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Can Trump campaign on a vow to end the disorder and unrest that he's fueling?

Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- With protests erupting across the country, President Donald Trump is ripping a page from Richard Nixon's playbook, claiming to stand for "law and order" and calling out to the "silent majority" that he hopes will grant him a second term.

But 2020 is a long way from 1968, and there's no assurance that Trump's message will resonate the same way it did for Nixon decades ago.

For starters, while Nixon campaigned to end Democratic rule in Washington, Trump is no longer an outsider. He's the incumbent president who promised to stop "American carnage" only to preside over the broadest outbreak of domestic unrest in generations.

In addition, with violent crime at historically low levels, American cities feel far safer now, potentially making a crackdown on lawlessness a less potent campaign topic.

"It's not crime that's the key issue," said Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster. "It's really racial relations."

Trump has only exacerbated those tensions as Americans protest the death of George Floyd, a black man killed when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck while Floyd was handcuffed on the ground and begging for air.

 

And when the demonstrations eventually fade, the country will be still in the midst of record unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Looking ahead to what is going to be impactful in September and October, you've got to think it's still going to be the economy," Newhouse said. "I think that's what voters are going to come back to."

The overlapping crises have left Trump grappling for something to stop his slide in the polls, where he's currently trailing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Rather than heed renewed calls for police reform, he has tried to project images of strength to his core base of white supporters.

"Weakness will never beat anarchists, looters or thugs, and Joe has been politically weak all of his life," Trump tweeted Tuesday. "LAW & ORDER!"

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