Trailing in the polls and with little time left to change the trajectory or closing themes of the presidential race, President Donald Trump has spent the final days of the campaign complaining that the coronavirus crisis is getting too much coverage – and openly musing about losing.
Trump has publicly lamented about what a loss would mean, spoken longingly of riding off into the sunset and made unsubstantiated claims that voter fraud could cost him the election. He has sarcastically threatened to fire state officials if he doesn’t win and excoriated his rival Joe Biden as someone it would be particularly embarrassing to lose to.
“If I lose, I will have lost to the worst candidate, the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics,” Trump said at an Oct. 17 campaign rally in Janesville, Wis. “If I lose, what do I do? I’d rather run against somebody who’s extraordinarily talented, at least, this way I can go and lead my life.”
The president, who said at the same rally that “we’re not going to lose, we’re going to win,” has certainly not abandoned his showman’s approach to the campaign trail. But his unscripted remarks bemoaning a potential loss – and preemptively explaining why he might suffer one – offer a window into his mind-set as he barnstorms the country in an attempt to keep himself from becoming the one thing he so derisively despises: a loser.
Trump has told rallygoers he had the presidential race won until the pandemic hit, and he has accused media outlets of focusing on the ongoing health crisis to hurt him politically.
“Covid, Covid, Covid is the unified chant of the Fake News Lamestream Media,” he tweeted Wednesday. “They will talk about nothing else until November 4th., when the Election will be (hopefully!) over. Then the talk will be how low the death rate is, plenty of hospital rooms, & many tests of young people.”
Trump has previously complained that Biden could win the race and then receive the benefit of glowing media coverage for overseeing the implementation of Trump administration policies on the coronavirus and other issues.
The president’s comments reflect his long-running failure to shift the nation’s focus from the rapidly worsening pandemic in recent months. As he has tried to build his campaign on other themes – including cracking down on racial-justice protests, making unsubstantiated corruption allegations against Biden and attacking the former vice president over energy policy – the coronavirus has continued to dominate American lives and news headlines.
His critics say Trump’s own inconsistent handling of the pandemic is one of the main reasons it has remained a key issue in the campaign for several months. With Election Day approaching, the virus is surging across the country, with record cases in recent days and growing hospitalizations and deaths. More than 227,000 Americans have died.
Trump’s own hospitalization earlier this month after he was infected not only took him off the campaign trail for several days but also led more Americans to believe he was not taking the deadly virus seriously enough, polls show.
Despite spending four days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Trump quickly returned to the campaign trail and continued holding the kind of mass gatherings that his own health officials have described as “superspreader” events. He has also attacked scientists and journalists for focusing on the deadly virus.
Trump has falsely called media reporting on the pandemic an effort “to change our great early election numbers” and said it “should be an election-law violation.”
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