Maybe?
October 22, 2020

At this point in the 2020 presidential race, you'd probably rather be Democratic nominee Joe Biden than President Trump. "Polls are getting worse and worse for Trump," showing him tied in Texas and drowning in must-win Pennsylvania, John Harris and Daniel Lippman write at Politico. "Still, journalists just can't bring themselves to count him out." That's one reason Trump's advisers still see "gleams of hope," Annie Karni reports at The New York Times.

Trump's "internal numbers over the past three weeks have stabilized after the double whammy of the first presidential debate" and his "subsequent hospitalization for the coronavirus," Karni reports. And Biden isn't "breaking decisively into a double-digit lead" in places like Wisconsin and Arizona, "leaving open the possibility that the race will tighten on Election Day, when in-person ballots come in." Thursday's debate also gives Trump one last chance to reset the race. And, of course, Trump proved everyone wrong in 2016.

Despite Trump's constant feuding with the press, including individuals like CBS's Lesley Stahl and Thursday's moderator Kristen Welker, "by historical standards, Trump's press coverage is actually favorable," Politico's Harris and Lippman argue. Thanks to the ghosts of 2016, self-doubting journalists and political professionals are "giving generous allowance for the possibility that things aren't as bad as they seem for the incumbent, and that he may yet have another surprise in store for anyone who thinks that conventional dynamics of politics apply to him."

That's a big gift, says veteran GOP election lawyer Ben Ginsberg. It "helps Trump because he can hold out a sliver of hope for his supporters so they don't give up the ship. Nobody likes a loser; you're not going to admit you're a loser."

A comeback isn't impossible, "but if Trump loses, the biggest factor won't be COVID-19 or the economic meltdown or the social unrest," Tim Alberta argues at Politico Magazine. "It will be his unlikability." Pollsters and journalists have long "fixated on the question of which candidate voters would rather have a beer with — a window into how personality translates into political success," he explains. But Trump is "like the drunk at the bar, he won't shut up. Whatever appeal his unfiltered thoughts once held has now worn off. Americans are tired of having beers with Trump. His own supporters are tired of having beers with Trump," and it's probably too late to change that. Peter Weber

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