2020 Race Reset? Trump acceptance speech marks new phase, as GOP looks for convention bounce

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When President Trump concludes his Republican National Convention speech accepting the party nomination on Thursday night, a new phase of the presidential campaign will begin — a race that started more than three years ago, when John Delaney declared his ill-fated candidacy, will embark on a 68-day sprint to the finish line amid riots, an economic crisis and a pandemic that will shape an election unlikely to look like any before.Republicans, coming out of the convention, hope that their efforts to frame Joe Biden as a friend of radicals and rioters will resonate with voters more than did the Democrats’ message — that Biden is the virtuous solution to an immoral Trump presidency. Some observers believe the RNC has so far been successful in that mission.”So how are Republicans using this convention to persuade voters? Half of the battle is finding the right enemy. In this case, that requires replacing Joe Biden with an axis of evil: the left, radical protesters, and the media,” Matt Lewis of The Daily Beast wrote. He called the convention’s messaging on that issue “stunningly effective.”And for those who recoil at Trump’s governing style, foul mouth and personal behavior and who could have been convinced by the Democrats’ message last week, Lewis said: “You have now been given permission—consider the on-air naturalization ceremony or, about an hour before that, the on-air pardon for the African-American bank robber who turned his life around—to believe that Trump isn’t such a bad guy after all.”BIDEN’S POLICY AGENDA TAKES BACKSEAT AT DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION AS SPEAKERS HAMMER TRUMP ON CHARACTERAs for the “radical protesters” mentioned, Republicans appear to believe Americans’ distaste for the riots, and Democratic mayors and governors who they say have failed to stop them, can propel a late surge in the polls as Election Day nears.Biden did in fact condemn the violence not just this week but also in May and early June. But Democrats nevertheless have to some extent hitched their political wagon to the anti-police-brutality, anti-racism movement that in some cases has seen peaceful protests escalate into riots involving more militant anti-police, anarchist actors. ActBlue, an online platform for Democratic causes, saw its donations more than double between May 28 and June 26, the first month of the unrest following the death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.A number of Joe Biden staffers and vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris even donated to and promoted a bail fund that was helping spring protesters in Minneapolis during the height of the Floyd riots. That bail fund later paid to free a twice-convicted rapist who was arrested again on sexual assault charges, and an accused murderer, a fact the Trump campaign has been quick to call attention to.AMID UNREST, BLACK LIVES MATTER AND OTHER SOCIAL JUSTICE GROUPS SEE FUNDRAISING WINDFALLAnd during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) there was barely any mention, let alone condemnation, of the violence in the streets as Democrats capitalized on the political force of the Black Lives Matter movement.That oversight is hurting Democrats, according to some pundits, as Americans wince at images of small businesses burning and people minding their own business at restaurants being hounded by mobs until they comply with a demand to show a political gesture. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who will speak at the RNC Thursday, said the fact the RNC is addressing the violence will help their “credibility” with voters in comparison with Democrats.This has led to concern among some on the left, including Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich.”I was a person four years ago that warned that Donald Trump could win. And I have flagged this issue two months ago, because I could see people trying to use it as a wedge issue and I think it’s very important that Democrats not let that happen,” Dingell told Fox News Thursday. “We have Kenosha which is on fire because another Black man was shot in the back in front of his three children… We have to deal with it. But that does not mean that we support our anarchy or destruction, looting and all these things that people are saying from the podium at the Republican convention.””This is a blind spot for Democrats. I think that Democrats are ignoring this problem or hoping that it will go away,” CNN’s Don Lemon said Tuesday night. “The rioting has to stop… It’s showing up in the polling. It’s showing up in focus groups. It is the only thing right now that is sticking.”If Republicans manage to get a polling bump out of their convention and its messaging on the riots, it will be something that polls so far indicate Democrats may not have gotten out of theirs.CNN’S DON LEMON SAYS KENOSHA VIOLENCE HURTS DEMOCRATS: ‘THE RIOTING HAS TO STOP’Though there have been just a handful of national polls in the wake of the Democratic convention, the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average of polls has not shown any sort of bump for Biden, who maintains about a 7-percentage-point lead over Trump.Perhaps more troubling for Democrats, the RCP average actually shows Trump in better shape in some swing states right now than he was at this time in his 2016 battle against Hillary Clinton, even as he trails Biden.Biden leads Trump by 3.5 percentage points in Wisconsin. At the same time in 2016, Clinton led Trump 49.5% to 38% in the RCP average. Clinton led Trump by 6.5 percentage points in Wisconsin on Election Day 2016. Trump won.Pennsylvania: Biden is leading by 5.8 percentage points, per RCP. At the same time in 2016, Clinton led Trump 49% to 39.8%. Her edge was 2.1 percentage points in Pennsylvania on Election Day. Trump won.BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTESTERS IN DC SEEN BERATING DINERS, DEMANDING THEY RAISE FISTS, IN VIRAL VIDEOMichigan: Biden is leading Trump by 7 percentage points, per RCP. At the same time in 2016, Clinton led by 9 percentage points. Her edge was 3.6 percentage points in Michigan on Election Day. Trump, again, won by a very small margin.One notable exception is Florida, where Biden is slightly outperforming Clinton in the RCP average relative to the same time in 2016. One potential cause for this is Biden’s better standing among older people, who are one of Republicans’ bread-and-butter demographics and were one of the driving forces behind Trump’s 2016 win.The current race, of course, is different. Trump has the incumbency advantage and a controversial record to defend, especially on the pandemic. But the numbers serve as a reminder that a presidential race can turn quickly and to not dismiss Trump and his voters — some of whom may be “secret Trump voters” who won’t share their support for the president with others, let alone pollsters.CHRIS WALLACE CALLS PENCE RNC SPEECH ‘WELL-CRAFTED’ AND ‘VERY EFFECTIVE’ ATTACK ON BIDEN RECORDRepublicans are also transparently honing their messaging toward the kind of suburban voters who powered Democrats’ 2018 midterm victories. Trump himself made a move in that direction on actual policy in late July, rolling back an Obama-era rule that was ostensibly aimed at decreasing racial segregation in suburbs but that Trump said increased crime rates and lowered housing prices for people who “worked all their lives to get into a community.””The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey (sic) Booker in charge!””Businesses and people’s livelihoods are being destroyed by anarchists, yet Democrats have no response,” added Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. “Many of them have supported dangerous ideas such as defunding the police. Voters in the suburbs want to feel safe, Biden would be a disaster, leading to unsafe communities and a weakened law enforcement.”And the McCloskeys, the couple who flashed guns at protesters they said had trespassed into their private community, were prominently featured at the RNC. The McCloskeys have become the case-in-point for Republicans of fears that Democrats would allow rioting and unrest to spill out from cities and into suburbs (all of the violence and unrest of recent months, of course, has happened under Trump).The couple echoed a claim from Trump that Biden would “abolish suburbs,” though the claim is an exaggeration of Biden’s stance simply supporting the Obama housing regulation that Trump revoked.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPAnd Vice President Pence, in his speech Wednesday, said frankly that Americans shouldn’t trust Democrats to put a stop to the violence in the streets in a message that “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace called “well-crafted” and “very effective.””Last week, Joe Biden did not say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country. So let me be clear. The violence must stop, whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha, too many heroes have died defending our freedom to see Americans strike each other down,” Pence said.He added: “The hard truth is you will not be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”Fox News’ Brian Flood, Marisa Schultz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.