There’s trouble brewing for President Trump in Florida. Earlier this year the state seemed out of reach for Democrats. But the must-win state which he carried in 2016, is home to Mar-A-Lago, and which elected Republican Ron DeSantis governor in 2018 may now be vulnerable.
According to publicly available data, registered Republicans in Florida have requested at least 320,000 fewer absentee ballots than in 2016. President Trump doesn’t have that much margin for error in a state he won by only 103,000 votes—especially in a year when older voters may be reluctant to go to the polls for fear of contracting COVID-19.
There are also warning signs coming out of bellwether Arizona, another must-win state. A poll commissioned by September Group and conducted between May 9-11 shows President Trump trailing Joe Biden by 7 points (50-43 percent). Trump won Arizona by 3.5 percent in 2016.
So how can President Trump—or any Republican—win? The same poll offers an answer. It asked likely voters if they would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who had a plan “to make the United States more self-sufficient and to make sure more of the food, energy, and medicine” is produced in America. The results were remarkable. Seventy-five percent said yes, including 88 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of independents, and 64 percent of Democrats. And the issue polls slightly better with women than men (77 percent vs. 73 percent) making it an opportunity for Republicans to close the gender gap.
Republicans take note: voters across the political spectrum have woken up to the dangers of relying on foreign supply chains for critical products. There is a growing realization that national security includes not just military technology but also self-sufficiency in the basic necessities of life.
Over the past few decades, China has taken over critical elements of the supply chain supporting our healthcare and they’re using that power against us when we’re most vulnerable. By taking American jobs and stealing American technology, China has stolen the future of our middle class. That’s unacceptable and the pandemic has laid all of this bare. And it raises the vital question: how rich, really, is a country that can’t supply its most basic needs in a crisis?
No American wants the country beholden to China especially as dependence, if not reversed, leads to subservience. Take just one sobering statistic: 90 percent of antibiotics used in the United States are made in China. In the same vein, the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Upjohn moved the global headquarters of its generic drugs business to Shanghai just last year. And who, by now, doesn’t know that China dominates the trade in personal protective equipment (“PPE”) that healthcare workers cannot do without?
What the polling shows is that a large majority of people want to vote for candidates who are ready to take it all back and rebuild a more resilient economy. President Trump would find much support, even from voters who may have been hostile to him, if he lays out a plan to make America secure in those three critical areas identified in the polling. And with over 36 million Americans out of work, the high-paying jobs such moves would create would be very welcome.
A good way to start what surely will be a years-long process of rebuilding manufacturing capacity and supply chains would be to demonstrate conviction and secure near-term positive effects on employment and the broader economy with an executive order; one that clearly defines the goal and contains “Buy American” mandates for products in each of the three areas defined as vital to our national security and prosperity. It would provide financial support for companies to move their supply chains back to the United States much like Japan is now doing. And in announcing the order, President Trump would make clear that Americans will not be vassals of Xi Jinping and the Chinese dictatorship.
The EO would be accompanied by a legislative agenda much like the 1994 Contract With America, which might be called the Secure America For Everyone Act (“SAFE Act”). It would be at the heart of the president’s re-election campaign and would codify into law the things mandated by the EO so that they could not easily be overturned by a future president more aligned with Chinese interests.
And with that, President Trump owns the issue. By seizing the initiative on this particular issue he will be doing the right thing for the country and will be forcing his enemies to fight on his terms.
Republicans running for Senate and Congress could follow his lead. In fact, it is so important and so powerful, they should take up this issue regardless. Polling shows that jobs and the economy have quickly become leading issues for voters. For candidates realizing that the pandemic has scrambled the campaign plans they had in January and wondering how to respond, what to run on, how to message, how to draw contrasts with their opponents, and, most all, how to do right by the country, this is it.
It’s simple: Americans want security and prosperity. Pursuing self-sufficiency in food, energy, and medicine gives them both.