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Trump’s campaign strategy to focus on statues, ‘traditional American values’

President Trump’s campaign will focus on claiming Trump is all that stands between America and the ‘un-American left wing forces’ trying to destroy the country's cultural heritage, and paint Joe Biden as too weak to stop it, according to Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield, who spoke with Hari Sreenivasan about the 2020 election.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For perspective on political developments this weekend we turn to special correspondent Jeff Greenfield who joins us from Santa Barabra.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Jeff, if there's an American that is still unclear about how this election is going to turn out, they weren't paying attention for the last two days of speeches by Donald Trump.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Yeah, I think we've got a pretty clear clue what actually goes back to his inauguration four years ago. He's going to define this election as a choice between someone upholding traditional American values and an assorted group of people who don't like America, don't like the history, want to erase it, are perfectly prepared to lead unruly mobs, tear down statues, create mini civilizations within cities and essentially just destroy the country.

    I think they've made a conclusion that given the state of the pandemic, which is clearly not resolved, given the state of the economy, which is not what Trump hoped it would be going into the election, they are going to say it's I stand between this group of quite literally un-American forces and you, the people of the United States.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Joe Biden has said he's not interested in pulling down statues of Jefferson or Lincoln. And yet, here we are yesterday, Baltimore Harbor, a Columbus statue gets torn down.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Yeah. I think incidents like the tearing down of the Columbus statue is exactly, if I can be blunt what the Trump campaign is hoping for because it illustrates his point about disorder.

    It's very hard to paint Joe Biden as some kind of left-wing socialist who, you know remember during the whole primary campaign, his opponents are saying he's too conservative, too unwilling to make radical changes. So their argument is he will be run over politically by these forces and is incapable of defending you and defending the country.

    And I have to say, every time something like that happens where a statue of someone like Columbus or Washington is pulled down, it strengthens his case. And I think that's probably what the Democrats are more worried about, than almost anything else right now.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Last week, we saw moves by social media companies starting to put their neck out a little further against the president or at least enforcing their policies, which end up being against the president in some ways.

    This week, we saw a few more dyed in the wool Republicans that were also willing to speak their minds in opposition of the president.

    What's going on?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Yeah, I think this is a potentially significant thing because you're quite right. There are plenty of Republicans who didn't, back Trump four years ago and have no intention of backing him now.

    But we saw Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, say very pointedly, there should be no stigma about wearing masks. Everybody should do what we saw. The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, said the same thing. We saw Liz Cheney in the House leadership put out a picture of her father, the former vice president, with a mask and also taking Trump to task about the whole question of were Russians paying terrorists in Afghanistan to kill Americans and why do we care. We saw Karl Rove, the famous Republican operative, and Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, say publicly, you're on course to lose.

    Now, we don't want to make too much of this because Trump is still very popular with Republicans, slightly less so than he was and he's not at about 96 percent like he says, but he is doing fine.

    But if you see this continuing, if Trump continues to falter in the polls, what you see, what you will likely see is Senate Republican candidates distancing themselves and making the argument that Trump will lose. You need us to protect your interest in the Senate. That's going to be something to keep a very sharp eye on as we move into the fall.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Speaking of the fall, the situations with the polls in the middle of a pandemic that doesn't seem to be going away, how are people going to be able to cast their ballots?

    Because in the last couple of weeks, we've also seen the president almost lay the groundwork for a case for fraud, saying, hey, the mail-in ballot system doesn't function. There's fraud everywhere.

    Again, there's no evidence to substantiate that. But he's making that case. And yet we still have to go to the polls, whether that's in person or by mail.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    And look, this is frankly baffling to try to tease out the president's argument. He says absentee voting is fine, but mail-in ballots are rife with fraud. There is no difference. Once you go to exclusive absentee balloting, which 34 states have there is no distinction at all. Indeed, five states have only balloting by mail in a normal situation, this wouldn't even be a political issue.

    We just saw in Kentucky where the Democratic governor and the Republican secretary of state, agreed on a big increase in absentee voting and they set a record. The problem is that it takes time to ramp this up.

    And if a pandemic is still with us and millions of voters are uneasy about going to the polls, that could have a huge impact if Republican-controlled legislatures follow the president's lead and don't permit an expansion. We also should put on the table the fact that while normally or in other years this has not been a political issue more Biden voters say they are uneasy about going to the polls than Trump voters. So you can see how that could have a political impact.

    But the idea that you can draw a sharp distinction between absentee balloting, which the president does, and 30 percent of Florida voters have done it, and mail-in ballots. I just have to say, it is as lawyers like to say, it is a distinction without a difference.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Jeff Greenfield joining us from Santa Barbara, California. Thanks so much.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Good to see you, Hari.

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