Saturday, August 29, 2020

Trump Bets on Law-and-Order Message to Sway Swing Voters

Hell, I'd take that bet!


President Trump and his supporters have seen an opening in the presidential race in recent weeks as a fresh wave of protests against racial injustice have at times turned volatile, with images of violent clashes playing out in the news.

Mr. Trump emphasized law and order in his speech Thursday accepting the Republican nomination, saying that if Democratic nominee Joe Biden won the White House, “No one will be safe.” Vice President Mike Pence used almost the same words in his speech a day earlier, and one of the campaign’s most-aired recent ads employs similar language.

With Mr. Trump trailing the former vice president in national polls, and by a smaller margin in many battleground states, his team is banking that the chaotic images from places such as Kenosha, Wis., and Portland, Ore., won’t just rally their base, but sway undecided voters and suburban voters who had been moving away from Mr. Trump. “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News this week.

Mr. Biden’s team rejects that notion, saying most of those voters support what have been largely peaceful protests against police shootings of Black people, and noting that the unrest is taking place under Mr. Trump’s watch. “This happens to be Donald Trump’s America,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday. He added: “I condemn violence in any form, whether it’s looting or whatever it is.”

Democrats spent much of their convention focusing on the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 180,000 lives in the U.S., the most of any country in the world. They think Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic is the issue that will define the 2020 election.

But the unrest that has emerged since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on May 25 has become a wild card in the last months leading up to the election. It regained national attention this past week after the police shooting Sunday of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in Kenosha stirred protests there. Some anti-Trump strategists have expressed concern that violence stemming from the protests is a vulnerability for Democrats.

Sarah Longwell, strategy director for Republican Voters Against Trump, which produces ads opposing the president’s re-election, said she had conducted recent focus groups with women who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 but are reconsidering their support. “Six or seven weeks ago, as I was listening to these voters, they were very clearly upset by the way President Trump had handled the racial crisis, even more so than the pandemic,” Ms. Longwell said.

More recently, however, she said, “Everybody jumps to the violence and the looting. There was still a lot of criticism of Trump, but they were immediately focused on what was happening to businesses, violence in the streets.”

It remains unknown who is responsible for damage to businesses and other buildings in Kenosha, though authorities have suggested that outside agitators with no connection to the peaceful daytime protests were responsible for some of the violence after nightfall. A 17-year-old resident of Antioch, Ill., was arrested and charged in connection with the shooting of protesters near midnight Tuesday that left two people dead and one injured.

In July, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that voters in growing numbers believed that Black and Hispanic Americans are discriminated against and that support was rising for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Polls vary on where voters rank crime as an issue. A Journal/NBC News survey this month found crime to be well behind the economy, coronavirus and other matters as a top concern for voters. A recent Pew Research Center survey that asked likely voters about issues of importance in the election found that “violent crime” ranked fifth overall, narrowly behind coronavirus and well behind the economy and health care. But for Republicans, it was the second-most important issue after the economy...
That Biden "peaceful protests" line is so much bull.