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Wake Up To Politics - August 13, 2020

Trump's messaging struggles
Wake Up To Politics - August 13, 2020

It’s Thursday, August 13, 2020. Election Day is 82 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Analysis: Why Trump’s difficulties attacking Harris represent his 2020 troubles

Kamala Harris has been the Democratic vice presidential candidate for almost 48 hours. So far, Republicans have struggled to come up with a cogent narrative against her.

The Trump re-elect’s initial attack against Harris — crystallized in a web ad released just as her selection was announced on Tuesday — sought to paint her as an extremist. Her addition to the ticket “completes the radical, leftist takeover of Joe Biden and the entire Democrat Party,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh declared in a statement.

But that message was soon complicated by a seemingly contradictory one: highlighting frustration among progressives that Harris, widely regarded as a moderate Democrat, was chosen for the VP slot. “Liberals revolt against Biden, Harris ticket,” the subject line of an email from the Republican National Committee read.

As the Trump campaign and RNC seemed to split over how to go after Harris ideologically, both narratives were also undermined by a swarm of increasingly personal attacks against Harris by the president and his allies.

She’s “nasty,” President Trump said at a press conference. She’s “a mad woman,” he said this morning in an interview.

A Trump campaign fundraising email called her the “meanest, most horrible, most disrespectful” member of the U.S. Senate, while a Trump campaign legal adviser tweeted that she “sounds like Marge Simpson.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson repeatedly mispronounced her name, then asked “so what?” when a guest corrected him. The president’s son liked a tweet describing Harris as “whorendous.”

Not only do many of these talking points flung against the first Black female vice presidential candidate echo racist and sexist stereotypes, they also reflect President Trump’s larger difficulties coming up with a straightforward re-election message.

Gone are the days of “Make America Great Again,” “Build That Wall,” and “Drain The Swamp.” Trump, whose success on the political stage was due in large part to his salesman’s ability to develop powerful slogans and nicknames defining his policies and rivals, has yet to create a moniker for Biden or Harris with the staying power of “Crooked Hillary,” “Low-Energy Jeb,” or “Little Marco.”

Just as Trump and his allies have thrown an array of disjointed attacks against Harris in recent days, they have similarly struggled to arrive at a simple narrative against Biden, bouncing between focusing on his mental acuity, tying him to leftist Democrats, and seizing on his relationship with China.

Why has Trump found so much difficulty with his campaign messaging this time around, after the rollicking success of his 2016 slogans and nicknames? Running for president as a political novice and as an incumbent president are very different tasks. Trump now has a governing record to run on — including his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has drawn a disapproval rating near 60% — and can’t only rely on needling his rivals. When the president was asked by Sean Hannity in June to outline his priorities for a second term, Trump came up short.

As a result, he is trailing in some polls by double digits. If Trump is unable to develop an articulate case against the Biden-Harris ticket, or explain his plans for another term in the White House, he may be heading for an electoral defeat in November — in no small part because of his troubles recreating the simple and effective messaging that powered his 2016 victory.

The Rundown

The United States reported nearly 1,500 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, the nation’s most in a single day deaths since mid-May. More than 5 million coronavirus cases have now been diagnosed in the U.S. and more than 166,000 Americans have succumbed to the virus, as schools across the country wrestle with the decision to reopen. Washington Post

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke by phone Wednesday, but made no progress towards crafting a coronavirus relief package. Pelosi accused Mnuchin of “refusing to budge,” while Mnuchin said Pelosi has “no interest in negotiating.” President Trump, who has attempted to circumvent Congress with a suite of executive orders intended to offer economic relief, predicted that a deal is “not going to happen.” The Hill

Congressional Republicans have been placed in a serious dilemma since QAnon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene won the GOP nomination for a House seat in Georgia. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has signaled the GOP will welcome her when she likely arrives in Washington in January, but some Republicans have already butted heads with her over the baseless QAnon theory. And she has caused headaches for the party with her election-night remarks about Nancy Pelosi. Politico

Rapper Kanye West met with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, as he pursues efforts to qualify for the presidential ballot in November. West’s nascent presidential bid has already raised eyebrows for its ties to a number of Republican strategists; he acknowledged in a recent interview that he is hoping to garner votes away from Joe Biden. Reuters

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s upcoming book will include new details on President Trump’s tumultuous term in office. Woodward interviewed Trump more than a dozen times for the book, and also obtained other “notes, emails, diaries, calendars and confidential documents,” including 25 personal letters between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The book, “Rage,” will be released on September 15. CNN


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled.

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Iowa. While there, he will deliver remarks at a “Farmers & Ranchers for Trump” launch event at 2:05 p.m. in Des Moines, participate in a “Support Law Enforcement” town hall hosted by Heritage Action at 4:15 p.m. in Urbandale, and deliver remarks at the Iowa Republican Party’s “Stars and Stripes Summer Dinner” at 6 p.m. in West Des Moines.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnanay will hold a press briefing at 1 p.m.

The Senate will convene at 11 a.m. No roll call votes are expected.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court is on summer recess.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris will receive a briefing in Wilmington, Delaware, on COVID-19 from public health experts and then deliver remarks.

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