There’s a pandemic threatening millions of lives and basically the entire U.S. economy. And here’s an actual headline from Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal: “Trump re-election strategy shifts focus to crisis leadership.”
See, the plan had been to brag about the economy nonstop, but now that that’s not really an option, “Mr. Trump this week has taken steps to demonstrate more command, appearing at daily news conferences and taking a solemn outlook, while his campaign weighs how to contend with battered financial markets and rising unemployment.” Creating the appearance of taking a crisis seriously is a campaign tactic—really. Based on what Trump advisers tell The Wall Street Journal, it’s also a stall tactic.
The campaign tactic was downplaying the crisis, until that became counterproductive for the campaign. (It was always counterproductive for the nation.)
Then the Great Tone Shift happened.
But even the Trump campaign doesn’t seem too confident that Trump’s leadership during a pandemic is going to be a winning argument in November. They’re banking on the economy rebounding before then.
“We will point out that it is under the present policies that [the economy] was so vibrant and those policies are still in place,” a campaign spokesman said. “The stock market will rebound, and the economy will still be in solid shape.” For roughly the billionth time, Trump inherited a solid economy from former President Obama and didn’t do much to change its trajectory. Not that that has ever stopped him from claiming credit, but it has to be said.
But that’s the real strategy. For now, appear to care. And count on things getting better in time to go through with the original bragging-about-the-economy plan.
“Look, if in 45 days it looks like everything is going back to normal,” a Trump adviser told The Wall Street Journal, “then everything is going to go back to where it was.” But the United States needs a better plan than “if everything goes back to normal then Trump’s re-election might be in okay shape.”