Forget the polls showing Donald Trump losing to Joe Biden by 8, 10, even 18 points. You can learn a lot about how the two campaigns think the race is going by studying their scheduled appearances these last three weeks before the election. And both candidates will be hitting the battleground states hard.
Biden will have former President Obama campaigning for him, making solo appearances in Florida and North Carolina. Biden will be in Ohio and Virginia, among other places. Donald Trump will be in Iowa and Georgia — two states he won comfortably in 2016.
But demographic changes have made both states into battlegrounds. Trump is still likely to win both of them, but this is the time to shore up support. He will be in Des Moines later today and North Carolina tomorrow with the campaign coming down the home stretch.
Trump is a big believer in the power of rallies to move the needle. He and his aides hearken back to the 2016 campaign as proof.
“In 2016, rallies were about all we had,” said Barry Bennett, a senior adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign. Bennett cited the degree to which the 2016 effort was outspent by Hillary Clinton, and the barebones campaign staff. He noted that this year’s campaign is stronger in both respects.
He also characterized the decision to go to Iowa and Georgia as being as much about shoring up GOP Senate and House candidates as about the president’s own chances.
Trump will be in Florida on Friday. Every state he is visiting is razor-close, where a visit from him could energize his base to get out and put him over the top.
But the president’s energy is not limitless. Even if he had not been sick with COVID, the president is the campaign’s most valuable resource. But Trump is champing at the bit and will not likely be held back.
Some figures in Trump World argued that the president has little choice, however — and contend that presidential visits at this point could perhaps help secure some states now, allowing Trump to focus even more narrowly in the very final days of the campaign.
“The president needs to visit states that are either leaning in his column or trending away but very closely, so he can go to the true battlegrounds and concentrate on them later in the process,” said Sam Nunberg, an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
It’s widely believed by observers that Hillary Clinton lost the race in the last week of the campaign. She virtually ignored Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to visit states that she felt she could “poach” from Trump. But it was Trump who did the poaching. The president won all three of those states, despite trailing Clinton by as much as five points in the polls.
This is why Trump should never be counted out. He has a large, enthusiastic base that intends to vote. And no one can say what kind of difference that’s going to make.