It is true that there are certainly some very shady activities that have taken place over the course of last week — things that warrant a closer look at and things that the Trump campaign should demand more transparency regarding. It is right and proper for any campaign to demand the entire process and the people running it be held accountable so that those who might try something illegal will not get away with it.
It is also true that President Donald Trump lost by bigger margins than can simply be stolen, and that the Trump campaign has been fraught with many issues over the last several months that did cost him among voters. If the law of Occam’s Razor applies, the simpler explanation is that many of the people who supported Trump four years ago appreciate what the Republican Party (including the Trump Administration) have done, but split the ticket by voting Trump out but allowing Republicans to keep a hold of the Senate and shrink the Democratic majority in the House.
If that is the case, then Republicans need to reassess the election and see what went wrong. Because of the gains Republicans made among various demographics, now is the time for several conversations to take place as both parties begin looking at 2022 and 2024.
What happened this time that didn’t happen last time?
For starters, Trump was undisciplined when it came to messaging. He was seen as weak on the handling of COVID-19, but strong on the economy. Instead of focusing exclusively on the latter, he kept attacking the former. He would respond to anyone and everyone who criticized him on the handling of the virus, get into his usual petty squabbles quite publicly, address the economy in sporadic and inconsistent ways, and did not really seem to get how bad the virus was in some areas of the country.
Because he couldn’t stick to his strongest message in a consistent way, Trump opened the door for Biden to hit him where he was weakest. There is a really good breakdown of both campaigns at POLITICO, and the relevant portion is a good ways into the piece.
Though Biden’s staff agreed on the so-called basement strategy to keep him safe, they still had to fend off calls from Democrats for him to get out more. And they had some top party figures in their corner.
“I told Steve Ricchetti, his chief of staff, don’t be pushing him out like they’re pushing Trump — don’t do it,” former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. Reid, who sometimes talks to Biden multiple times a day, said he told Biden the same.
“We’re getting all this pressure to do exactly what we say we shouldn’t do,” Greg Schultz, the former campaign manager, told one confidant. “It’s important to walk the walk and talk the talk.”
Ultimately, staying disciplined on this, not going out while talking about how people shouldn’t be going out much during the pandemic, gave the appearance that Biden knew what he was doing through all this. It was a stark contrast to the image of Trump, constantly battling anything that moved, including his own health experts. Whether Fauci and the others were right or wrong in the things they were saying, the constant perceived undermining of the task force did Trump no favors.
The coronavirus pandemic absolutely cost Trump the election, but it was just as much the fear and economic effects as it was the way Trump was perceived to be handling it that made Biden appear to be a better candidate. And say what you want about the way the media treated Trump, his reactions to them do not appear to have helped. What comes across as “fighting back” to his supporters came across as “petulant tantrums” to those who were on the fence.
Again, it comes down to demeanor and perceptions. He was not able to appeal to others because he didn’t come across as appealing. Sure, Republican ideas and policies were popular, but the man himself was apparently not. Voters settled on someone who was more likable, though they also seem to have taken Biden’s age into account and stuck with largely Republicans down the ballot, hoping to give the White House back to someone better suited for the job in four years.
It cannot be overstated how big the win for Republicans was, even in losing the White House. They get to keep their hold on the Senate (Georgia will very likely not flip in January) and ended up making the House very close. While Nancy Pelosi believes she and Biden have a “mandate” from the voters, it’s looking more like they just got a pass.