Chairman's Desk

Democrats are running out of time as Donald Trump’s troubles are only making him stronger

If there has even been such a thing as the world’s greatest circus, this is surely it: the trial of Donald J. Trump.

And just when you thought it could not get any more pathetic, lurid, absurd, crazier or demeaning (have your pick), this week a new clown car rolled on in: crammed with Trump’s cronies, allies and most significantly, potential running mates for the 2024 general election.

It appears Trump is determined to make his VP selection resemble the latest season of “The Apprentice.” This week’s tasks included assailing the judge’s daughter and attacking witnesses. A ceremonial ring kissing doesn’t capture it. When you consider Trump was content to feed Mike Pence, his last VP, to the wolves on Jan. 6, it’s more accurately described as auditioning for the role of sacrificial lamb in the school play. Let’s pray the curtain never opens.

Now, I usually share the view of most pundits that VP selection rodeos are nothing more than a sideshow to the main act. In most cases, fair enough.

In this case, not even close.

If Trump is elected, he will be a lame-duck president — unable to run again — and whoever he chooses as his VP will have an inside track to becoming the next president. Meaning: the stakes could not be higher.

What’s more, if Biden (a former VP himself) wins he won’t be permitted to seek another term either. Combined with the increasing likelihood that he won’t be able to last a full second term, that puts a renewed spotlight on Kamala Harris.

The 2024 presidential race will primarily come down to six battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — all of which Biden won in 2020. While he need not win all six again, his path to victory is severely obstructed if he cannot hold on to most. Yet, this past Monday, a New York Times/Siena College poll found that Trump was ahead in five of those six states.

What does this mean for the VP X-factor? Everything.

If Trump selects a VP from one of these key states, that will go a long way toward locking it up. Moreover, a wise, more centrist choice might give Trump the bump he needs in these states — most of which only narrowly went blue last time. Overall, so long as Trump does not choose a noted dog-killer (seriously) his selection will likely be a major asset to his campaign.

What does this mean for Democrats? It’s time to wake the hell up.

The fact is, a trial about Trump’s alleged hush money payments to a porn star has not damaged his standing in the polls one iota.

Rather, he is pulling ahead.

The morality play is a bona fide crowd pleaser and its production is not damaging but empowering its protagonist.

And that means Democrats simply cannot continue to cross their fingers and hope the justice system takes care of their problem for them. The irony here is palpable. Were the conspiracy Trump is peddling true — that this entire trial is a political witch hunt concocted by a Machiavellian Biden in a DNC backroom — it would be achieving the exact opposite of its intention. Tantamount to fighting fire with gasoline.

And yet, instead of providing the Democratic ticket with a much needed shot in the arm, the current VP instead offers a unique disadvantage — with analysis by FiveThirtyEight pegging her approval rating at a historically abysmal 38.2 per cent. In other words: she’s a liability, not an asset.

But that is far from the Democrats’ biggest worry. In a week meant to spotlight the moral deficiencies of the Republican candidate, the Democrats’ electoral vulnerabilities were underlined with crystal clarity.

If there was any doubt left, this trial definitively proves the Trumpian media circus is alive, well and works only to his benefit.

This means one thing and one thing alone for the Biden/Harris ticket: desperate times call for desperate measures. They need to break out that war chest and start fighting like their backs are against the wall.

Because that’s where they are.

With six months to go, time is running out before the circus is the only show in town.

This article first appeared in Toronto Star on May 19, 2024.

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