Ben Roback: Who would bet on Trump turning up at Biden’s inauguration?

16 Dec

Ben Roback is Head of Trade and International Policy at Cicero Group.

The Electoral College has spoken. When will Trump listen?

For a man who loves to win, a check in on the President’s attempts to overturn the outcome of the November election makes dismal reading.

Recounts prompted by Donald Trump and his merry band of legal advisers have confirmed repeatedly that Joe Biden was the winner in the key swing states that shaped the election. The President urged the Supreme Court last week to set aside 62 electoral votes for Mr Biden in four states, which may have thrown the outcome into doubt. The justices rejected the effort.

Trump has urged his Republican colleagues to continue to question the outcome and validity of the election. It had been working on Capitol Hill, where only a handful of Republicans had acknowledged Biden as the President-elect.

That sense of lingering doubt has spread through to the American people. In a poll this month, only 61 per cent of Americans said they trusted the results of the election. Unsurprisingly, given the President’s ongoing campaign and the loyalty of the Republican base, 72 per cent of Republicans polled do not trust the results.

The president is running out of ways to deny the election outcome

The Electoral College met yesterday, rubber-stamping Joe Biden’s victory through formal votes in state capitals around the country. Electors gave Biden and Kamala Harris their votes in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the six battleground states that Biden won and which Trump contested.

Senior Republicans have long insisted that the President had a right to contest close results, and pointed to the Electoral College as a key moment in that effort. Now that the Electoral College has formally ratified the election results, a change has been prompted amongst Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, whicj now acknowledges for the first time the resolution of the election.

Mitch McConnell yesterday said: “The electoral college has spoken. So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden”. The two men are by no means political allies, but ahave shared experience after accruing decades in the Senate together. Both have referred to each other as “friends” and the Senate Majority Leader was the only Senate Republican to attend Beau Biden’s funeral. They will need to work together in the coming weeks if Congress is to pass another Covid relief package, and a government funding bill to avert a December shutdown.

McConnell’s calculated statement gave Republicans permission to acknowledge the election outcome. Lindsey Graham, whose Trump journey has taken him from mocking sceptic to reliable ally, said he had a “warm” phone call with Biden. More are expected to follow in the coming days.

Despite the change in tone from Republican Congressional leadership, there has been no concession from the White House. On Twitter, the President continues to allege mass voter fraud owing to corrupt voting machines. Intriguingly, Trump retweeted a Breitbart news article whose headline included: ‘May God bless him, Melania, and their family, as God leads him to the next chapter in his life.’

McConnell has reportedly urged his GOP colleagues not to object when Congress formally certifies the Electoral College count on 6 January, in what is surely to be Mr Trump’s final throw of the dice. Trump allies in the House of Representatives, led by Rep Mo Brooks of Alabama, have pledged to object to the Electoral College count.

In order to successfully force a debate and vote on the objection, at least one Republican Senator would need to support it. There is currently no indication that will happen. For historic context, a lawmaker has never been able to succeed in throwing out a state’s results.

There is a prevailing sense that the inevitable outcome – Biden entering the White House as the 46th President of the United States – is being delayed in the minds of the Trump team. That is not enough to change the political reality shaped by the constitution.

The President-elect continues to shape his Cabinet and advisory team at pace. It was announced yesterday that Pete Buttigieg, an initial rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, will be nominated as Transportation Secretary. If approved by the Senate, he would become the first openly gay member of the Cabinet in US history.

As Coronavirus runs riot and reaps havoc across America, getting to grips with the vaccine rollout will the biggest challenge from day one for the incoming administration. The FDA has granted emergency authorisation to an over-the-counter, at-home Covid test, a new weapon in the government’s arsenal. Coronavirus has now killed over 300,000 Americans (CDC). It is high time the White House takes this crisis seriously, which Trump has so far failed to do.

When Congress meets in the new year, it will only be a fortnight before the inauguration. Traditionally, the sitting President attends as a visible symbol of the peaceful transfer of power. If Trump’s form thus far is anything to go by, you wouldn’t bet much on him acknowledging Biden’s victory in a statement let alone in person.

America’s election results – and the Blue Wave That Never Was. Biden will be constrained if he wins.

4 Nov

Ben Roback is Head of Trade and International Policy at Cicero Group.

So much of the 2020 election remains unknown, and so this column is laced with caution.

What do we know? That the final outcome of the presidential election is not yet known. Predictably, that did not stop Donald Trump from asserting victory in the early hours of the morning in front of his supporters. Claims were made of fraudulent voting, but they remain unproven.

It was all very President Trump – and you should read that in a pejorative way. In many ways, it is those excesses, idiosyncrasies and eccentricities that make the maverick so popular amongst his base. He has once again defied the odds and fended off the suggestion from pollsters that was down and out of this race.

The President is evidently frustrated with the slow pace of returns, and he is perhaps not alone. Americans are not used to waiting this long for their results – although in 2000, it took 36 days, a recount and the Supreme Court to make a determination in Gore v Bush in the swing state of Florida alone.

The stress put on the election system by Covid-19 means that record numbers of Americans have voted early or by mail. Counting those votes takes time. Crucially, the system varies on a state-by-state basis. For example, in the absolutely vital swing state of Pennsylvania, the deadline for military and overseas ballots is next Tuesday.

Whilst the final outcome of the presidential race is not clear, we do know that it the result was not that which many expected. Pollsters and forecasters’ models had suggested a blue wave looked likely, albeit by no means guaranteed.

At this stage, we do know that it has not materialised. An early indication of a blue wave would have been victory for Joe Biden in Florida or Texas – the latter a Republican stronghold but recent object of Democratic desires. But Trump has won both. He and Joe Biden are locked in a razor-sharp battle for a handful of swing states which will determine the outcome of the election. There will be no Democratic demolition of the electoral map.

Next, it looks increasingly unlikely that Democrats will take control of the Senate. Under the (correct) assumption that the Republicans would flip a seat in Alabama, the path to picking up four additional Senate seats seems unclear. That will have a seismic impact on the next four years on Capitol Hill should Biden win the presidency.

If weeks of recounts and litigation end with Mr Biden securing the White House, a Republican majority in the Senate will severely curtail his ability to govern. In this event, Senate Republicans will frustrate and handicap Biden’s agenda –  so his ambitious $2 trillion green energy and climate plans will be trimmed in order to protect traditional energy production in states like Texas

Such a result will all but guarantee gridlock ensues on Capitol Hill, with the Senate providing a serious check on the President’s power. A President Biden would therefore rely on Executive Order to govern, while trying to find bipartisan issues that he can work with Congressional Republicans on like infrastructure.

Finally, it may be that the most volatile and unpredictable election in recent history returns a strangely familiar outcome. Continuity on Capitol Hill look set to ensue, with Republicans holding the Senate and Democrats keeping the House. That will mean Speaker McConnell in the Senate and Speaker Pelosi in the House continue to be the two most important figures on the Hill for years to come. The great unknown, of course, is whether there will be change or continuity in the White House.

Ben Roback: Vice-presidential debates usually don’t matter. Tonight’s does – because either contender could be president soon.

7 Oct

Ben Roback is Head of Trade and International Policy at Cicero Group.

From one week to the next, the dominant themes of this campaign swing violently like a dinghy caught in a storm.

At the turn of the year, as we entered the early days of the election cycle, the President had hoped to base his election campaign on three pillars – law and order, the economy, and judicial appointments. The Democratic candidate might have predictably based his campaign on healthcare, social justice and immigration.

Instead, the rapid spread of a global health pandemic and the death of a Supreme Court Justice just weeks before election day put pay to the notion of a predictable campaign narrative.

Now, there question marks surround the health of the President and his inner circle. Covid-19 has torn through the White House like a knife through butter – a tough look for an administration that appears to be above its own restrictions on mask wearing and social distancing.

The President clearly wants to put his positive Coronavirus diagnosis behind him. He has utilised clever videography to portray the image of a strongman who has defeated a virus that has killed over 200,000 of his fellow citizens.

If you’re a Trump fanatic, he is a phoenix rising from the ashes. If you’re not a fan at all, his decision to rush back to the White House, despite remaining deeply infectious, is as reckless as it is downright stupid. You can literally choose your narrative based on two different versions of the same video: pro-Trump or anti-Trump.

It is clear that COVID-19 is now the inescapable focus of the election

Following the President’s personal experience of the virus, it will almost certainly shape the outcome too. IfTrump wins re-election, his ultra-committed supporters will celebrate four more years amidst a presidential resurrection.

If he loses, cries of “China virus” and “foreign interference” are all but guaranteed. DeAnna Lorraine, who won 1.8 per cent of the vote to Nancy Pelosi’s 74 per cent in June’s primary for California’s 12th district in the House of Representatives, and then wrote a book about it, even went so far as to saying that Trump catching Covid-19 could “technically be viewed as an assassination attempt on our President by the Chinese”.

Pages have been consumed by the question of what happens if Trump loses, but refuses to concede. In the event of such a development, whether the cause is the consequences of a bout with Covid-19 or allegations of voter fraud caused by an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, the President could simply refuse to accept the immediate outcome of the election.

His most loyal followers – increasingly devoted and often armed – will follow his lead. The left and right will almost certainly both take to the streets in protest. According to a June 2018 briefing paper by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, there are 120.5 guns per 100 people in the United States. Disaster could ensue.

The most important VP debate since they began 40 years ago

There is no doubt that the President is taking huge risks to project strength at such a crucial time in the election cycle. For a man obsessed with optics, being bed-bound in hospital less than 30 days before Americans go to the polls, and with postal voting already underway, is clearly not an option.

That puts an even greater spotlight on the vice-presidential candidates. Whilst the president is battling the virus, we cannot forget that questions have been raised over the health of the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.

Critics claim he is losing his sharpness and has a poor grip of the facts. At 78 years old by the time he might enter the White House, Biden is being described as a one-term president who will hand over to his running mate, Kamala Harris, in 2024.

This combination means that the sole vice presidential debate of the campaign has taken on sudden significance. That is an exception to the rule.

For the vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine in 2016 was immediately forgettable. It was obvious then that the two deputies would sink back into the campaign shadows the very next day.

Not so tonight.

Mike Pence is, in many ways, the ‘acceptable’ face and voice of the Trump White House in that he is a traditional Republican carved out of core GOP traditions. Softly spoken, proudly Christian and a family man, Pence plays a straight bat when defending his boss – but is not afraid to play offence, either.

A former prosecutor, Harris will be precise in her approach while pursuing the zingers that make for 30-second soundbites deployabe on social media and in fundraising emails in the days after. Pence will look to land knockout punches without ever raising his voice above his customary gentle tone – very much a la Michael Gove.

Vice-presidential debates are usually very much the undercard to the main event. 37 million Americans watched Pence v Kaine in 2016, 44 per cent fewer than the viewership of the lowest-rated Clinton-Trump presidential debate, which drew 66.5 million viewers. Pence v Harris will lack the explosiveness of Trump v Biden – but, by the same token, the sheer chaos that made it entirely unwatchable.

The viewing figures will almost certainly be much higher than the average for VP debates. Rightly so: Americans might be watching the two deputies battle it out, but with one candidate sick with Covid-19 and another rumoured to be only destined for one term, they could well be watching their future p.

Ben Roback: Whoever won yesterday’s travesty of a presidential debate in America, it certainly wasn’t the voters

30 Sep

Ben Roback is Head of Trade and International Policy at Cicero Group.

Did you stay up to watch last night’s presidential debate? It’s impossible: you can’t have done, because no presidential debate took place last night. Shouting took place. Arguing happened. Insults were thrown. Accusations were levelled.

Chris Wallace, the moderator, was hardly a rose between two thorns. He did very little moderating. In many ways, he was given an impossible task – it looked at times like he was trying to nail jelly to the wall. Short of a remote control fitted with a mute button, there was no silencin either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

The president likes to describe CNN as a poster child of the “fake news media” when its pejorative coverage shines a bad light on him. But neither Republicans nor Democrats will be pleased to see the verdict of Jake Tapper, that channel’s Chief Washington Correspondent: “That was a hot mess. Inside a dumpster fire. Inside a train wreck. That was the worst debate I have ever seen. It wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace.” Revere, fear or abhor CNN, it was hard to disagree with Tapper’s conclusion.

The President entered the stage in Ohio on the back foot. Were voters heading to the polls tomorrow, the outlook points to something of a blue wave. Joe Biden leads in key swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona, with at least five more – Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Georgia and North Carolina – toss-ups.

In June, this column pondered whether the terms of the debate for the election might change drastically by November. At the time, we were deeply entrenched in police relations and race riots. We are now focussed on race again, but amidst the unexpected curveballs of the President’s leaked tax returns, a vacant Supreme Court seat, and with it the future of Roe vs. Wade.

This most unpredictable of elections is not going to become any more stable any time soon. The 2020 election dynamic could be upended at any moment. and the only guarantee is uncertainty.

And so to the debate.

Anyone expecting a serious discussion about the future of America will have gone to bed both tired and disappointed. That seems, at best, curious and, at worst, deeply disappointing, given the tipping point at which the country finds itself. The President who is inaugurated on Wednesday 20 January 2021 (we expect) faces a long and growing list of domestic and international challenges.

First, a country at increasing odds with itself over race relations. The heart of America beats faster as tensions deepen between communities.

It seemed genuinely staggering that in a presidential debate, one candidate – the incumbent no less – had to be asked “are you willing to condemn white supremacists and militia groups?” Consider that for a moment.

The President’s answer rightly caused consternation and concern for anyone who thinks that the fallout from the election outcome could spill over onto the streets of an increasingly armed America. “Proud boys, stand back and stand by.”  The Fighting Anti-Semitism and Hate organisation describes the Proud Boys as representing “an unconventional strain of right-wing extremism. The Biden campaign’s response was swift.

Second, healing the wounds of Covid-19 and averting further health and economic crises. The President surprised many by declaring himself pro-mask, and even pulling one from his blazer pocket. It was a shrewd move that kneecapped Biden, who’d accused him of doubting the science.

But, in true Trump fashion, it was swiftly followed by doubts over the recommendations of Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Diseases Control. The Trump tactic? Shock and awe. Chaos and confusion.

Third, accepting the outcome of the election. America is not a country of coups. The peaceful transfer of power is enis enshrined in the core of American society.

For now. Because the President has made a habit of casting doubt over the veracity of the election process and outcome, should it produce anything other than a handsome Trump victory. During last night’s debate, he again floated the notion that the result might need to be decided by the Supreme Court. Hence the GOP drive to jam Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination through with haste. The 2020 election seems destined for the courts – so we could be looking well into 2021 before we get a definitive result.

Can anyone have really ‘won’ a debate that took place in this way ?  It feels wrong to decipher a ‘winner’ from last night’s events. It  was certainly not the watching voters. More than three-quarters of those who saw it felt the tone was negative (83 per cent) with over two-thirds (69 per cebt) annoyed by it (CBS/YouGov).

The President sought to bully and dominate like he did – rightly or wrongly, but ultimately so successfully in 2016. The Biden campaign, scarred by the affect it had on Hillary Clinton, pursued a different approach.

Trump spent most of the debate looking at Biden and cutting him off wherever possible. At times, Biden fought fire with fire, but his goal was clearly to try to appear the adult in the room.

At times, this approach seemed overly passive. So Biden rarely looked at the President and mostly addressed the moderator or spoke down the camera, seeking to engage the American people directly.

After over an hour of cross-talk that bordered on two angry relatives shouting at each other across the dining room table, it is a wonder any of the American public were still watching. It makes for an unedifying prospect as one looks ahead to the two remaining debates on 15 and 22 October.

Ben Roback: What the Republican and Democratic conventions tell us about the state of the race

26 Aug

Ben Roback is Head of Trade and International Policy at Cicero Group.

The Democratic convention concluded last week without the traditional ticker tape parade and fireworks. There were no screaming hordes or huddled delegates. It was the BBC Proms without Rule Britannia, if you will.

That could not have been helped, of course, given the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Nevertheless, both parties have done their level best to inject energy and enthusiasm into proceedings.

The most notable example was an often overzealous (and at times borderline fanatical) speech made by Kimberly Guilfoyle, National Chair of the Trump Victory Finance Committee 2020. “The best is yet to come!” she yelled, into an empty convention hall. The speech desperately needed the reaction of an excitable crowd. Instead it felt overly aggressive.

Instead, at the Republican Convention so far, the standout moment was Nikki Haley’s more orthodox convention speech. The former South Carolina Governor and United States Ambassador to the United Nations’ serious tone and vision will be viewed for years to come as her launch pad for a presidential run in 2024. Unlike most of her Republican colleagues, Haley attempted to deliver a serious answer to the current question of racism in America. Instead of describing the election as “shaping up to be church, work and schools versus rioting, looting and vandalism” (Donald Trump Jr.), Haley addressed the issue through a personal prism, describing her background growing up with Indian immigrant parents and becoming the first female Governor of South Carolina.

Although previously a supporter of Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, Haley is a rare example of someone who served in the Trump administration and left on her own terms whilst retaining good relations with the President. If Trump loses in November, attention will quickly turn to her own aspirations.

The Republicans and Democrats appear to have pursued very different strategies

At the start of the year, President Trump would have expected and wanted his convention to be almost entirely about the economy – huge economic growth, low unemployment and record stock market rises. The Democrats might have turned their attention to his record and remarks on immigration, women, race and culture in America. How times have changed.

It is quite clear from that convention so far that the Republican game plan is now centred on cultural issues – namely crime, patriotism and American identity. Joe Biden seems to have caught the zeitgeist a little better, recognising that America is jointly experiencing cultural shifts as well as health and economic crises brought about by COVID-19. The Trump campaign and Republican convention has ignored coronavirus entirely.

The second abundantly clear difference has been in personnel.

The Republican convention has been popular viewing for those who like people whose surname is Trump: Eric, Donald Jr., Tiffany and Melania have all spoken so far. Eric Trump, who has tended to be marginally less visible and antagonistic towards the left that his brother Donald Jr., used a portion of his speech to speak directly to his father and lavish praise on the President’s first term.

But the substance of much of his speech was directed at the Republican base and once again reminded us of the tone the campaign will pursue in the next 70 or so days. “Cancel culture”, accusing Democrats of “lacking patriotism” and “disrespecting our national anthem by taking a knee” both featured heavily. Those hoping for an insight into four more years of Trumpism were left underwhelmed.

Several speakers on the Republican stage painted a picture of a nation on the precipice of Communist chaos. Voters must choose between either liberty or looting. Prosperity or protest. Advancement or anarchy. The Democratic candidate, they have argued, is in the pocket of the radical left and does not have the strength to stop towns and cities across America being blighted by the scenes of civil disorder we have seen time and again this year.

The killing of a black man by armed police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has framed the Republican convention. Street battles have raged between protesters and the police following the shooting of Jacob Blake. Republicans have pointed to the disorder as proof of their warning that law and order might come to an end the moment Donald Trump leaves the White House. Democrats counter that it is further evidence of the urgent need to reform police behaviour. Expect the debate to repeat itself long into the election cycle.

Speakers at the virtual Democratic convention have tried to take a more optimistic tone, painting Biden as a man who can unify a country whose social fabric appears to be cracking at the seams. But it is impossible to escape the fact that a question of credibility might underline that message. Barack Obama sailed into the White House – twice – on an upbeat message of hope and change. A young Senator from Chicago with youthful looks to match his optimistic tone, to many Obama embodied his message. Biden might well be a unifier, but as a career creature of Washington, is he best placed to carry a message of change? So far, the underlying message appear to simply be ‘let’s get the other guy out of the White House’.

Viewing figures are helpful but cannot determine a convention’s success or failure

This is a White House and President obsessed with viewing figures. Trump might therefore be concerned with the first night of the Republican convention’s figures. A total of 15.8 million Americans tuned in, nearly 3 million fewer than the 18.7 million viewers who watched the first night of the Democratic National Convention across the same number of networks. Biden’s keynote speech was watched by 21.8 million Americans – a number the President will be desperate to beat when he takes the stage. For historic context, Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention four years ago drew 34.9 million viewers.

Those numbers might have quite understandably reflected the contrasting strategies taken by the parties. The stage and big screens at the Democratic convention were graced by the great and the good of Hollywood and high society. Chaired by Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria and with comedic interludes from Veep and Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the Democratic convention felt at times more like a political take on an all-star awards gala.

In stark contrast, the high watermark of the Republican convention’s first night was a piece to camera by the St Louis couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters as they marched past their home. The American public could be forgiven for opting for a night of Netflix instead.

Trump might be lagging in the opinion polls, but he certainly makes for entertaining viewing. For some, politics is a more serious business than that – especially when a country is in the grip of simultaneous health, economic and social crises. When he stands behind the microphone in the White House to deliver his keynote speech, the President does so as the Republican candidate for president but also the sitting Commander in Chief. As such, his keynote speech will command the attention of more than just the nation. You can bet with certainty that his convention speech will be far from conventional.

Florida and the presidential election: darkness looms in the Sunshine State

15 Jul

Ben Roback is Head of Trade and International Policy at Cicero Group.

Florida is a unique and brilliant place – a state of at times total contrasts.

Over 3.5 million retirees aged 65 and older live in it year-round, but during the spring break its beaches are flooded with college students. The southern tip of the country is drenched in sun for the majority of the year, but sits in the eye of the storm of America’s hurricane season.

For visitors, Florida is a source of relaxation, but life is even less taxing for its residents – since the state has no income, estate or inheritance tax.

A crucial state in electoral politics

Florida is a traditional swing state in presidential elections, and the biggest battleground one by population size. It is also an historic indicator of the outcome of any given presidential election.

The candidate who won Florida in 13 out of the past 14 presidential elections went on to win the White House. The ‘Dartford of America’ – you don’t hear political pundits call it often enough but, here, that constituency has voted for the party which went on to win nationwide in UK general elections since 1964.

Donald Trump won Florida by a 1.2-point margin in 2016, and the state is considered pivotal for his re-election prospects. In the context of November, the Cook Political Report lists four swing-states as ‘toss-ups’, including Florida. Of the four, Florida has the most electoral college votes (29) and is therefore a vital step in the path to the White House.

The Coronavirus has put Florida under the spotlight

The rapid chain of events of the last few months has placed an even greater onus on Florida – in particular, the triple-threat of social unrest, Covid-19 and the resulting economic climate.

The Sunshine State was one of the most bullish when it came to reopening its economy. Its Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, rushed to remove the shackles on indoors bars and restaurants, catering to holidaying college students and visitors to Florida’s beautiful beaches.

Since then, the state has become one of the epicentres of a Coronavirus crisis that never really went away. The numbers make stark reading. Florida has recently been averaging around 10,000 new cases per day. Having reported more than 15,000 new cases on Sunday, a Reuters analysis showed that, were Florida were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for the most new cases in a day behind the United States, Brazil and India. Over 4,000 Floridians have died of Covid-19.

Florida has responded – commendably – by increasing its testing capacity, and announced 143,000 results on Sunday ,compared to an average of 68,000 for the seven days prior. But as the president often does, Governor DeSantis insisted the surge in cases was due to an increase in testing.

Like Greg Abbott in Texas, DeSantis has become used to high praise from the President, having led the charge on reopening his state for business. A long list of the president’s most revered Fox News hosts have lavished praise on Governors Abbott and DeSantis, citing the “dire predictions” about reopening too soon which “have not come true”. That praise now looks tragically myopic.

First a U-turn on masks, next the Republican National Convention?

Having resisted wearing a mask for the duration of the Coronavirus crisis, the president wore one in public for the first time last week. Could it prompt a sharp change in approach by DeSantis in Florida? The governor has remained in step with the president, and refused to require masks to worn state-wide (although city leaders have imposed their own rules).

Trump’s shift gives De Santis political cover to follow suit and pursue more aggressive measures to contain the spread of the virus. But having become the White House’s poster boys for the Covid-19 economic liberation, Abbott and DeSantis will not want to shut their states down again.

With Florida so aggressively under the spotlight, an awkward dilemma looms for the Republican Party. Having argued with the political leadership in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Republican National Committee (RNC) decided to move its convention to Jacksonville, Florida.

Given the White House has championed the economic resurgence, and urged governors to reopen their states for business, the RNC will not want to be moved into relocating their convention again owing to a pandemic that the White House thinks should not obstruct the economic recovery.

But a growing number of Republicans are adding their names to a list of delegates who won’t be attending next month. More than five GOP Senators and eight Congressmen have stated they will skip the ceremony that coronates Trump as the GOP’s presidential nominee.

Having attempted a rousing speech in front of a half empty arena in Tulsa recently, the president’s campaign team will dread the optics of another poorly attended event in Jacksonville.

In the Rose Garden yesterday, the President dismissed the notion that he is the underdog in Florida. The incumbent’s confidence of winning in 2020 is based on replicating his success against the odds in 2016. But four years ago, few expected Trump to win.

As in his first election, a second victory will be reliant on defying the existing polling trends which are not in his favour. In the Sunshine State, Joe Biden has a six-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average and the President has only led in three of the last 26 polls included in the RCP sample.

Florida is known to so many in this country for its long white beaches, the art deco facades that line South Beach and the welcoming smiles at Disneyland. But a lack of political leadership risks turning the state into an even deeper focal point for a disease that continues to rip through chunks of America at a catastrophic rate.

Whilst the White House has shown flexibility on masks, the battle lines for the next political fight have been drawn over the reopening of schools and colleges for the fall semester. Still in the epicentre of a health crisis, it seems like the worst possible time for vast university and college campuses to welcome back their students with open arms – let alone the Republican National Convention. The start of the fall semester will precede the presidential election. Florida will be under the spotlight once again.