Biden issued a statement saying that if the allegations were true, they would be “yet another marker of how deeply President Trump and I disagree about the role of the President of the United States.”
No President in modern history has gone into a reelection race warning that the process of choosing a government that is the bedrock of American democracy is illegitimate. Trump’s conduct risks a full-on post-election constitutional crisis.
And as always, the President has been ignoring the worst domestic crisis since World War II, a pandemic that has killed 185,000 Americans and counting.
On Thursday, hours after final death figures for the day before showed another 1,000 lost Americans, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany played a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi without a mask on a loop at the start of her briefing. The speaker’s slip exposed her to deserved accusations of hypocrisy and was a bad gaffe. Yet it was hardly the biggest crisis facing the nation that needs to be addressed by a White House that has repeatedly demonstrated a profound lack of seriousness during the pandemic.
Still, while Trump’s constantly disruptive behavior and refusal to play the role of a traditional president horrifies Beltway elites, it’s exactly what makes him attractive to supporters who long ago soured on conventional politicians. The more he trolls the media, the more his base and his conservative media cheerleaders love it. The question is whether a President who looked every day for four years like he’s waging an endless GOP primary campaign can secure a path to victory without broadening his base.
Biden behaves like a shadow president
Biden spent the week trying to dispel the caricature of a “Trojan horse” for looters, rioters, anarchists and maniacs, with which he was labeled at the RNC and which Trump has pushed ever since.
“Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters?” Biden asked in Pittsburgh, using one of his potential weaknesses — an almost 50-year career in politics, during which many Americans have followed his tragedies and rebounds — as a shield.
Biden’s performance may have eased the nerves of some Democrats who appeared spooked by the discipline of the Republican convention last week. Good polling helps too. Multiple national surveys show that Trump didn’t get the convention bounce he needed given the fact he’s still trailing. The race appears closer in swing states but Biden is well positioned everywhere, leaving the President with a growing problem given the fact that many states start sending out absentee ballots in the coming days and weeks. The Trump campaign insists the polls are all wrong, and is boasting of a previously undetected legion of new Trump voters who were not active in 2016.
The contrasting styles of Biden and Trump this week point to the choice that will be on display at a now crucial first presidential debate in just over three weeks — and that will ultimately be decided on November 3 — or whenever the expected deluge of mail-in votes is counted.
Does a sufficient slice of the country still want a careening, politically incorrect President who appears ready to tear the country down around him? Will the cultural connection that Trump has forged with his fervent base voters — especially on racial issues — supersede unease about his mishandling of a pandemic that has shut down normal life?
Or with no end in sight to the crisis, are there 270 electoral votes to elevate an elderly, temperate and traditional president in Biden, who, instead of constant uproar, is offering to serve as a counselor in troubled times?