Last week, Joe Biden spoke for 24 minutes and declared that the “President’s character is on the ballot”. Last night, President Trump got his go at making a pitch to America, and declared that the Democratic agenda would all but end America as we know it.
Trump took a bit longer than 24 minutes, too: He spoke for over an hour, which in truth was a bit too long, especially if you’re an Irish bloke who’s sitting up watching it because you have to write a summary for people the next morning. If you have an hour, though, lucky you. Here it is:
Too long, it was, but much of it was, on balance, very effective. As National Review notes:
Trump’s demeanor at the start of the speech was almost genial, and at points, he managed the twinkle in the eye that he gets at some of his rallies, such as when he was chiding Democrats for pledging “lawyers for everyone” if you come here illegally. But the length and repetition of the speech, full of State of the Union–style recitations of policy accomplishments and proposals and shout-outs to people in the gallery, drained the life out of him by the end. The closing peroration about the bold nature of Americans may have soared on the page, but fell flat because Trump was out of gas.
Trump had a lot more fun attacking Democrats and Biden, not always fairly but with a lot of well-chosen barbs that will hit home. Like Mike Pence, for example, he hit Joe Biden for opposing the raid that got Osama bin Laden. One of the best parts of the speech, which could probably have gone on longer at the expense of other sections, was a riff on liberal hypocrisy. One thing Trump did effectively throughout the speech was arguing that Biden’s record and proposals are not what you’d have heard at the Democrats’ convention or in Biden’s rhetoric. He drove home the point that Democrats didn’t talk about riots or disorder at all at their convention, but perked up on seeing more recent polling: “It’s too late, Joe.” Also, we may never know if he is sincere — he’s Trump — but, since taking office, no American president (even Reagan) has ever been this consistently, vocally insistent about the horror of abortion.
The Democratic Convention last week was notable for a total absence of any policy pledges. If Trump had a problem last night, it was the opposite: Too much policy, not enough punchiness.
On balance, though, it was a notable success. Trump has been searching, all summer, for an attack on Biden that might stick, and he finally seems to have settled on one: That Biden, for all his genial blandness, is little more than a tool of a much more radical Democratic Party.
Blow after blow was landed on the Democrats last night: From their open-the-border attitude to immigration, to their open-mindedness on defunding the police, to their responsibility for the riots in Cities that they govern, to, notably, their embrace of late-term abortion. There were also some effective hits on Joe Biden personally: For example, the often forgotten fact that if Joe Biden had been President back when the decision was made, Osama Bin Laden would still be alive, because Biden opposed the raid that killed him.
There are two observations worth making about the state of the race, and whichever one you believe will likely determine who you think is going to win. The first is this: It is objectively extraordinary that Trump is still in with a decent shot to win. Coronavirus has devastated the American economy, rioting is devastating American cities, and the American media is in nothing less than a full scale campaign to have him defeated in November. And yet he’s still hanging in there, within five points or so of Biden in every swing state. If he gets even a two or three per cent lift from the convention, then the race is effectively a dead heat.
Hillary Clinton didn’t put Trump away when she had the chance, and it cost her. Will Biden live to have the same regret?
The second observation is this: Trump’s argument effectively comes down to “the buck stops with the other guy”. This is a good argument when you’re not the President, but it’s a lot harder to make when you’re in charge. Trump supporters see American cities burning and think “it’s those radical left wingers”. And true enough, it is. But does the average American see that? Or do they look at burning cities and say “this is Donald Trump’s America”?
On balance though, this report from the New York Times yesterday should encourage Trump supporters:
Mr. Geraghty, a former Marine, said he was disturbed to see his town looking like “a war zone,” and he feared that the Democrats in charge were “letting people down big time.”
Politics for him had long been like a sport he did not follow. In his late 20s, he voted for Barack Obama, the first vote of his life. He did not vote in 2016, and he called the president’s handling of the coronavirus “laughable.”
Mr. Geraghty said he disliked how Mr. Trump talked but said the Democratic Party’s vision for governing seemed limited to attacking him and calling him a racist, a charge being leveled so constantly that it was having the effect of alienating, instead of persuading, people. And the idea that Democrats alone were morally pure on race annoyed him.
“The Democratic agenda to me right now is America is systematically racist and evil and the only people who can fix it are Democrats,” he said. “That’s the vibe I get.”
If Trump succeeds in making it an election between a candidate who likes America, and a candidate who doesn’t, his chances, you’d imagine, might improve.