Trump-defending columnist despairs at the president's blunders: 'Does he actually want to win?'
President Donald Trump speaking to reporters outside the White House (screengrab)

National Review editor Rich Lowry, who has evolved from a "Never Trump" conservative into a reliable defender of the president and his policy agenda, has written a new despair-filled column for Politico in which he asks, "Does Trump actually want to win this election?"

Lowry starts off by delivering a scathing assessment of the president's debate performance last week, which he said was even less effective than the widely panned debate performances he delivered against Hillary Clinton four years ago.

"In 2016 Trump fastened on issues that voters cared about more than the political elite did—trade and deindustrialization, immigration, and PC," he writes. "This time, he’s devoting inordinate time to matters that obsess him, not the average voter."

Lowry also chides the president for his baffling decision to talk down the importance of wearing face masks during a pandemic that so far has killed more than 210,000 Americans in just eight months.

"Trump has waged a low-intensity campaign against masks, for no good reason," he writes. "If masks and their more zealous advocates are annoying, they are also a low-cost, relatively easy intervention to diminish spread of the virus, and a popular one. By setting himself against masks, largely on aesthetic grounds, Trump further opened himself up to charges that he doesn’t take the virus seriously."

Lowry concludes that "if Trump loses, the story isn’t going to be what was done to him, rather what he did to himself."