What or Who Decides This Election?
COVID progress, riot fatigue, Durham indictments, Biden’s brain. By November, several factors may be trending in Trump’s favor — if he lets them.

We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor Trump — a scenario his opponents no doubt deem preposterous in these dog days of August.
1. The virus. The coronavirus is like an out-of-control grass fire. It dies down only to flare up without much predictability — making fools of yesterday’s experts, proving them yet again today’s geniuses, only to render them idiots tomorrow.
Trump’s polls climbed in May when it looked as if the vicious virus was waning. But after the public relaxed its guard, or protesters gathered for much of June in massive demonstrations that were politically correct mockeries of social distancing, masks, and disinfects, or the virus got its natural second wind, it caught fire again — and abroad as well.
If by October remedies have improved, vaccinations are in final trials, care has been honed to reduce the death rate, then the president will be rewarded for getting the nation through the disaster. If it spikes yet again or mutates into a more lethal strain, or if the lethality rate soars in October, then he will be blamed at the polls. In some sense, the virus’s course is beyond human control; the key, however, is how the president reacts to its metamorphoses. If well, Biden’s ankle-biting will seem shrill; if not so well, Biden’s generalities and his reverse copycatting the president’s directives and coronavirus policies will seem sober and judicious.
2. The lockdown/quarantine. Depending on how poll questions are framed, most Americans either want to take their chances and get back to work, or they care little about the data and simply are terrified of COVID-19.
If the schools stay shut down, millions of children will suffer untold harm, and millions of parents will be unable to return fully to work. The medical and financial fallout will have grave collective economic implications. If schools do open, and the virus is manageable, then the administration will be seen as prescient. If the contagion somehow spikes during the return to schools, or is presented as spiking by the media, Trump will be dubbed a reckless Typhoid Mary. Biden’s viral policies are simply to oppose whatever Trump does. So Biden’s risks are that when the virus wanes, he will have already ceded Trump responsibility — and thus credit — for its diminution.
3. The economy. It is hard to see how the economy ascends and returns on track to its pretrial boom before Election Day, at least until herd immunity increases or the virus either wanes naturally, becomes a treatable disease, or is eliminated by a vaccine — or all of the above. 
The election may hinge on whether any of those variables appears viable by November. If they are, people will spend and produce in confidence that the end is in sight; if the virus is still considered lethal and terrifying, then the economy will stay flat — at a time of a $4-trillion-plus annual deficit. Again, the Biden basement strategy of having Trump own the virus, lockdown, and economy may now seem wise, given the chaos of the summer and Biden’s own cognitive issues. But 90 days is a long time, and all three trends could reverse course and improve, which according to the logic of Biden himself, would then be Trump’s doing.
4. The riots. We at nearing peak Jacobinism, the point where the public is growing tired of Antifa/BLM and skeptical about the surreal Democratic denial in which the endless violence, vandalism, looting, killings, injuries, and statue-toppling are described as “intensified peaceful protests,” or the work of only a “small number of lawbreakers.” The continuance of anarchy and chaos is being politically leveraged to create a general sense of civil unrest purportedly caused by Trump’s controversial nature. The Democratic strategy is to have protests that are violent enough to frighten the public, but not quite violent enough to destroy daily life, so swing voters will go into a collective fetal position, hands over ears, and shout that if they just vote out Trump, “it will all go away.
But if Antifa/BLM intensify or just continue the violence — Bible-burning is the latest addition to their repertoire — more police are killed or injured, and the Democrats keep denying the obvious, it could be a disaster for the Left. Calling violence a “myth” is a myth that no sane person believes. Biden has no idea how many inner-city folk depend on a funded police force, how many in the heartland want to watch their sports without lectures, how many suburbanites liked the downed Columbus or Grant or Drake statue in their cities, and how many working Democrats don’t like having their commute freeway shut down by the obnoxious prolonged adolescents of Antifa. There are so many facets to the cultural revolution that the Democratic policy of accepting them all in toto can alienate lots of swing voters.
5. The Durham indictments. The Democrats are paranoid that Durham might indict enough FBI or DOJ employees — and flip one or two who will testify against their peers for immunity — to boomerang the Russia-collusion hoax before the election. Depending on whom Durham indicts, how many, and how much more incriminating information ensues, Trump will be able to remind the public of the unprecedented corruption in the Obama administration and the role of Joe Biden in aiding and abetting the constitutional abuse.
If Durham indicts no one before the election, the public will shrug that the Russian hoax was a hoax but more of a Keystone Kops caper rather than an existential threat aimed at the presidency of a constitutional republic. But if during the last 30 days of the election cycle, Durham’s indictments reveal serial lawlessness, then Biden — a member of the Obama/FBI/DOJ inner anti-Trump circle — will hemorrhage.
6. Joe Biden’s cognitive challenges. Joe Biden masterfully has been able to conduct a teleprompted Zoom/Skype, virtual campaign from his basement, and an occasional press conference with a few preselected questions to toadyish reporters.
He assumes there will be no convention, no stump speech, no hostile interviews — and prays for no debates. Biden may pull all that off, depending on the course of the virus over the next 90 days — and his own polls. If in such scripted appearances he appears just occasionally confused, as during the abbreviated primary season, or slurs his words, or at times goes off topic, his health will probably be a major issue, but not a deciding one.
However, if by October Biden is campaigning in traditional style, giving impromptu interviews and emulating Trump’s ubiquity, then there are real chances of deer-in the-headlights pivotal moments of utter confusion that could be determinative — given that their ubiquity could not be covered up by the pro-Biden media.
The key here is to watch Trump polls. If they linger at 42–43 positive in the RealClearPolitics averages, then Biden remains a virtual candidate. If Trump nears the 45–48 favorable range, Biden will be forced to emerge, and that could become catastrophic. Remember, Trump can be edgy, controversial, and unpopular, but selecting Biden as the nominee was the most reckless move the Democrats have pulled off in a generation. As Churchill said of the one figure in World War I who governed the fate of the omnipotent British fleet, Admiral Jellicoe: “Jellicoe was the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon.” So too Biden is the only candidate who could lose his party everything in an hour or so.
7. The vice-presidential selection. Biden is in a dilemma. Pick one of the more accomplished African-American women, such as Susan Rice and Kamala Harris, and both are likely already vetted and enjoy name recognition. Before the current cultural revolution, both were considered left-wing Democrats, but in the Hillary Clinton mode, rather than in the Bernie Sanders extremist school. So they would be the safer selections. But would they satisfy the Sanders wing? And in the past, have they been on good terms with Biden?
Or will Biden have to go the full BLM route with a less vetted Stacey Abrams or Karen Bass or some other hardcore leftist, with an even harder leftist past, that will cement his coalition, but turn off swing voters — especially if the violence both continues and is contextualized if not supported by his running mate? Republicans no doubt prefer the latter scenario. And the harder left-wing the selection, the more likely it is that Biden will seem at the mercy of the manipulative Antifa/BLM militant wing of the party — as an encouraged Angela Davis herself pointed out.
The current left-wing ad “Settling for Biden” is one of the most counterproductive in memory because it confirms the cynicism of the hard left and the lack of enthusiasm for the mediocre Biden. It clearly suggests that his election would be merely a door for the left-wing seizure of power later on. In other words, Biden’s VP pick could be a lose/lose choice. BLM is riding high now, but it and Antifa, with help from the media and professional sports, are turning off millions with their nonstop accusations and smears. And all that could crest in November.
8. Trumps mercurial tweeting. Trump is frustrated that he has been the target of a three-year slow-motion coup: the voting-machine lawsuit, the failed impeachment 1.0, the emoluments clause, Logan Act charade, the Mueller/collusion hoax, Ukraine and impeachment, followed by Trump’s being smeared as the plague-spreader, the lockdown meister, the economic wrecker.
In his angst, he tweets, he rails, he screams — and wrongly asks about a possible delayed election, due to the quite likely fraud that would follow an unprecedented ballot-by-mail election. Thereby, he then can alienate the ripe, low-hanging swing voter ready to be picked.
In contrast, when Trump talks empathetically of the need for police to protect the vulnerable or sticks to the details of the contagion in his press conference, he gradually regains popularity.
If he lets the natural news cycle do its work, then he will rediscover that it is trending in his direction. Indeed, the evidence of such a turnabout is already evident. But as time wanes, Trump has almost no margin of error and must maintain 24/7 discipline to allow all of the above to play out.
These turning points have been anti-Trump since mid June. But they are starting to change, ever so slowly and insidiously. And if they continue, and Trump lets them continue, then by November almost all of them will be in Trump’s favor.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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