Donald Trump is losing the battle for attention: Americans are increasingly exhausted by him. Barack Obama is knitting this into a new election campaign strategy.
In Washington people are now grateful for little things. The last TV debate on Thursday evening was actually something of a debate, more civilized, with two candidates who did not constantly interrupt the other. Sure, it was also full of falsehoods, but the Trump era made you frugal in that regard.
Donald Trump wanted to prove one thing: that he had learned a lot. His Rambo appearance in the first duel had disgusted the nation, not just its eternal opponents, but a wider public. The second he pinched. On the third attempt, he didn’t want to poke Joe Biden all the time – and for a while it went well.
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Behind this is perhaps the greatest of all Donald Trump’s problems. It cannot be measured as accurately as its backlog in surveys or donations. It’s more of a perceived truth. The emotional state that I encounter again and again this fall: The Americans are exhausted.
Exhaustion is always part of American election campaigns that last far too long and always end as a material battle in which the electorate is bombarded with commercials and robot calls. But this fall’s exhaustion relates to one candidate: Donald Trump.
I feel them again and again, in the queues in front of the polling stations, even at the Trump rallies and recently on the doorstep. A small neighborhood celebration, one serving in the Air Force, put it this way: “We’re all so sick of him. We are Republicans, but we say to ourselves: the price for another election victory is too high. Tired and exhausted are the words that keep falling. Tired, exhausted, but also: fed up with someone.
It’s the compulsive lying, the always-circling-around-yourself, the constant moaning about how nasty the others play along with you. For a while, some found it amusing and others didn’t care, but in a year in which hundreds of thousands die, millions are unemployed, cannot send their children to school or protest on the streets, Trump’s circus is more exhausting than ever on its own behalf. You have other worries.
The exhaustion is also evident in a point that particularly affects Trump: attention. Trump’s appearance in debate one had contributed to mental fatigue. Last week, when he broke the second TV duel, Trump started a kind of competition about the ratings: Parallel to Biden’s Town Hall on ABC, he held court on NBC, knowing that he had an advantage thanks to the co-broadcasting sister stations CNBC and MSNBC would have.
Biden’s citizens’ round was a boring event, while Trump’s round was gaudy entertainment television. In good German: Phoenix against ProSieben. Although the 77-year-old Democrat lived up to the nickname “Sleepy Joe” invented by Trump with his dissolute answers, but there is demand from the exhausted public for a sleepier candidate: Biden drew more viewers.
Trump’s election rallies are packed, but they seem more powerful on TV than on site – and unlike in 2016, hardly any other station broadcasts them. Trump turns up, the public turns away.
He is pushing the big wave these days: All opponents are criminal, the Minister of Justice should investigate. He can’t even let his own corona expert Anthony Fauci, who is much more popular with voters than himself, be dismissed as an “idiot”.
As he once did with Hillary Clinton, he also wants to portray Joe Biden as corrupt. In return, he and his helpers got involved in an alleged e-mail affair with Biden’s son Hunter, in which there is no evidence, but all the more question marks. Trump also whispered in the TV duel on Friday night about details from these emails.
Trump in the TV duel: Hunter Biden again and again. (Source: Jim Bourg / Pool / Reuters)
Anyone who consumed media from the Trump bubble knew all too well what it was about, everyone else was left puzzled. The president has pulled out all the stops on the Hunter Biden case for a year and a half, to no avail. But he just goes on as if there wasn’t anything more important.
For Trump, fatigue is much more dangerous than outrage, because those who are exhausted tend to look the other way instead of looking. The President is a master at attracting attention, but the Trump method is reaching its limits in this Corona election campaign.
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His opponents noticed that too. On Wednesday I was in Philadelphia to see myself Barack Obama’s first campaign appearance for Biden to watch. It was a drive-in rally at the ballpark.
After a good quarter of an hour of speaking, Obama said this: “With Joe and Kamala at the wheel, you no longer have to think about the crazy things they say every day. That’s worth a lot, ”he shouted. The spectators honked their horns in their cars. “It just won’t be that exhaustive. You don’t have to fight every day anymore. You might have another Thanksgiving dinner without a fight. ” The new president will no longer retweet conspiracy stuff.
Obama recognized potential: campaigning with Trump exhaustion.
When I spoke to the guests before Obama’s performance, a drive-in rally at the ballpark, I felt a second overwhelming feeling from this election campaign: The supporters of the Democrats are extremely nervous. They know the opinion polls, they know it looks good for their Biden, but they immediately become reluctant when it comes to the man’s chances of winning, who is clearly ahead in all the surveys.
Carolyn Hood drove up in the white BMW. When I asked her about her confidence, she said, “Oooooooooh” at length. You have to collect yourself first. Of course, Biden has a good chance, “but I’m worried.” It’s about the black men. Many would take the criminal law tightening from the nineties written by Biden crooked, the black drug users brought much tougher sentences than white. (The candidate himself has now called it a mistake.) “To be honest,” said the 62-year-old, “I’m pretty nervous.”
The trauma of 2016 can be felt among the supporters of the Democrats: that Hillary Clinton was prophesied by all sides until election day itself victory, which Trump then sneaked into the evening hours. 2016 is a lot different from 2020 (I have described it in more detail here). But the numbers are now similar again. Those who, after the debacle, continue to dare to predict election victories, put Trump’s chances at around ten percent again.
“I’m not too confident that it has to do with 2016,” said Reverend Heath Terry at the Obama event. “We definitely need the change.” The pastor also saw a skepticism towards Biden among black men. “In 2016 we laughed at Trump and then he won.” He looked me in the eye and said, “Anything is possible in America.”
We should keep the Reverend’s sentence in mind. I don’t want to write a head-to-head race. On paper, Biden is the clear favorite. He survived the last TV duel well – he didn’t have to do more. People are already voting in droves: 50 million citizens have cast their votes. All of this speaks for Biden. Some in Washington are already talking about a landslide victory.
But Trump will try everything again. Will roam the country restlessly, portraying Biden as corrupt, sick and dangerous by all possible means. But it can only work if an exhausted nation gives him what he needs most: your attention.
Is that likely? No. But anything is possible in America. Eleven days to go.