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Playing the Numbers

Electoral College map.
Electoral College map showing number of votes allocated to each state based on 2010 Census.

If there’s one thing Donald Trump both loves, and loves to hate, it’s numbers. Poll numbers, economic numbers, stock market numbers and, of course, crowd size numbers. When it comes to numbers, Trump is quick to embrace the positive while assigning blame to the negative. Trump is absolutely obsessed with numbers.

Crowd Size

Since his first day in office, Trump twisted, manipulated and outright lied about the size of the crowd that attended his inauguration. He sent out his hapless press secretary, Sean Spicer, to forcefully insist this was a fact, despite numbers to the contrary. It was during this kerfuffle that White House harpie Kellyanne Conway coined the term alternative facts to describe the disparities in the real and imagined numbers related to crowd size.

Of course, Trump always touts his numbers when it comes to the size of his crowds. His rallies draw huge, adoring crowds, but that doesn’t stop Trump from bragging that there were even more that were turned away. He thrives on the energy he gets from a crowd and it allows him to believe he’s doing well, even if a majority of the country believes the contrary.

Trump feeds off the energy he gets from his rallies which allows him to ignore the latest crisis and provide him with the illusion that he is popular with a majority of Americans.


When it comes to his popularity, Trump will embrace positive numbers, while calling those that show him with unfavorable numbers “Fake News”, his favorite mantra. When a recent poll showed him losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, the Trump campaign filed a cease and desist order and demanded the poll’s originator, CNN, issue Trump an apology.

So, what does a campaign do with a notoriously hot-headed president and the Twittersphere just isn’t buying it? Why, it goes out and hires the Pollyanna of pollsters, McLaughlin & Associates. Using these rosy numbers, the campaign is able to once again, put the monster back in the cage by providing Trump with an alternative to his deeply negative numbers.

While Trump does indeed have tremendous support from Republicans, topping out at 94 percent at one point, it is the support of independents, who actually handed him his electoral college victory, that will once again be the key to his reelection hopes in 2020. According to Gallup polling, Trump has never enjoyed any higher than a low 40 percent approval rating among this highly important demographic.

The Economy

Until the coronavirus pandemic hit, Trump enjoyed his highest approval ratings on his handling of the economy. His pro-business, anti-regulation, America First approach was highly popular with big business. A booming stock market was something Trump was only too happy to claim credit for, despite the fact the market was on an eleven-year high, while Trump was only in office for three of those years.

When a questionable May jobs report sent the stock market soaring briefly again, the Trump campaign wasted no time in declaring the Great American Comeback had begun. They flooded the airwaves with the claim 2.5 million jobs had been “created” while 30 million Americans were still collecting unemployment.

The Coronavirus

While Trump can’t be blamed for the coronavirus, any more than W could be blamed for Hurricane Katrina, it is their responses to these catastrophic events that has drawn criticism. Initially, Trump tried to claim rosy numbers by stating the initial 15 cases would soon be down to zero, then wanting to refuse entry to an American port to a cruise ship carrying those infected with the virus so coronavirus cases wouldn’t double, and then the outlandish claim that he was “doing a very good job” after 100,000 American deaths had been reported.

Supporters blame increased testing for the rise in coronavirus cases despite the continued rise in deaths from the illness. Others argue that the number of actual cases was being kept artificially low due to under reporting of cases, particularly in nursing homes where the causes of death are being attributed to anything other than the coronavirus.

Trump has also thrown around numbers related to foreign aid and international organizations such as the UN, WHO and NATO because it suits his “America First” agenda.

While there are indeed a lot of numbers to consider, the most important one is 270. That’s the number of Electoral College votes Trump needs to win a second term.

And right now, that’s the only number that matters.

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