FORT WAYNE – Here are some thoughts on the final days.

1.) The final debate was Trump’s best. It stopped his polling slide, at least temporarily, that had accelerated after his bullying performance in the first debate and the further confusion after he skipped the second. His gains, however, were not large and may have come too late.

2.) The Senate races are interesting, both because of the importance of Senate control but also as indicators of the presidential race. Before the final debate, it seemed as though the Democrats would have seized Senate control had that been election day. Since the debate, the Republicans have gained 2-4 points in key seats, making the Republican maintenance of control riding heavily on two Georgia seats and the North Carolina race. Minnesota has become surprisingly close in some polls and a strong candidate in Michigan is at least competitive. Iowa and Arizona are again basically tied. 

3.) Trump has more intensely loyal supporters. So did Goldwater and McGovern. Intense support does not always correlate to representing wider support. Trump, unlike the aforementioned, does have a second group: People who don’t particularly respect him but fear the policies of his opponents. Trump also has a larger core (i.e. the Plains states, Indiana and most of the deep South) than Goldwater and McGovern did. And there are a large number of states that are still competitive in the Great Lakes (including Pennsylvania), Texas and Florida (which are now the second and third largest states), as well as scattered others (e.g. Arizona).

4.) The President has failed to state what he plans to do because of his obsessive focus on what he has done. For example, instead of claiming to have saved the suburbs in the past tense, was distracting. Americans support change but not by a failure to promote law enforcement. Attempts to defund the police in major Democrat-controlled cities is a smoldering issue, as riots in Philadelphia showed Tuesday night. The president’s focus on proving things are fixed has taken the emphasis off his strongest point to swing voters: Liberal policies are scary in these times. None of the major problems get “fixed” but rather are continuing challenges.  

5.) Trump continues to show how not to appeal to suburban women. “I saved your suburbs” didn’t work, and not just because it is patronizing. It makes little sense even if you understand the unstated premises. Good law enforcement protects people in the cities, not the suburbs. An even less effective appeal is to brag that you are going to put women’s husbands back to work. In America, both men and women work. These statements are pretty irrelevant at this point but illustrate why the president has a big problem with female voters. 

6.) Senate polling may give the best indication of final results. When pooled, far more people are polled overall than in a national poll. Thus, especially in the swing states, the fact that Democrats are making a race of it in states where they were not expected to compete is of particular concern to Republicans. African-American turnout at Obama-type levels as well as more Hispanic voters and some suburban female defections is likely what is impacting surprisingly tight Senate races in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and even potentially Mississippi. This also illustrates a growing problem for Republicans, either improve appeal to minorities or become the Whigs. 

7.) Trump needed to pound home, and now finish with, the fact that Biden has been part of the establishment that has failed to fix the problems. Biden just can’t blame Trump for everything. Here is the continuity of Democrat leadership at the presidential level for the last two decades: B. Clinton, B. Clinton, Obama-Biden, Obama-Biden, H. Clinton, and now Biden. Not to mention Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been in charge of House Democrats since 2003. Trump, rather than saying he’s fixed things, would be better off stating that in just four years, he’s made more progress than the Biden establishment did in two decades. 

8.) With COVID cases and deaths rising, as we head into colder weather, it is not believable that problems are fixed. Over-the-top bragging in politics seldom works. It is different than saying that you worked hard, touting successes, and then asserting that you are better able to tackle the threats that face us ahead. COVID is just an example of that point. 

9.) The Hunter Biden scandal only appealed to hardcore Trump voters. Ukraine only matters to voters if it is show why we should care. Perhaps if it could be clearly shown why it is important to Russia and how that relates to our national interest, people would then care, but even that is questionable. Instead, the Democrats tried to impeach Trump over it (backfired) without, apparently, even considering that Biden would get drawn in as well. Most understand that Hunter’s business dealings were questionable at best and, that unlike his brother, Hunter has struggled in his life. They are not blaming his dad nor are they going to believe that Trump’s charges against Hunter’s dad are non-political. And Russia’s continued meddling just confuses an already messy issue. It served as a distraction for Trump when focus was needed.

10.) Trump may look like a bully but Biden looks increasingly like a shell of his former self. In the last debate and since, other than when Biden occasionally gets his ire up, he looks very old and frail. With Reagan, the media obsessively focused on his age. If you want a sign of liberal media bias, analyze the pass they are giving Biden. It should be of great concern. 

11.) Will Only Trumpers vote for other Republicans? Only Trumpers are of concern to Republicans because the loyalty of many to the Republican Party is suspect. The president’s continuing sweeping swamp attacks on all of Congress, even including individual Republicans and the Republican-controlled Senate, means that the drop-off below the presidential line could be more severe than usual. The Republican senators have the disadvantage of being tied to Trump, which hurts them among swing voters. If they and other Republicans also lose many Trump supporters (including Gov. Holcomb and attorney general candidate Todd Rokita), the general loyalty and implied tweet acquiescence would be a doubly cruel blow. This variable could become decisive in close races.

12.) A primary risk to Democrats is that they seem to think the presidential races end a week earlier than they do. The only chance the Republicans have is if enough voters fear liberal Democrat policies more than a second term of Donald Trump. If in these final days voters focus on the president instead, it could be a landslide for Joe Biden. But, because of Biden’s campaign approach, he will have no policy mandate at all.

Souder is a former Indiana Republican congressman.