Donald Trump’s loss in the November 2020 General Election is astounding when you consider all the opportunities he squandered for an easy victory. He didn’t have to win over the entire nation or 5 million voters, he only had to convince a few thousand in critical states to cast their ballot for him.
These were softballs lobbed at him where he didn’t swing and miss — he didn’t even step up to the plate. Had his campaign capitalized on any one of these opportunities, he would have sailed to an easy win.
#1. Canceling daily Coronavirus news briefings.
This has to be the worst decision made by Trump’s re-election team.
On April 27, the White House stopped the daily news briefings on COVID-19.
Every news outlet carried these scheduled appearances where the White House controlled the narrative. His team could have paraded Trump in front of voters and presented him in a more positive light, undoing much of the damage from his hate rallies. If you got it wrong on one day, you simply recover the next. It would be a priceless opportunity for real-time feedback of which messaging was working.
A few tweaks such as getting rid of the ridiculous orange tan, ill-fitting suits, and swaying like a toddler would have made him appear more “presidential.” Additionally, the time frame was limited which meant a shorter period to apply the reins on Trump’s worse impulses.
There are not a lot of images of Trump acting in an official manner where he is not embarrassing the country. Although he ended up blowing the opportunity by his antics, the free daily publicity was invaluable to his campaign. If nothing else, it would have diluted the effect of the negative optics.
Biden would have killed for the chance to address the nation every day on every news station.
These briefings were an opportunity to improve his failing image by linking Trump to respected scientists and other experts, and give news of testing improvements, new treatment regimens, and vaccines in development. They could have been used these appearances to ramp up interest and excitement, creating more optimism about his presidency.
Instead, the White House canceled the briefings as opposed to forcing Trump to stop publicly killing his campaign. It is truly unbelievable.
#2. Pretending COVID-19 was no big deal.
Amazingly, Trump failed to set himself up to have vanquished the “greatest threat to America in a century.”
If the Trump administration had labeled COVID-19 as a “dangerous pandemic unlike anything we have faced as a nation” and that he alone was protecting the country, he would have painted himself as America’s hero.
Instead of hyping the danger, Trump downplayed it.
The administration went further. They didn’t wear masks which made it seem like no one believed the virus was a threat so his leadership was not needed. Then Trump contracted COVID-19. At that point, he could have saved himself by pivoting to how dangerous the virus was and how he was going to save the country from this pandemic.
Shockingly, he blew every opportunity to look like America’s salvation.
#3. Not taking early steps against the virus.
The administration’s response didn’t have to be effective, but it did have to seem like they were trying. Sympathy would have carried them across the finish line.
Had Trump’s “travel ban” stopped international travelers with recent visits to China, or his team distributed PPE to affected communities, or the administration recommended states institute a mask mandate for two weeks, Biden would not be our next president. Voters rarely change horses in a national crisis. If none of these efforts had been successful, it would have been seen as an attempt to protect the public.
The debate would have focused on the effectiveness of the efforts, instead of Trump’s failure to respond.
Trump downplayed the risk in public while privately telling journalist Bob Woodward that he was aware of the danger. Let’s not get into how mind boggling stupid it was for Trump to grant an interview to the reporter who took down Nixon.
The administration’s handling of the virus made him appear inept at a time when he desperately needed to bolster his image.
Trump did not need a perfect response to the pandemic, only any response which looked like he cared.
#4. Paying a stimulus to affected workers.
Imagine the outcome of the election if stimulus checks had been distributed in October.
Trump could have maintained an image of a responsible conservative by issuing payments to only those individuals who were still unemployed. This likely would have resulted in enough votes to put him over the top in critical states.
Extending unemployment benefits of $600 a week until the election would have secured him a win, too.
#5. Not claiming states efforts as his own.
Trump should have publicly pushed for states to extend unemployment benefits and then claimed it as a win for himself. He could have used the daily briefings to demand that states do more to help the federal government manage the virus response. He could have demanded states institute a mask mandate.
Any failures could be blamed on their efforts.
Instead, Trump came off as someone who did not care about the people. Few faulted state government for the handling of the virus, but all blame was heaped on Trump and the feds.
Trump didn’t need to undo all the damage of the previous four years. He didn’t need to convince the entire nation to vote. He only had to convince a few thousands voters that he wasn’t a complete waste as a leader.
Trump failed miserably.