IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump turns to his playbook from four years ago, but 2020 isn't 2016

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again rally at Ocala International Airport in Ocala
President Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again rally at Ocala International Airport in Ocala, Fla on Oct. 16, 2020.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — With two weeks to go, President Trump and his allies have decided to close their campaign running their 2016 playbook.

Alleging his opponent is corrupt and criminal. Seizing on daily email dumps — with suspected ties to Russia. And reviving the “Lock her/him up” chants.

The problem for Trump: This isn’t 2016 — with 220,000 Americans killed by a pandemic, with millions out of work, and with a Democratic nominee who has a net-positive favorable/unfavorable rating (versus Hillary Clinton’s net-negative rating four years ago).

The other big difference from 2016 is Trump’s message. While he focused on Hillary Clinton and her emails four years ago, Trump also tapped into the grievances plenty of voters had about trade, immigration and a broken Washington.

But in 2020, the grievances Trump talks about are personal ones — not what voters outside the Trump/GOP base share.

“A lot of Republican consultants are frustrated because we want the president’s campaign to be laser-focused on the economy,” GOP political strategist David Kochel told the New York Times.

“Our base loves the stuff about Hunter Biden, laptops and Mayor Giuliani,” Kochel said. “But they’re already voting for Trump.”

More from the NBC/WSJ poll: GOP leads on the economy, trails on the coronavirus

Here’s the reason why Republican strategists like Kochel want Trump & Co. to focus more on the economy: The GOP is leading on the issue, while it’s trailing on the coronavirus, health care and race relations.

Here are the numbers from last week’s NBC News/WSJ poll on which party better handles each issue among registered voters:

  • Economy: R+13 (46 percent to 33 percent)
  • Crime: R+12 (41 percent to 29 percent)
  • Immigration: D+6 (44 percent to 38 percent)
  • Coronavirus: D+17 (45 percent to 28 percent)
  • Health care: D+18 (49 percent to 31 percent)
  • Race relations: D+19 (47 percent to 28 percent)
  • Climate change: D+27 (49 percent to 22 percent)

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

8,192,439: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 163,276 more than Friday morning.)

220,757: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,836 more than Friday morning.)

124.79 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

40 million: The number of coronavirus cases around the world.

Only 18: The number of positive tests out of more than 10,000 conducted of New York City public school students and staff.

4.9 percent: The surge in the Chinese economy for the July-September quarter

More than $1.8 million: The money raised by Democrat Jon Ossoff after Republican rival David Perdue appeared to deliberately mispronounce Kamala Harris’s name at a rally.

At least 25,993,083: The number of Americans who have already voted, either by mail or early in-person voting, according to TargetSmart and NBC.

2020 Vision: He blinded me with science

President Trump, Joe Biden and Anthony Fauci all gave different takes on science during the pandemic this weekend.

Here was Trump during a rally in Nevada: “[Biden] He will listen to the scientists. If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression. Instead we're like a rocket ship.”

During his own rally in North Carolina, Biden repeated his line that he, unlike Trump, will choose “science over fiction”, and said Trump “refuses to follow the science.”

And Anthony Fauci, in an interview with “60 Minutes,” said that he doesn’t think Trump is anti-science, but views certain science-based suggestions, like masks, as weak.

“I think deep down, he believes in science. If he didn't, he would not have entrusted his health to the very competent physicians at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center,” Fauci said.

He added, “[Trump] sometimes equates wearing a mask with weakness.”

On the campaign trail today

President Trump holds rallies in Arizona, hitting Prescott and Tucson. Mike Pence stumps in Maine and Pennsylvania. Kamala Harris is in Florida.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

In today’s Ad Watch, Jaime Harrison is firing up the tried-and-true — yet controversial — tactic of trying to siphon away votes from an opponent to a third-party candidate.

Harrison’s new spot, which began to air over the weekend, tries to push Republicans away from Sen. Lindsey Graham (who, according to the ad’s narrator, has “changed after 25 years in Washington), in favor of the Constitution Party candidate, Bill Bledsoe. The ad’s narrator reminds voters that Bledsoe is against gun control and abortions, two selling points to conservatives dressed up as attacks.

It’s unclear if it will work — Bledsoe has dropped out and endorsed Graham, although his name will still be on ballots. But it’s a reminder of the under-the-radar ways candidates can attempt to sway a few votes in a tight race.

The Lid: Compare and contrast

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we noted why Joe Biden’s 2020 lead in the polls is different than Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s a look at the two candidates’ dueling messages on coronavirus again last night.

Here’s what’s different — and the same — between this time in the 2016 contest and now.

The Washington Post examines all of the dysfunction inside the White House’s coronavirus task force.

Gretchen Whitmer says that Trump continues to fuel “domestic terrorism” with his rhetoric.

A federal judge struck down the Trump administration’s attempts to slash food stamps.

Who would Biden’s Secretary of State be?

Politico checks in on the race in NE-2.

The Michigan Senate race is tighter than many Democrats expected.