In recent days, the President has accused Democratic nominee Joe Biden of being mentally "shot" and "on drugs," and implied that the 77-year-old will not be fit to serve within a month of taking office -- a crude attack on a rival only three years his elder. His disparagement of Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris has taken an increasingly racist and sexist tone
. And during a riotous campaign swing, he claimed Democrats generally want to "lock law-abiding Americans in their homes."
Trump is also escalating false claims that the election will be rigged, claiming that mail-in voting is "unconstitutional" — an outright lie. And he's resorting to ever-more inflammatory rhetoric to scare up the votes of White suburbanites: "Does anybody want to have somebody from Antifa as a member, as a resident of your suburb? I don't think so," Trump said Thursday, conjuring a fantasy of picket-fenced suburbs under invasion.
What is he up to? Of course, Trump loves saying outrageous things to get a rise from crowds. But he also needs to win over more voters than the typical 42% or so who think he's doing a great job. And his turn toward the unhinged reveals a huge bet at the center of his reelection bid.
Portraying America as a land in flames and inciting racial divides may not win the moderate middle, but the Trump campaign believes there could be millions of Americans who quietly identify with his tribalism and extreme rhetoric -- and who will show up to vote in November instead of taking a pass as normal. It's a long shot, but if they are right, all the polls showing Biden as the frontrunner
could be shown to have made false assumptions about the electorate.
We'll find out in 50 days.
'Now I can be really vicious'
Despite his flame-thrower rhetoric, Trump says it's Democrats who've crossed the line. On the campaign trail this weekend, the President complained that Democrats had been unfair to him by seizing on his reported remarks that US war dead in France were "losers" and "suckers." "Pathetic Joe, he's a pathetic human being to allow that to happen," Trump said at a rally in Nevada Saturday night, concluding: "Now I can be really vicious."
Spot the difference
On Sunday, Trump held his first fully indoor rally in months
-- a choice expected to violate the state of Nevada's coronavirus restrictions on large gatherings.