(CHARLIE GEROW) Spring has arrived and nature’s “holy plan” brings back life, optimism and hope. It’s no ordinary spring as we collectively begin to emerge from imposed sequestration and economic standstill. As the productive engines of our economy begin to slowly grind again and we start to return to the normalcy of social interaction and daily routines, the 2020 political campaign will again move to center stage.
Books have always played a central role in presidential races. Barry Goldwater’s epic “Conscience of a Conservative,” written in 1960, revived the American conservative movement, galvanized its foot soldiers and made Goldwater its leader. It propelled him to the GOP nomination for president four years later.
Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” was released just a few months before he announced what was, at the time, a long-shot campaign to get past Hillary Clinton and win the Democratic nod. The New York Times No. 1 bestseller did a lot to kickstart his fledgling effort.
A good deal-maker was what America was looking for in 2016, someone who was a brash outsider with experience in the private sector and not in the swamp of Washington. Voters chose Trump’s mantra of “Deals are my art form” over Clinton’s more-of-the-same credo.
Now, 2020 presents the Trump campaign with another opportunity to use a book authored by the president as its archetype.
“The Art of the Comeback,” was published a decade after “The Art of the Deal.” It followed Trump’s struggles and emergence from bankruptcy, during which he “made a brilliant blizzard of deals… .”
Six years earlier, Trump was mired “billions of dollars in the hole,” but managed to come through “wiser … and more outspoken than ever,” according to the book’s promotional dust jacket.
America is undoubtedly looking for a comeback from the shutdown of our economy and the disruption of our society. What kind of comeback that will be — and who will lead it — are the keys to who wins the White House.
There are three factors that give President Trump an advantage as the “Comeback Kid”:
First, experience. The careers and recent activities of Trump and Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, are marked contrasts.
Biden has always been in public office. Already in one office, he sought a U.S Senate seat in 1972 from Delaware, a state with only one congressional seat but two U.S. Senate seats. He squeezed out a victory by less than 3,200 votes. Biden went on to sit in the Senate for 36 years until he became vice president. There he served another eight years.
Most recently, he’s been hunkered down in the basement of his Delaware mansion, offering his thoughts about how to handle the pandemic. The big problem for Biden is that his media appearances run far behind the audience the president is getting and are often filled with incoherent ramblings, showcasing his penchant for verbal miscues.
Trump’s career has featured significant failures but also major wins. He spent the bulk of his life as a private sector businessman. Now he’s commanding the stage throughout this pandemic.
When the first debate rolls around, voters will ask which set of experiences is more likely to get the economy rolling and our society back to normal. Trump will ask Biden what he was doing during the coronavirus crisis while the president took charge of steering the nation through uncharted waters.
Second, empathy. President Trump’s performance hasn’t been perfect. But few voters beyond the Trump-haters, whose minds were made up long ago, are looking for perfection.
Most swing voters, the truly undecided or yet-persuadable voters are much more empathetic to the nation’s leader and the impossible job he’s been handed. They marvel at his energy and resilience. While the Oval Office has taken an obvious physical toll on previous occupants, it’s difficult to see it in Trump’s face.
While the left salivates at the thought that the November election will be purely a referendum on Donald J. Trump, they might want to curb their enthusiasm and ask whether the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” critique of the president’s recent performance is what voters want as we emerge from the shutdowns.
Third, the economy. Incumbents don’t usually win during a recession. But this will be no ordinary recession. None but the hardcore Trump-haters will blame the president for the economic downturn.
After all, in the days leading up to the outbreak, the economy was strong. Record low unemployment, especially in the minority community, rising wages and consumer confidence matched a stock market with the Dow flirting daily with eclipsing 30,000.
The question now becomes whether we pursue the policies of economic growth fostered by President Trump or reverse course towards the big government, massive spending model promoted by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and now Biden.
“Who leads?” and “In what direction?” will be the pivotal questions once the campaign resets. In the closing chapter of “The Art of the Comeback,” the future president told us that “plain old hard work is … a primary ingredient for attaining success or coming back from adversity.”
America is ready to do the hard work of getting a massive and complex economy moving again and restoring equilibrium to our society and culture. Experience, empathy and the economy are a trifecta for the president’s re-election prospects. It’s the art of the comeback.
Charlie Gerow, first vice chairman of the American Conservative Union, has held national leadership positions in several Republican presidential campaigns. He began his career on the campaign staff of Ronald Reagan. A nationally recognized expert in strategic communications, he is CEO of Quantum Communications, a Pennsylvania-based media relations and issue advocacy firm.