President Donald Trump's flaws have always been apparent, but Democratic pollsters say voters are starting to care a lot more about them as the coronavirus wrecks the economy and health care system.
Attacks on Trump's character remain less effective than many Democrats would think, but ad makers have zeroed in on a line of attack that seems to be working, reported Politico.
“One thing we saw in polling a lot before the coronavirus outbreak is that people didn’t think he was a strong leader or a good leader, they complained about his Twitter,” said Nick Ahamed, analytics director at Priorities USA. “But they had a hard time connecting those character flaws they saw in him with their day-to-day experience.”
But the president's response to the pandemic and nationwide protests had exposed those pre-existing flaws in ways that directly impact voters' lives.
“I think Democrats have had a theory of the case against President Trump for a while, but it really hasn’t been until the last few months when it started finally getting traction,” said Democratic ad maker Mark Putnam, who previously worked for Barack Obama and briefly Joe Biden. “He almost seemed to have some kind of anti-gravity secret that allowed him to consistently screw things up and yet never pay a political price for it, and with just the way he’s handled one crisis after another in really the worst possible way, it’s finally sinking in.”
But ad makers have found that Biden must offer a positive alternative to Trump's failures.
“The race is being decided right now by the negativity towards Trump," said retired Democratic strategist David Doak. "What I would do if I were the Biden [campaign] is to try and fill in that favorability, to strengthen what he’s getting there and move his favorability rating up.”
Ad makers also can't be distracted by Trump blunders that gain traction on social media but often have the opposite effect than intended, and help move voters closer to Trump.
“You can’t chase the Trump clown car,” said Bradley Beychok, president of the progressive group American Bridge. “Him drinking water and throwing a glass is goofy and may make for a good meme, but it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things … What people care about is this outbreak.”