Despite calls to scale back Washington’s showpiece Fourth of July celebrations this past weekend, the show went on. A military flypast paid its aerial tribute and fireworks pocked the sky, seen by a smaller number of invited guests and greater numbers than usual watching from home. For Donald Trump, it was a rare chance to appear in public at a time of festivity, even as the country continues to be wracked by protest (an “angry mob” in Trump’s words) and a deepening pandemic nightmare in his southern heartland – despite his insistence Saturday that the country has “learned how to put out the flame”.
Although last week’s unexpected bounceback in the number of new jobs created in the US brought some cheer, polling at the national and, more significantly, state level suggests that Trump now has a mountain to climb ahead of election day in November. Couple that with being outpaced by his rival Joe Biden for the second straight month in the fundraising stakes, and the challenge to Trump’s re-election is sharpening.
So, what to watch out for this week? Keep an eye on two primaries – in New Jersey and Louisiana. Both states have expanded absentee-voting, which is favoured by younger, more left-leaning voters, among whom turnout on election day is historically low. The Republicans in those primaries will face a test of the appeal of running on Trump’s popularity – candidates who did so in North Carolina and Kentucky’s congressional primaries two weeks ago fared poorly. Should the Trump name start to become a negative, even in primary races that are led by the Republican base, it really would mark a shift.
Of course, nothing is set in stone, with four months to go until election day. We can be assured that Trump will cleave himself to the message that his passionate voter base responds so favourably to – that it’s all still to play for.
Check back for regular instalments of the Monocle Minute “Election Watch” series in the weeks and months ahead.