Donald Trump has sent US news networks on a wild chase; they’re beaming the precise footage Trump wants voters to see and fear ahead of midterm elections

New York: America’s news networks are running out of things to hash over and are instead warming up leftovers that Donald Trump serves up on his Twitter handle and via his army of White House loyalists. With less than 15 days to go before the 2018 midterms which will decide control over the two chambers of US Congress (House and Senate), Donald Trump continues to drive the agenda as his ratings soar and he frames the race, once again, in terms of race, immigration and jobs - his winning themes in 2016.

Using racially charged language, the Trump stump for this election cycle goes something like this: Elect Democrats and you'll have mob rule, a socialist takeover and maybe even terrorists marching on the US border.

 Donald Trump has sent US news networks on a wild chase; they’re beaming the precise footage Trump wants voters to see and fear ahead of midterm elections

File photo of US president Donald Trump. Reuters

From breakfast shows to late night prime-time, television pundits are talking up an alphabet soup of headlines - all scripted by Trump where the Opposition comes away looking like it doesn't have an agenda of its own; all it does is lead an anti-Trump gabfest. In the middle of all this whataboutery, Donald Trump's A team is whipping out reports at top speed to align with Trump’s campaign themes and lend both intellectual heft and data to Trump’s flame throwing on immigration, jobs and anything else he chooses. It’s a classic 1-2 maneuvre, it’s only getting smoother with time. In getting after what they call Donald Trump's "lies", most of the left leaning networks have themselves stopped talking about issues.

Bright and early on Tuesday morning, a formidable pack of economy specialists conducted an hour-long background briefing on the “the opportunity cost of socialism” at a time when they assess that “detailed policy proposals from self-declared socialists are gaining support in Congress and among much of the younger electorate.”

Interesting that the report talks of voters right up front instead of making it seem like a purely academic exercise. This kind of methodical yet bare-knuckle approach to government statements has become a signature of the White House over the past year or so.

Trump has always preferred one pagers, has openly slammed long reports as “ridiculous” and shown his irritation often. But these reports, when they act as force multipliers to Trump’s own Twitter rants, make for a heady combination of political craft and persuasive ability.

Take the tweet below, for instance. In reponse to many of these Trumpisms, CNN has been running wall to wall coverage on how the US President is "spreading lies" and spooking the American public ahead of the election.

Trump claimed there were Middle Easterners in the migrant caravan and networks go chasing the story to Mexico and beyond to prove there aren’t any Middle Easterners. What do viewers get? Powerful visuals of the 7,000 or more ragged and thirsty folks risking all they have to trudge thousands of miles to America.

Trump says this proves America’s immigration laws are bad. “Yes, of course they’re horrible”, agree voters everywhere. There’s no ambiguity there. Trump now owns this issue the way no other President has in several years and armies of news camera crews at the border are only helping Trump's narrative.

Within hours of the “socialism” briefing, the White House whipped out another report to accompany Trump’s border security claims.

“As a result of Democrat-supported loopholes in our federal laws, most illegal immigrant families and minors from Central America who arrive unlawfully at the border cannot be detained together or removed together, only released”, said Trump.

Here are the numbers White House supplied: "We have seen a record-shattering surge in the arrival of family units, with more than 161,000 family unit apprehensions and inadmissibles in fiscal year (FY) 2018. This historic surge was 42 percent higher than any previous year on record. In the last three months, family unit apprehensions made up the highest percentage of total apprehensions in history. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors continue to stream across our borders. Unaccompanied minor apprehensions and inadmissibles totaled 58,660 in FY 2018, an increase of nearly 10,000, or approximately 20 percent, compared to FY 2017."

Something’s clearly working, and just in time for the 6 November election. Trump is posting some of the best job approval numbers of his presidency. His approval rating is currently 43.1 - 47 % according to a variety of polls but in any case, it’s the highest it’s been since March 2017.

For those who’re saying this doesn’t matter because Republicans are all set to lose the House, Trump has his answers ready - get ready for the big election in 2020, this one wasn’t about me, it was about all these other people who’ve messed up.

In midterms, American voters have historically tended to seek a balance of national political power, even if they like the president. Secondly, the president’s approval ratings and the House results don’t typically travel in the same direction.

History books also tell us Republicans are going to lose the House, the same way history whispered to us that Donald Trump wouldn't win the presidency.

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Updated Date: Oct 24, 2018 04:37:50 IST