THE EDGE SINGAPORE - With Joe Biden’s lead in the polls, many Democrats and Republican Never-Trumpers are increasingly optimistic that US President Donald Trump will lose in November. But it would be a mistake to count Trump out. He has formidable advantages that will become more salient as the election nears. These advantages have nothing to do with his accomplishments or failures, and everything to do with his mastery of political theatre.

For liberals, a dominant view is that — thanks to Trump’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it unleashed — the Republican and Trump-leaning independent voters are coming to their senses. But this is a sunny reading of events. Trump won the election in 2016 by converting his professional and temperamental unfitness for the presidency into a political virtue. Defiance of the establishment gave Trump credibility among Republican voters, who believed that mainstream politicians ignored their interests.

Trump also solidified his support by stoking fears that immigrants were overrunning the country and threatening the dominance of white Americans. He offered himself as a saviour. That was enough. As illegal immigration has receded from the public imagination, Trump has sought new ways to capitalise on voters’ fears. He believes he has found it in the spectre of urban criminality.

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