Donald Trump
Credit: The White House/Flickr

It would be foolish to try to predict the outcome of the 2020 presidential race with over four months to go before the ballots are counted. But let’s be very clear: if the election were held today, Joe Biden would win. Along with all of the other chaos going on across the country right now, that is what has Donald Trump in a tailspin.

At this point, the president is doing two things in preparation for November.

  1. Employ grievance politics to motivate his base, and
  2. Do everything he can to steal the election.

On number two, there are three primary strategies the president is counting on.

Voter Suppression

This has been a Republican strategy for some time now, with Trump egging things on to an unprecedented level. Since voter suppression efforts are launched by states, a good example is what happened in Kentucky in preparation for the Tuesday primary.

Fewer than 200 polling places will be open for voters in Kentucky’s primary Tuesday, down from 3,700 in a typical election year. Amid a huge influx in requests for mail-in ballots, some voters still had not received theirs days before they must be turned in. And turnout is expected to be higher than in past primaries because of a suddenly competitive fight for the Democratic Senate nomination.

The scenario has voting rights advocates and some local elections officials worried that the state is careening toward a messy day marked by long lines and frustrated voters — similar to the scenes that have played out repeatedly this spring as the novel coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the 2020 primaries.

Because of a shortage of workers willing to staff voting sites during the health crisis, each of the commonwealth’s 120 counties is opening a very limited number of polling locations. The two largest counties will have just one in-person location each.

The other voter suppression effort coming from Trump is to try to bully states into rejecting an expansion of vote-by-mail—even in the midst of a pandemic. He says that the process leads to massive fraud, even though there is no evidence for the claim. Five states—Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington—have conducted their elections using a vote-by-mail system with practically no issues. In addition to the fact that members of the military who are stationed overseas have always voted by mail, Aaron Blake documents that 16 Trump officials, including the president, vice-president, and attorney general have voted by mail recently.

Foreign Interference

We all know that Trump welcomed Russian interference in the 2016 election and will do so again. But according to John Bolton, Trump asked China’s President Xi Jingping to help him out. Bolton writes that while meeting with Xi at last year’s G-20 meeting, “Trump ‘stunningly’ turned the conversation to the upcoming 2020 election.” The president “stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.” The most telling thing about that report is that Trump assumed Xi would want to help him win reelection and would therefore agree to purchase more products from American farmers.

Here is what Bolton told Martha Raddatz during their interview on Sunday. Referring to his book, he said:

[I]t shows a pattern quite contrary to the image [Trump] would like to convey, of a decisive president who knows something about what he’s doing. There really isn’t any guiding principle — that I was able to discern other than– what’s good for Donald Trump’s reelection.

Other than Russia, Ukraine, and China, it is very possible that Trump has either made requests or attempted to extort other countries into doing things that would help him win re-election.

If He Loses, Challenge the Results

The president is already setting the stage to claim that the election was “rigged” if he loses.

This is where claiming that vote-by-mail is inherently fraudulent plays a dual role. Not only does Trump use it to suppress votes during a pandemic, he will use it to challenge the results if he loses. Recently we learned that Attorney General Barr will back him in those efforts. Here is what Barr said during an interview with Maria Bartiromo.

Barr: But when government, state governments start adopting these practices like mail-in ballots that open the floodgates of potential fraud, then people’s confidence in the outcome of the election is going to be undermined. And that could take the country to a very dark place, if we lose confidence in the outcomes of our elections…

Bartiromo: Well, there’s a big discussion right now about mail-in voting…

Barr: Well, it absolutely opens the floodgates to fraud. Those things are delivered into mailboxes. They can be taken out.

There’s questions about whether or not it even denies a secret ballot, because a lot of the states have you signing the outside of the envelope. So, the person who opens — person who opens the envelope will know how people voted.

There’s no — right now, a foreign country could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots, and be very hard for us to detect which was the right and which was the wrong ballot.

That is the chief law enforcement officer in this country throwing out a claim without a shred of evidence that is disputed by every election official that has been involved with mail-in ballots. So Chief Justice John Roberts should dust off his referee uniform and be prepared to call out the attorney general when he makes such a claim if Trump loses.

October Surprise(s)

While not a direct attempt to steal the election, we can expect that Trump will attempt to deceive the public with big announcements prior to the election. It is pretty certain, for example, that Attorney General Barr will make some sort of announcement about the probe John Durham is conducting into the Trump-Russia investigation. Just this week the president accused his predecessor of treason, referring to what Durham will uncover. Prior to hearing Durham’s conclusions, Barr referred to the Trump-Russia investigation as the closest thing to a coup we’ve seen in this country since the Lincoln assassination.

Since this president is willing to do or say anything in service of his own political interests, there’s no way of predicting what other lies he’ll tell over the next four months. But we can rest assured that there will be some whoppers in the mix. So the one thing we can know for sure is that there will be some major political fireworks over the next few months.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.