Trump's Tuesday town hall meeting and interview with ABC's George Stephanopolous did not go well, even by Republican debate spin standards, from people like former McConnell aide and CNN GOP contributor Scott Jennings.
Donald Trump's town hall with ABC News did not go well, although I give him credit for agreeing to a road game in a hostile gym. The President had a few decent moments in Philadelphia Tuesday, but the event showed he is simply better in a pugilistic debate with an opponent than he is in addressing individual voters in a "townhall" format.
Not that the negative interactions were all his fault. This was billed as a conversation with "uncommitted" voters, which is, charitably, baloney. Most of the questions were hostile, and several of the questioners quite clearly have no intention whatsoever of voting for Trump.
It actually speaks to a larger question about the American electorate -- is there really anyone uncommitted at this point? There is no ambivalence about Trump. You love him or you hate him. And some people who love him are going to vote against him, because they are exhausted. And some people who hate him are going to vote for him because they see his opposition as unhinged and ridiculous.
Trump also had to fight off relentless badgering from ABC's chief anchor George Stephanopoulos. This is Stephanopoulos' job, I guess, and Trump often says things that are so ridiculous that he invites the badgering. But this format was supposed to be about Trump and the voters and it was frequently about Trump and the anchor. This show should've been unmoderated.
If that's the best the GOP can spin it, it was an unmitigated disaster, and it was.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the first one comes from Paul Tubiana.
Paul, take it away.
TRUMP: Hi, Paul.
TUBIANA: Mr. President, I voted for you in 2016. I’m a conservative, pro-life and diabetic. I’ve had to dodge people who don’t care about social distancing and wearing face masks.
I thought you were doing a good job with the pandemic response until about May 1st. Then you took your foot off the gas pedal. Why did you throw vulnerable people like me under the bus?
TRUMP: Well, we really didn’t, Paul. We’ve worked very hard on the pandemic. We’ve worked very hard. It came off from China. They should have never let it happen.
And if you looked at what we’ve done with ventilators, and now, frankly, with vaccines --we’re very close to having the vaccine.
If you want to know the truth, the previous administration would have taken perhaps years to have a vaccine because of the FDA and all the approvals, and we’re within weeks of getting it. You know, could be three weeks, four weeks, but we think we have it. Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, we have great companies and they're very, very close.
It’s been very... it’s a terrible thing, but if you look at...as an example, are you from New York? Where are you from?
TUBIANA: Originally I’m from New York. I’ve lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
TRUMP: I see.
TUBIANA: For 18 1/2 years. This is the longest place I’ve ever lived.
TRUMP: Well, that’s very good. It’s a good place. But actually, if you look at what we’ve done for various things -- we built hospitals. New York, we took the convention center, converted it to 2,800 rooms. We brought in the ships. I wish they would have used it, because, frankly, they would have saved a lot of people had they used it.
As Steve M. points out, Trump going straight to a pile of tangentially related arguments, one on top of the other, is classic Gish Gallop. We'll see it in all three debates, most likely.
Maybe he won't be like that in the debates with Joe Biden. Maybe he'll be the nasty attack dog of the MAGA rallies. I think it's possible that his testosterone will get the better of him (or Biden will goad him) and he'll go on the attack. If so, that will hurt him. What much of America dislikes about him more than anything is his tone.
But if he restrains himself, low-info voters might conclude that he's done what he's done the past four years out of a sense of good judgment. He'll lie and lie and lie, and Biden will be forced to pick his spots in rebutting those lies, which means most of them will get through unchallenged.
I'm not really worried. Polls suggest that there aren't very many undecided voters, and Biden appears to be comfortably ahead in enough states to win. And the press seems fed up with Trump's bullshitting.
But Trump just might sound this way in the last few presidential events most voters will pay attention to, and it might help him some, even if he's telling the same lies he always tells.
Dubya's "Catapulting the propaganda" is now a full-blown Trump orbital space strike. He'll get 42% no matter what, but will her get the 5-6% more he needs to win the electoral college?