Donald Trump's "October surprise" has arrived and is now fully evident as Covid-19 cases continue to increase and passage of a new relief package appears to be doomed -- at least until after the election.
However, the surprise is not some new scandal about Joe Biden, although Trump is trying to gin one up. It's not something that will doom Biden's election. It could well be the other way around.
So, what is it?
It's the fact that Trump's vaunted stock market plunged again yesterday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping another 943 points, a decline of almost 9 percent since September 2, blowing a huge hole in Trump's major reason supporting his reelection -- a strong economy.
Today, the market rebounded modestly, some 340 points, on news that the latest quarterly economic report from the Fed showed positive gains. Here's what Trump said about that:
So, Trump continues to brag about the economy and claims that if he wins, there will be a boom like never before in 2021, but if Joe Biden wins, we are all in for a "super depression."
That's because, says Trump, "Sleepy Joe" will emerge from his basement hideaway and lock things down again.
“This election is a choice between a Trump super recovery and a Biden — in my opinion, this is going to happen; I hate to say it — depression,” Trump said at an Ohio rally this week. “You’re going to have a depression. And your 401(k)s. Does anybody have a 401(k)? Throw them away. They’re not going to be worth — It’s a choice between a boom and a lockdown.”
Yesterday in Wisconsin he said the same thing. He promised that a vaccine is on its way, that "we are rounding the corner", and everything will return to normal very soon. "Return to normal," he said. "That's what we want."
But, investors on Wall Street don't see that as real, which is why the market is heading south.
As I wrote here Monday, investors are realists and vote with their money. Today's gains are a far cry from the losses that have occurred over the past few weeks, largely because of the increased numbers of Covid-19 cases and the steadily climbing death count -- 8.93 million cases and 228,000 deaths as of today.
This Washington Post three-part series, "America's Pandemic," explores Trump's failed response to the pandemic that's caused so much suffering and so many deaths, despite decades of preparation in Washington.
All of that is playing havoc with Trump's chances at the polls, and election night could be very scary for him, indeed.
In Wisconsin, a battleground state that Trump carried narrowly in 2016, there is a strong surge in coronavirus cases and the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Biden's six point lead a month ago has ballooned to 17 points, 57 percent to 40 percent.
In Michigan, another key battleground state, voters favor Biden 51 percent to 44 percent, with his mishandling of the pandemic and lying about it a major reason.
When it comes to that, Biden is trusted more than Trump by double digits in both states, and large majorities are in favor of their states' mask requirements and restrictions on businesses and public gatherings. Trump, of course, has belittled all of that and criticized state officials for taking such action.
Pennsylvania is the third of that trio of battleground states that Trump must win to retain the presidency. If he loses the Keystone State, he will have a difficult time reaching the 270 electoral votes that he needs, the experts say. Polls have shown Biden with a steady lead there.
During a rally in Allentown, Trump said the only way he would lose Pennsylvania is through "massive fraud," as he repeated claims against mail-in voting in Philadelphia.
"We’re watching you very closely in Philadelphia," Trump said, adding without evidence: "A lot of bad things happen there with the counting of the votes."
That is a harbinger of what likely lies ahead of Biden wins, but in less than a landslide -- court challenges that could ultimately land in the lap of the U.S. Supreme Court. And Trump's newly appointed Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, will be there to provide a 6-3 margin of victory. At least, that's how Trump sees it and why he was so determined to push her nomination through the Senate before the election.
Trump's defeat must be decisive, unquestionable, and certain. Otherwise, we are in for a tough time in the weeks and, perhaps months, following the election.