Too Much Trump on TV May Be Too Much Trouble for His Campaign
Donald Trump is learning something that given the high regard he has for himself he may find hard to believe: that there is such a thing as too much Donald Trump.
The president is a man who likes being on television. He worships at the altar of ratings. Airtime to him is like air itself is to mere mortals. He needs airtime to survive.
But it looks like he’ll be getting less of it going forward, at least when it comes to talking about the coronavirus is concerned.
He liked telling the millions who tuned in to his daily briefings that he was doing a great job fighting the virus. And he acknowledges that, “One of the reasons I do these news conferences, because, if I didn’t, they would believe Fake News. And we can’t let them believe Fake News.”
And it’s not just the usual liberal media suspects he’s fought with. He told Kristin Fisher of Fox News – yes, Fox News, his favorite cable channel -- that she was too negative. “You should say, ‘Congratulations! Great job!’ Instead of being so horrid in the way you ask the question!”
Fighting with reporters – even a Fox News reporter -- may be red meat for his base, but there’s concern among Republicans that these are serious times and that Americans were tuning in for new information -- not brawls with the press, “entertaining” as they may be. They worry that he’s not helping himself with the voters he’ll need in November, especially suburban women.
As the New York Times reports, “Mr. Trump’s single best advantage as an incumbent — his access to the bully pulpit — has effectively become a platform for self-sabotage.”
For some time now liberals both in and out of the media thought there was too much Donald Trump on TV. Now his own political team apparently thinks the same thing.
It’s one thing to brag about how wonderful he is or claim – incorrectly -- that he has “total authority” over what 50 state governors can and can’t do during the pandemic. But wondering, out loud on national television, if injecting disinfectant into people would combat the virus, may have been a bridge too far.
According to the Times, “His daily news briefings on the coronavirus outbreak are inflicting grave damage on his political standing, Republicans believe, and his recent remarks about combating the virus with sunlight and disinfectant were a breaking point for a number of senior party officials.”
Senior party officials, it’s worth noting, who have reason to worry that Republican candidates for the House and Senate may wind up as collateral damage in November.
So presidential briefings and news conferences about the virus will be few and far between from now on. If there's a vaccine, he'll be out there on TV, of course, announcing the breakthrough to the world -- and probably taking credit for it. Aside from that, we probably won't be hearing much from the president about the virus – not as much as we used to, anyway.
The more he talks, and the more he gets things wrong, and the more he fights with reporters, the more trouble he's likely to get into with less partisan, swing voters.
In times of crisis, Americans – regardless of their political party – tend to rally around their president. They did after Pearl Harbor. And they did after 9/11.
But polls indicate they’re not rallying around this president, even though far more Americans have died as a result of the virus than died at Pearl Harbor and in New York on 9/11 – combined.
And Joe Biden’s low profile has turned out to be an unforeseen advantage for the former vice president. While President Trump is getting into fights with reporters and making dubious claims that raise concerns about his competency, Biden, sequestered by the virus and making only sporadic appearances on TV, has moved up in the polls -- and is beating the president in most national head-t0-head match ups.
Who could have seen this coming? Usually during a campaign the candidate wants as much exposure as he can get. But for Biden, being under "house arrest" in his basement, the less exposure he gets the better off he may be. After all, when Joe talks you never know what incoherent thought is going to come out of his mouth.
The early 20th century architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe coined the term “less is more.” Less Biden may be more of what his campaign needs to take on the incumbent president. But Donald Trump, our narcissist-in-chief, may have to accept that “less is more” also applies to him.
That is, if his ego will let him.