President Donald Trump wore a mask. Is it really a big deal?
To Donald Trump’s closest advisors and supporters, it is. “Joe Biden is finished,” Trump senior advisor Jason Miller tweeted. “Goodnight, @JoeBiden,” a strategic advisor for Trump tweeted.
The best one? Talk show host John DePetro: “Election over.”
But is it really? Does Trump wearing a mask matter at all? How does it impact the election?
Let’s make one thing clear: It is obvious that this does not mark the end of Joe Biden. He still leads Trump by almost nine points in general election polling, according to FiveThirtyEight, and is positioned for one of the most lopsided electoral victories of the modern presidency.
To state that one simple action for any candidate, let alone a candidate in this environment where so many partisan leanings are set in stone, can dramatically shift the electoral science of this election is, frankly, baloney.
Given the shift in approval rating over Trump’s term in office, we can assume that around seven percent of voters are persuadable to either approve or disapprove of Trump. How many of that seven percent is really going to be swayed by the president wearing a mask?
The issue is complicated when considering the months that led up to Trump wearing a mask. By refusing to wear a mask publicly until now, Trump has signaled to his base that they shouldn’t wear a mask, either. After changing his stance, will supporters distance themselves from Trump and will undecided voters become supporters?
The answer to both of these questions is no. When analyzing anything, you have to look at the full picture, and given the body of behavior and policy that is available to us throughout the Trump presidency, it is clear that Trump is who he is. He doesn’t change.
On a broader level, GOP strategists should not be looking to change Trump to win this election. In fact, the reason he won in 2016 was because he didn’t change. He broke the mould. The GOP should be doing everything they can outside of Trump to win this election — drive voter registration, for example, which Republicans have been outpacing Democrats at so far — but changing the candidate himself is a fight you cannot win.
When we come back to Trump wearing a mask, it is clear that you can’t change the candidate. Even if Trump wears a mask in every public appearance from now on, you won’t be able to control what he does outside of those appearances.
Because of the uncontrollable and unchangeable nature of Trump, his wearing a mask doesn’t change much. However, it shouldn’t be totally discounted.
While Trump doesn’t seem swayed by outside influences, that isn’t to say that he is immovable himself. Recent reports show that, despite public grandstanding, the president has accepted that his position in the race is dire and something has to change.
Wearing a mask could be a sign of a revitalized and more rational Trump. It could be the first of many steps taken by the Trump campaign to play to undecided voters, that seven percent of the vote that is still up for grabs.
In that sense, wearing a mask is an incredibly important moment for the campaign, but only if it signifies a larger pivot in Trump’s approach. As a standalone action, wearing a mask holds little significance when understood in the context of Trump’s full body of work.
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