both candidates are capable or neither are, the final decision comes down to the same question: who do we, as a people, believe can do the job?

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