US election 2020: has Donald Trump hated being president?

As the 2020 presidential race gathers pace, analysts say the incumbent looks uninterested

Trump sad
With fewer than 100 days left in the 2020 presidential race, analysts say the incumbent looks uninterested
(Image credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

As the race for the White House enters its final 100 days, commentators have been speculating on why Donald Trump is showing little apparent enthusiasm for the fight.

A flurry of new polls show the Democratic challenger Joe Biden now in possession of a “daunting lead” over the incumbent, The Observer says.

But with the Trump campaign in chaos following a disastrous rally in Tulsa, a team shake-up including the replacement of campaign manager Brad Parscale and a president who has sometimes looked uninterested in the whole process, some commentators have questioned whether he wants to win at all.

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Has Donald Trump hated being president?

Four years ago today “frenzied scenes” greeted then-presidential candidate Donald Trump as he mounted a frenetic three-state day of campaigning, hopping from Florida to Pennsylvania to Ohio, says Politico’s Michael Kruse.

A “surging Trump”, who was by that point even with Hillary Clinton in some polls and pulling ahead in others, whipped his supporters into a state of excitement that “bordered on delirium”.

Now, though, Trump’s heart doesn’t seem to be in his reelection campaign, and neither is he inspiring the same fervour in his supporters, Kruse says.

Republican consultant Michael Steel likened the difference between then and now to the experience of seeing Bruce Springsteen in the mid-80s versus seeing him a generation later on Broadway. “Same performer. Same basic set list. Energy level is a hundred percent different.”

As his approval ratings have waned and his poll prospects plummeted, the 45th US president appears to have lost his taste not only for the job but also for the election battle ahead, The New York Times said last month.

“Rather than focus on plans and goals for another four years in office, Mr. Trump has been wallowing in self-pity about news coverage of him since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic,” the newspaper said, citing people who have spoken to him.

“For Mr. Trump, the high of winning the presidency has rarely been matched by the duties that come with the position,” the paper concluded.

Does Trump want another four years?

According to the Daily Beast, Trump is more interested in winning the election than he is in doing the job for another four years. “He wants to win, but he doesn’t want any of the responsibilities that actually come with being president,” the website says.

With fewer than 100 days left, the former reality TV host also lacks any specific policies, says Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein.

He isn’t promising to “‘transition to greatness’ or whatever this week’s campaign slogan might be,” Bernstein says. “Nor does he remember that he’s supposedly running on a ‘law and order’ agenda in response to the protests against police violence from the past few weeks, let alone any specific policy ideas.”

The three most pressing threats to Trump’s reelection chances are the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s dire economic situation, and the motivation of Democrats hoping to see Trump replaced, says The Washington Post.

And yet “in every case, the president has chosen not just to avoid taking actions that might help him win, but to actively worsen his situation.”

Many of his decisions have been “substantively appalling, resulting in more death, misery and political instability,” the newspaper says, “but even from the standpoint of his own self-interest, they’re almost incomprehensible”.

Of course, Biden’s lead may not be as unassailable as recent polls suggest.

Biden is a “weak candidate”, says The Spectator, and Democrats support him more “out of disdain for Trump rather than enthusiasm for their man”. But it will take active effort for Trump to turn his campaign around and so far he hasn’t shown any willingness to do so, the Washington Post says.

“Trump has spent a lifetime trying to avoid being seen as a loser,” the paper says, “yet for some reason, he won’t do any of the things that would make that outcome less likely. Joe Biden probably can’t believe his luck.”

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