There has been speculation that President Donald Trump has launched an ever-growing volley of racist attacks on the Squad, Elijah Cummings, Al Sharpton, and the City of Baltimore in part because he believes it will help him win re-election.
As Eugene Robinson argued in the Washington Post on Monday, however, it may be the other way around. Trump may be stepping up all of his most Trumpian behavior because he is terrified that he's on track to lose.
"It overly flatters Trump to fear he’s playing three-dimensional chess or employing some kind of exotic political jiujitsu. What we’re hearing in his harangues and reading in his tweets is naked fear. And he has reason to be very afraid," wrote Robinson. "Some traumatized Democrats may have lost all faith in polls following the 2016 election, but Trump hasn’t. We know he pays close attention to the numbers. We also know he watches Fox News obsessively, not as a way to follow current events but as a barometer of his support among his base."
"Indeed, the Fox News national poll of registered voters showed Trump losing to former vice president Joe Biden by 10 points, 49 percent to 39 percent," said Robinson. "It also showed him losing to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by six points and edging the other top-tier Democratic candidates, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), by a single point each."
"Another survey released last week must have made Trump break out in a cold sweat," added Robinson. "A Quinnipiac poll of registered voters in Ohio — a state Trump won in 2016 and absolutely needs to win again — showed him trailing Biden by eight points, 50 percent to 42 percent, and statistically tied with all the other leading Democratic contenders. Losing Ohio would almost surely mean a landslide electoral defeat."
The stakes of re-election, Robinson noted, are higher for Trump than for an ordinary president.
"It is telling that Trump was fairly subdued after former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s testimony but became irate when reporters asked about one thing Mueller had said: A president can indeed face criminal charges after leaving office," wrote Robinson. "I don’t believe the fear of eventual legal jeopardy is the only reason Trump is so frantic to win reelection, but I do believe it’s a factor. I don’t know what federal prosecutors would discover if they launched full-court-press investigations of the Trump Organization, the now-shuttered Trump Foundation and the Trump inauguration committee. But Trump knows."
"Trump knows how to use fear, resentment and a sense of grievance to motivate his base," concluded Robinson. "He can make it angrier and likelier to vote — but he has no idea how to make it bigger. And in elections, size matters."