Trump Stays Competitive After Smashing Through Democratic Guardrails

US President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a Make America Great Again rally at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport November 2, 2020, in Avoca, Pennsylvania. - The US presidential campaign enters i... US President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a Make America Great Again rally at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport November 2, 2020, in Avoca, Pennsylvania. - The US presidential campaign enters its final day Monday with a last-minute scramble for votes by Donald Trump and Joe Biden, drawing to a close an extraordinary race that has put a pandemic-stricken country on edge. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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November 3, 2020 10:46 p.m.

Even a death toll 230,000 people high apparently wasn’t enough to render President Trump noncompetitive in this election.

We’re far from the final results. But those who thought that President Trump’s horrifying mismanagement of the pandemic, refusal to admit to the legitimacy of his opponents, impeachment last year, and singleminded focus on self-dealing would result in a romp for Joe Biden appear to be wrong.

This one will be a fight for the Democratic candidate.

And it’s one that suggests a large portion of the country is not prepared to repudiate President Trump for behavior that included funneling money into his own businesses, and for stoking some of the right’s most racist and extreme tendencies.

“It means that roughly one-third of all Americans (not just voters) have supported an openly far-right president, knowing what he stands for and how he governs,” wrote Cas Mudde, a political scientist at the University of Georgia in an email to TPM.

Trump has all but won the state of Florida, while projections show him hotly contesting the states of North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas. The upper Midwestern states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin remain too early to judge, but Biden will likely need to hold onto them to win.

To some, the biggest shock is Trump’s performance after the COVID pandemic.

To others, its his rank self-dealing that makes the President’s competitiveness tonight surprising.

After all, he’s the first President to have a hotel down the street from the White House with his name on it, and the first to have been reported to have dodged taxes on the scale that Trump is accused of.

And still, the President’s complete lack of interest in participating in civic institutions — thinking of the military as an example of self-sacrifice, acknowledging that he’s governing the whole population — comes as the biggest shock to others.

And, to be clear, it’s early in the game. There are still an endless number of permutations in which Biden could come out ahead in states that now seem hopeless for his cause.

But the situation highlights a broader point: that none of this has been enough to damage the President’s support not only among his base, but among people who in 2016 and 2020 again, considered him fit to lead the country.

“In fact, irrespective whether [Trump] wins or loses, this is going to be a fact and should be a source of national reflection,” Mudde wrote.

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