President Donald Trump's supporters hoped his debate with former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday night would give his campaign a boost. But many pundits have argued that while Trump's unhinged ranting and raving during the debate probably didn't hurt his support among true MAGA diehards, it didn't win over many swing voters who were on the fence. And two Washington Post opinion columnists, Never Trump conservative Jennifer Rubin and liberal Greg Sargent, are emphasizing that Trump has only made things worse for himself this week and that a mood of desperation and panic is evident in the Republican Party.
Tuesday night's debate was followed by a MAGA rally in Minnesota, where Trump once again attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar. Trump's campaign is hoping that he will be able to flip Minnesota, which Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won in 2016. But according to Sargent, the Minnesota rally only underscored how dysfunctional Trump's reelection campaign is. Trump reignited his racist attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar, trying to pull out the same bag of tricks that snagged him a Midwest victory in 2016, but it doesn't look like it's working this time around. Sargent explained:
Trump spent months on a "law and order" strategy to galvanize his core White supporters while frightening White suburbanites back to him. That failed.
Then, at the debate, Trump kept it up, falsely insisting Biden wouldn't utter the words "law and order," winking to right-wing extremists and white supremacists, and again rallying supporters to intimidate the opposition's voters.
Yet Republicans believe this is failing for him, reports the New York Times. His racist backlash politics and threats of voter intimidation risk further alienating "women, moderates, suburban voters and people of color," as the Times puts it. The people outside what he calls "our country."
Republicans fear this approach is putting Trump and his party on track to a big loss. But as his Minnesota rally showed, he remains absolutely committed to winning only in this fashion.
Rubin, similarly, views Trump's hysterical anti-Democrat rants as acts of "desperation."
"In his desperation to discredit his opponent and an election that he looks likely to lose — potentially by a margin too large for him to plausibly scream 'Fraud!' — President Trump's lies and outbursts are getting increasingly bizarre," Rubin explains. "(Tuesday) night's 'debate' showcased Trump at his most unhinged and out of control, unable to conduct a civil conversation or maintain a coherent train of thought."
This week, Rubin writes, one "could practically feel the panic emanating from the White House."
"Trump is becoming more frantic and unhinged by the day," Rubin argues. "He is staring not only at a possible landslide defeat, but potentially, also economic ruin and criminal prosecution. And his kids' inheritance may be going down the drain as well. Certainly, Trump's presidency has been a four-year nightmare for the country, but for Trump, it may turn out to be devastating and permanent."
Some red states, according to polls, are turning out to be surprisingly competitive for Biden, including Texas and Georgia: recent polls in those states have either shown Trump slightly ahead or Biden slightly ahead. But especially shocking is a new Quinnipiac poll that shows Biden trailing Trump by only 1% in South Carolina. While Texas and Georgia, truth be told, are light red at this point, South Carolina is known for being deep red: Trump won the state by 14% in 2016. And in South Carolina, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison. Polls are also showing that race to be close.
Graham, during recent appearances on Fox News, has warned fellow Republicans that Harrison is being inundated with donations. And McClatchy reports that a Republican PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, is planning to spend $10 million in a three-week ad blitz in the hope of saving Graham from being voted out of office.
The fact that the GOP suddenly seems extremely concerned about saving a Senate seat in South Carolina of all places shows what dire straits the party has found itself in.