Donald Trump has 100 days to reverse the trend.
Isolated, mired in nostalgia for the 2016 victory, criticized even in his camp for his muddled reaction to COVID-19, the tempestuous American president, in search of a second term, is in a bad way.
The presidential election of November 3 promises to be extraordinarily tense in an America that is divided, worried, going through tremors, and weakened by the pandemic which has left more than 140,000 dead.
As the 100-day mark approaches Sunday, the blows are fired.
Donald Trump, 74, assures us that Joe Biden, 77, a “puppet” of the radical left, wants to abolish the “American Way of Life”. The Democratic candidate evokes a “battle for the soul of America”.
The Republican billionaire, lagging behind in all polls, fears a humiliating defeat that would make him the first president of a single term in more than a quarter of a century.
Nothing is played, of course. After three and a half years of twists and turns, new thunderclaps are possible.
A monumental blunder by Joe Biden? The death of a Supreme Court judge? The announcement of a vaccine? A possible “October surprise” ?: the electoral dynamic between the two septuagenarians with diametrically opposed paths can be reversed.
But the pandemic has considerably weakened the tenant of the White House, uncomfortable in the exercise of crisis management. It was for him a missed opportunity: that of posing as a reliable ship captain in bad weather.
According to an ABC news poll, two-thirds of Americans disapprove of its response to the coronavirus.
“I am not losing, the polls are bogus”: behind the shock formulas, Donald Trump, aware that the November deadline is looking bad, is looking for adjustments.
He changed campaign manager and made a late turn to COVID-19 earlier this week, acknowledging, after weeks of denial, that the situation would “get worse before it gets better.”
“Leading by example is very important,” he said Thursday evening, announcing the cancellation of the large Republican convention open to the public scheduled for Jacksonville, Florida.
The tone is now more presidential. Will he stick to it? If one relies on the approximately 1,300 days he has just spent in the White House, there is reason to doubt it.
The figures are not reassuring for the former New York businessman at the moment.
According to the average of the national polls established by the site RealClearPolitics, Joe Biden has, for more than six weeks, an advance on Donald Trump of 8 to 10 percentage points.
Since 1980, all the candidates who had such a significant advantage at the same stage have won, with one exception: that of Democrat Michael Dukakis, finally defeated by George Bush in 1988.
In Texas, a state in which no Democrat has won since Jimmy Carter in 1976 and where Donald Trump largely won in 2016, the two candidates are neck and neck. However, with its 38 main voters, this southern state will weigh very heavily at the time of the count.
Tensions among Republicans
In the Republican camp, where we fear the loss of the Senate in November, everyone is watching, the climate is tense. A few days ago, Liz Cheney, one of the leaders of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives, was accused of disloyalty.
“Liz Cheney is working behind the scenes (and now publicly) against Donald Trump and his program,” said Matt Gaetz, elected Republican of Florida.
Another difficulty for Donald Trump: he is struggling to articulate his project, and a vision, for the next four years.
It is based, for the moment, on a formula “Law and order”, and promises firmness in the face of peaks of violence in several large American cities.
His detractors accuse him of trying to divert attention. And recall that as each election deadline approaches – presidential in 2016, mid-term in 2018, Donald Trump played the same card.
The president is still looking for the angle of attack against Joe Biden, who, with a minimal campaign, offers few catches.
Obama and “decency”
Before the debates scheduled for the fall, the former vice-president is content with a few scattered interventions. He can count on the increasingly visible support of another president who knows how to mobilize crowds: Barack Obama.
In a twenty-minute video broadcast on Thursday, the two men, in the same room but remotely to respect health rules in times of COVID-19, staged their complicity.
“Beyond all the specific policies that will be put in place (…), there is first of all an enormous appetite for a form of decency”, summed up the 44e president, praising the qualities of empathy of the one who will become, he hopes, the 46e January 20, 2021.
In addition to the uncertainties about a campaign that is completely out of the ordinary, there are those about the conduct of the ballot.
For several weeks, Donald Trump has been hammering, without evidence, that postal voting, which is expected to take a more important place this year due to COVID-19, could lead to massive fraud.
Does he commit to accepting the results of the elections? Asked Sunday on Fox News on this subject, he remained elusive.