NEW YORK – President Donald Trump is adamant that he wants another four years in office. It's less clear what he would do with them.
The Republican president repeatedly assailed Democratic rival Joe Biden during a rambling, hourlong Rose Garden news conference Tuesday that doubled as a reelection rally. But he offered few clues about what he would do if he remains in the White House. He similarly stammered through an interview last month when pressed by a friendly TV host to talk about what a second term would look like.
With the election less than four months away, Trump's focus is more on winning than on how he would govern. He's offered no substantive policy proposal, opting instead for heated rhetoric on race, crime and socialism aimed at his most loyal supporters. Biden, meanwhile, is releasing a growing number of proposals touching on topics including trade and climate change.
Trump is reshaping his campaign, announcing Wednesday that veteran GOP operative Bill Stepien will replace Brad Parscale as campaign manager. But it's unlikely the move will change Trump's preference to focus more on messaging rather than a policy agenda. Some Republicans said that reflects the challenge of asking voters for another term amid overlapping public health and economic crises.
“During a reelection campaign, you basically are making the argument that the status quo is really good and that the challenger is insufficient to do the job. And for more than three years, he could credibly make that argument about the economy,” said Mike DuHaime, senior adviser to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's 2016 presidential campaign.
“The problem comes when the status quo isn’t good and there is hard data — both on the economy and with COVID — that shows that,” DuHaime said, referring to the coronavirus. “That makes it much harder to make an argument about the next four years.”
Still, the question of what to do with four years in the White House is one of the most basic elements of a presidential campaign — even for an incumbent. Trump's challenge became apparent late last month when he struggled to answer the question during an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel.
“You know the story, riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady and I say, ‘This is great,’ but I didn’t know very many people in Washington. It wasn’t my thing. I was from Manhattan,” Trump said as part of his answer, before eventually calling John Bolton, his former national security adviser, an “idiot.”