President Trump has woken up to political reality. He’s losing to former Vice President Joe Biden, perhaps quite badly. And that belated realization explains why Trump finally seems to be all-in on another big economic stimulus and support package after days and weeks of dithering and flip-flopping. “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!” represents his latest Twitter opinion on the subject. On Friday he told radio host Rush Limbaugh, “I would like to see a bigger stimulus frankly than either the Democrats or Republicans are offering.” The Trump administration’s counteroffer — at least for now — to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to be an approximately $1.8 trillion stimulus bill, according to news reports.
But it might be too late to do Trump much political good. There is still no deal, and negotiations are ongoing. Meanwhile, Trump’s sinking polling numbers are undoubtedly eroding his ability to get skeptical Senate Republicans to go along with a plan they see as largely crafted by Democrats and infused with left-wing “Keynesian” economic thinking. Moreover, a deal needs to get wrapped up in short order (probably within days for an actual bill to get passed within a week or so after that) for any direct payments — along with a suitable-for-framing letter from the president — to reach voters before Election Day on Nov. 3. And, of course, it de facto already is Election Day, with more than five million Americans having already cast votes across 31 states.
But it didn’t have to be this way. If Donald Trump finds himself next year holed up in a Mar-a-Lago guest room that’s been converted into his personal podcasting studio, he might also find himself wondering why he didn’t make this push sooner. A week after the Republican National Convention — generally reviewed as an effective messaging event for the GOP — polls still had Trump down by more than seven points to Biden. It was then that Trump should have leaned hard into the one strategy that might have allowed him to possibly close the gap with the help of an utterly predictable October “surprise.”