Back to Where We Were

By Erick Erickson

I want to ponder Campaign 2020 and why I think it will actually be an unsettling election with a healthy dose of “boy who cried wolf,” but before I get there I want a few thoughts on the coronavirus.

First, I think the media has an obligation to keep us informed. This is a new virus. It is more deadly than the flu but less deadly than many other diseases. It overwhelmingly affects the elderly and most people will have mild symptoms. Unfortunately, we are in the phase where the contrarians and the conventional wisdom pontificators are now screaming at each other.

Some insist it is overblown. Others insist it is far worse than what we originally knew. Lots of information is bad, wrong, or otherwise outdated. People are panicking. Toilet paper is in short supply in parts of the country. No one can find hand sanitizer.

The reality is this — the odds of you getting the virus are small. But the odds of the virus spreading rapidly into your community are high. Once it gets into communities, it is very difficult to contain. There are signs it has been circulating in the United States for longer than first believed. That is very good because it means the mortality rate is actually less. The problem, however, is that in known populations of the elderly where it has spread, the virus actually has a higher mortality rate than first expected.

There are, however, signs that American behavior is rapidly changing. The rate of flu contraction has declined. Doctors say more Americans are washing their hands and avoiding large gatherings of people. If the flu is in decline, that should give us hope on this virus. It lasts longer in the wild than the flu, but is otherwise contracted the same way.

Hone funny part on this is the mistranslations along the way. The virus can leave a while film in a person’s mouth. It is one of the symptoms. In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ office sent out an email to people in Atlanta. The office mistranslated the French “langue blanche” to “white language” instead of “white tongue.” The result is the graphic below with one of the symptoms being if you sound super white, you might be infected.

Also, those snakes look like something else.

Now, about Campaign 2020

No candidate has ever failed to get a nomination after running 22 straight weeks at the top of the polling before Iowa. Joe Biden came pretty damn close to being the first. But in South Carolina, he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Now, as we spring forward, we are back to the match everyone has been expecting. It has Republicans nervous and Democrats excited, if not quite united.

Biden has always been a more formidable candidate than Sanders because Biden has the ability to bring in voters who might otherwise sit on the sidelines. There are plenty of moderate Republicans who do not like Trump or Biden, but will hold their noses and go with Biden.

What Democrats ignore is that there are also plenty of people who did not vote for Trump in 2016 who will vote for him in 2020.

The question that we do not have an answer to is which group is larger. 7.7 million people voted third party in 2016. Over a million voted for Jill Stein and over 4 million voted for Gary Johnson. Where do those people go? The odds are most of them go third-party again.

So Biden and Trump will have to turn out their bases. The NeverTrump faction that voted against Trump in 2016 remains but is reduced. 700,000 of them went to Evan McMullin in 2016 (myself included) and some of them went for Hillary.

A number of us, myself included, will vote for Trump in 2020. But others will not. However, just as in 2016m, they will not be decisive in stopping Trump any more than they were in 2016.

Biden will have to continue to grow his base in other ways. In particular, he will need to gain voters back who voted for Obama than Trump. These voters, for four years, have been excoriated as racists and bigots by the Democrats and there’s no guarantee they will go back.

Concurrently, President Trump continues to do his best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He has not handled the coronavirus situation well. The markets continue to slide. While his base has rapidly moved behind the “its an overreaction” narrative regarding the virus, most people have not. He should be able to win on the economy, but the economy looks wobbly now.

2020 is going to be nasty, petty, and ultimately inconclusive about the direction of the country. Should Trump win, it will set up the GOP to restart fights that went unresolved in 2016. Non-Trump candidates who sucked up to Trump will start to stretch their legs sounding Trumpist while wanting to chart a new course. Trump loyalists will try to stop them. But if Trump loses…well…the GOP hates losers.

If Biden wins, he’ll only be keeping the seat warm and the very elements that nearly stopped him in 2020 will start agitating and setting themselves up for 2024. Biden should have never made a one-term promise. It will only embolden his critics within the Democratic Party.

The Cry Wolf Moment

Come 2024, we will have a clean slate with both parties ready to chart new directions. In the meantime, it is go time for 2020. Get ready for overwhelming attacks from each side about the mental fitness of the other.

One thing worth noting on that — for four years the media and Democrats have suggested Trump is not fit to be President and has mental issues. They’ve raised these for so long, I suspect most voters have tuned them out. The media and Democrats have not and will not do that to Joe Biden. I think that gives Trump an advantage on attacks about Biden’s mental competence. If you absolutely hate Trump, you already believe he’s crazy and, ironically, you’re okay handing the presidency off to someone who may have dementia. If you love President Trump, you think he’s just a non-professional politician who makes mistakes but is otherwise mentally fine. Biden, however, is senile. Who cares about those groups. What about the man in the middle trying to make up his mind? For four years, he has seen the attacks on Trump. But the media has not explored Biden’s mental state and the Trump attacks just might have a real impact.

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