Trump is Biden's biggest asset

Editorial | Mary Ma 19 Jun 2020

In an ironic twist, US President Donald Trump has turned around to become a top helper in former Vice President Joe Biden's bid for the White House.

Due to the pandemic lockdowns, Biden has been pretty much out of contact during the crucial months before the November presidential election vote. But minimal publicity has not prevented his popularity from increasing.

Earlier this week, Biden's campaign announced a surge in donations, raising over US$80 million (HK$620 million) in May alone - which was more than the sum raised by Barack Obama in May in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in the same period in 2016.

The surge, due to an overall increase in small donations averaging US$30, is as an indication of the displeasure that grassroot voters have for Trump.

This was not due to Biden's campaign success because - except for some periodic opinion polls comparing the two candidates - the US media was awash with reports about the pandemic, rising unemployment and massive anger following the death of African-American George Floyd.

And, in most cases, Trump dominated the headlines.

But that was not totally bad news for Biden. As Americans questioned Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and were enraged at his responses to the Black Lives Matter protests, he committed mistake after mistake.

The president did Biden a favor by undermining his own campaign. In one of the latest polls, Trump trailed behind Biden by 13 points - the largest gap recorded by the Reuters/Ipsos poll this year.

It is turning out to be an exceptional election year, full of gray rhino incidents and black swan events.

Despite the first-phase trade deal with China that should have given Trump an election boost, the economy instead came crashing down with record-high unemployment as a result of the pandemic first reported in Wuhan.

As he squabbled with state governors and struggled to fend off criticisms of his handling of the pandemic, a black man in Minneapolis died after a white police officer knelt on his neck, causing an eruption of anger across the country and around the world.

As Biden's campaign cast him as a "consoler-in-chief," Trump's threats to confront protesters with police and even military power backfired and cast him as the "socially divisive president."

Curiously, Wall Street appeared to be adjusting itself to the increased probability that there will be a new boss in the White House after the election.

Although Trump was quick to claim credit for the rebound in the stock markets, the incredible thing is that Wall Street has remained robust despite the president's weakened state.

It could be that investors are learning to live with the growing chance of a having a Democratic president, even though this could mean tax rises for corporates and tight market controls. Or it might be that investors are holding out to allow them time to reflect later on any correction if there is a negative Biden impact. Wall Street money chasers know how to maintain a balance.

Trump may pin his hopes on beating China. The problem is that - because of his own mistakes at home - he is giving his cards to his competitor.

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