Newt Gingrich is a big-time Trump supporter who has never surrendered his independent streak.
So it was striking that the onetime House speaker, while predicting a Trump victory in November, allowed for the possibility that he might lose.
“If they can keep Biden in the basement long enough, he might become president,” Gingrich said on Fox’s “Outnumbered.” If voters don’t see him or think about his record, “he might just get there because people are tired. He is so passive right now, maybe that is what they want.”
I was among those who thought that Joe Biden had to make more news to compensate for the fact that he’s been largely confined to his Delaware home. But if the latest polls are any indication, some Democrats now believe that his low-key approach is paying dividends.
More important, I’ve long wondered whether the constant crises, endless attacks and inflamed rhetoric of the president’s tenure might ultimately lead to an intangible outcome: Trump fatigue. It’s at least possible that many Americans feel a sense of exhaustion and might yearn for a quieter and calmer respite.
The president’s supporters, of course, aren’t tired of him fighting on their behalf. They view him as the disruptor taking on a corrupt system. Whether it’s the Deep State or Democrats, whether it’s intel officials or the media or the parade of former aides who have turned on him, they see their man as under siege and amply entitled to fight back.
But even among some of those who back Trump’s policies, recent interviews suggest the constant warfare may be taking its toll.
Any president, obviously, would be battered by the three crises that have defined 2020: a pandemic, a partially crippled economy and police brutality that led to racially charged protests and riots.
But when you take a deeper look, you see a president who is constantly stirring things up, turning up the volume to 11, and firing up the media–which is overwhelmingly negative but loves the clicks and ratings.
A very partial list: Slamming four Democratic congresswomen of color. Accusing Barack Obama of treason. Trying to buy Greenland. Assailing John McCain after his death. Denigrating S-hole countries. Calling Baltimore a rodent-infested mess. Tying Joe Scarborough to a murder conspiracy. Denouncing the Mueller probe as a witch hunt. Promoting and taking hydroxychloroquine. Ordering an investigation of social media companies. Calling journalists scum and public enemies.
Oh, and he was impeached for pressing Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, and acquitted less than five months ago.
Of course Trump has his accomplishments, from tax cuts to judicial appointments to criminal justice reform. But I’m talking here about the relentless turmoil that he sees as crucial to dominating every news cycle and winning reelection.
The former vice president, by contrast, has receded from the media radar, even as the Trump campaign assails him as “Hidin’Biden.” It’s hard to imagine that another Democratic nominee–say, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders–would be so passive.
When the 77-year-old candidate does make news, it’s usually for criticizing some Trump move, rather than driving an issue on his own. His Twitter posts are anemic. Biden mostly preaches a message of unity–on race relations, on the pandemic, on returning to a more civil style of politics.
Biden did venture to Pennsylvania yesterday to chastise Trump for a “cruel” attempt to overturn ObamaCare, saying that for some people Covid-19 could become a preexisting condition.
If Biden was running even with Trump, Democrats would be loudly proclaiming that he had to hit the trail and be more aggressive. But given the latest polls–even if Biden’s lead is not as large as the 14 points in a New York Times poll or 12 points in a Fox survey–“Democrats are just fine with him being a homebody,” Politico says.
As Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen was quoted as saying, “Trump is running against Trump. And it’s smart of Biden to not get in the way of that. It’s become a referendum on Trump’s behavior.”
The president will naturally do everything he can to make the election about Biden’s record, and the campaign hasn’t really been fully joined.
Presidents are often elected as a counterweight to their predecessor: Carter running on honesty after Nixon resigned; Reagan on strength after Carter’s hostage-induced weakness; Trump on punch-in-the-nose aggressiveness after the intellectual Obama. And because Biden’s life has been transformed by tragedy, he may be an unusually empathetic figure during a disease that has claimed more than 120,000 American lives.
None of this means that Biden will prevail. The flip side of Trump’s bruising style is his will to win. The question, as Newt noted, is whether the country collectively craves a rest.