The polling is clear: President Donald Trump is on the ropes and Americans are crying out for new leadership as they watch the dire consequences of his chaotic, crass and corrupt presidency unfold against the backdrop of a pandemic and deepening recession. But we are far from the finish line, and while Trump’s support may be dwindling, he still has a leg to stand on.
Among the swing voters who will help decide this election, President Trump still maintains a significant advantage over presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden on the question of who is best suited to lead America out of this economic crisis. If we want to ensure that Trump does not win a second term, we need to cut off the last leg of his reelection bid.
It’s the economy, Democrats.
Before COVID-19, Trump was planning to stake his reelection on a roaring economy, and he would have had a semi-legitimate — albeit extremely flawed — argument to make. Now, we’re in a recession and nearly 50 million people have filed unemployment claims.
The economy is all Trump has left
That includes over 1 million unemployed in Michigan, about 850,000 in Pennsylvania and almost 372,000 in Wisconsin. Voters in these states know we’re in a crisis. They’re feeling the pain of the worst economy since the Great Depression. It’s no surprise that for the undecided white working class voters in the upper Midwest we polled in our survey, the No. 1 issue determining their vote is who would best steer the country through an economic crisis.
On that issue, they choose Trump by a significant margin. It is our job, as Democrats, to show these voters that his disastrous handling of the virus led to the deep national recession and economic devastation in their local communities — and that he is unable to provide the leadership to bring our economy back. If his economic standing dips into the negatives, he will be underwater with swing voters on all counts.
That’s why, over the past year, American Bridge 21st Century, the organization I lead, has been hyper-targeting white working class voters on economic issues in three states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — who backed President Barack Obama and then switched to Trump in 2016. At American Bridge, we are dedicated to weakening Trump’s standing on economic issues by relentlessly attacking his egregious record and hammering home the fact that his disastrous leadership has led us into a recession.
We have continued recruiting real voices on the ground in these states throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are using their stories in a relentless blend of television, digital and AM/FM radio ads to demonstrate how Trump’s failures as president have impacted their local economies and lives. Our ads talk about subjects such as the local economic impact of Trump’s failure to rein in prescription drug prices in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and the toll of economic policies that "work great if you're a wealthy person" but not for working families near La Crosse, Wisconsin.
The good news? Trump’s support is eroding, and our program is helping drive that shift. Last month's New York Times poll of our battleground states confirms the trend we’ve seen in our own polling: The hard-hitting ads we launched in November are effective in weakening Trump’s support with the core constituencies he needs to win.
Shifting tides, changing numbers
Research conducted for us by Blue Labs indicates that in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, swing voters’ support of Trump has grown softer over the past year of advertising by us and other Democratically aligned groups. In our 2019 polling, potential Trump defector voters supported Democrats 50-39%. In our 2020 surveys, they support us 57-38%. That is an 8-point positive movement in states where even a slight shift with these voters would be enough to put Biden over the top.
Our internals are confirmed by the cross tabulations of The Times poll. They showed that after winning white voters without a college degree by approximately 39 points in 2016, Trump is now ahead with this group by only 16 points. And among white voters with a college degree in swing states, Trump is getting walloped by Biden, who now holds a 21-point advantage.
Midwest bellwether in play: Ohio isn't off the table. It's still a battleground and that's bad news for Trump.
In this poll, virtually every group has turned on the president: suburban women, African Americans and seniors. And his standing on the economy, although still above water with battleground state voters, has fallen significantly as well. However, the goal here is to erode Trump’s support deeply on every issue with as many voters as possible so we can eradicate the scourge of Trumpism from our government entirely.
There’s no dancing around it: Trump’s path to victory grows narrower by the day. An overwhelming majority of Americans are waiting in the wings to vote out this reckless president and are craving stable and effective leadership again. But Trump still has one final card to play, and complacency can be the grim reaper of even the most powerful political movements. Democrats, now is the time to double down and cement Trump’s defeat by destroying his standing on the economy.
Right now, President Trump may be swimming at the bottom of the well, but to loosely paraphrase my good friend James Carville, when your opponent is drowning, you throw them an anvil. Democrats need to immediately adopt this mentality and throw Trump that final anvil to ensure that he is a one-term president.
Bradley Beychok is the co-founder and president of the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter: @Beychok
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: To win in 2020, Biden and Democrats must tie Trump to COVID economy