Flailing Trump campaign can't shake fixation with its floating fans

When an incumbent president is reduced to effectively saying, "I may be losing among voters, but I'm excelling among boat owners," there's a problem.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C., on March 2, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP file
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By Steve Benen

In any election, there are a variety of metrics campaigns will focus on to predict success. Some focus on polls and fundraising. Others might examine on-the-ground operations and crowd sizes. Occasionally, operatives will point to yard signs and social media.

But I think I can safely say no political operation has ever focused so heavily on boats -- until now.

As we recently discussed, Donald Trump brought this up on July 10, apparently for the first time:

"We are doing great. You see the boaters out there -- thousands and thousands of boats every weekend and we appreciate it. But nobody has seen anything like it -- ever."

About a week later, he emphasized the same line during a White House event.

"You look at the Intracostal in Florida. You look at the lakes. You see thousands of boats with Trump signs, American signs."

A day later, The Daily Beast reported that the president “has delighted in advisers showing him boater photos and videos that have bubbled up on social media. And during strategy sessions in the past two months, he’s told officials to keep bringing him more and to push out the content on their own accounts, as well.”

Two days after that, the Trump campaign chided Joe Biden for not having boat parades in his honor. Yesterday, the president's team was at it again, declaring via Twitter, "There has NEVER been a boat parade for Joe Biden!"

It's worth emphasizing that there's a kernel of truth to the boast: in recent weeks, many Trump-supporting boaters have made their affection for the president clear in semi-organized flotillas. As best as I can tell, the Delaware Democrat doesn't have anything comparable.

What's less clear is why anyone should care. When an incumbent president is reduced to effectively saying, "I may be losing among voters, but I'm excelling among boat owners," it suggests he can find no other reassuring metrics.

Update: As if on cue, Trump once again talked up "thousands of boats" today as proof of his candidacy's strength.