Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Trump on Trial - - as always, keep an eye on the secondary and tertiary effects

For around two years now, we've been hammering the point that much of the political impact of Dobbs would be from the secondary and tertiary affects the ruling. Secondary and tertiary is mainly where the unintended consequences lurk, women with miscarriages being denied urgent medical care to prevent serious permanent injury and even death, women who aren't even pregnant losing access to drugs because they might serve as abortifacients, pregnancy care being severely limited because OB-GYNs are leaving states with Draconian anti-abortion laws.

With the election interference trial in New York, something similar appears to be playing out, though probably not to the same degree. The interesting stuff is mainly on the tertiary level. Whether or not Trump is convicted, whether or not the coverage changes voter's Minds about Trump's guilt or innocence, the trial is already having a notable impact on his persona and on his ability to campaign.

Most presidents visibly age in office. Clinton, Obama, even George W. Bush (who was never mistaken for a workaholic) looked far more than 8 years older when they left office. With Trump, it appears to be the trial that does the aging.

Outside of the conservative media bubble, the dominant Trump narrative at the moment is one of a sleepy old man. Whether you get your news from legacy publications, social media, or late night talk and comedy, you have probably heard about the former president repeatedly falling asleep during his own trial, and there's a good chance you've heard the jokes about flatulence as well.

A number of political commentators I trust have been saying for a long time that when everyone finally accepts that this is a Biden versus Trump race, the issue of Biden's age will tend to fade. This new narrative actually threatens to flip it. It is worth noting that while Trump tried to push the insulting nickname Sleepy Joe, it has been the lines about Trump that have recently gone viral.

Probably more important, the trial has effectively paused the Trump campaign just as we are going into the height of the season. Before it started, Donald Trump was averaging 6 days a week of golf and one day a week of campaigning. Almost everyone assumed that would change when the election heated up and they were right. Now, he is spending 3 days a week playing golf and effectively no time campaigning.

The essential context here is that, in terms of campaigning, Donald Trump is, for all intents and purposes, a one-man show. Joe Biden has the money to dominate the advertising market, can send Kamala Harris to Arizona to campaign on the abortion issue, and has numerous field offices in all of the swing states. Donald Trump has none of these things. No running mate, no field offices, no cash to spare for TV spots. If he chooses to forgo rallies and other events in favor of golf, his campaign goes silent.

And it's not just Democrats who are talking about the imbalance.

There is no way to quantify the impact this is going to have or to say whether the current state of affairs will continue, but, as with so many other aspects of this campaign, it's important to remember that from a predictive analytics standpoint, it's not clear what if any old data generalizes and the more confident the prognosticators are, the less you should listen to them.

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