Is Trump giving up?

New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat thinks so. Here is a taste of his recent column:

Start with his re-election messaging, to the extent that you can discern such a thing. In 2016, Trump’s campaign was shambolic and punctuated by self-inflicted disasters, but his message against Hillary Clinton, like his message against the Republican establishment in the primaries, had a simplicity and consistency: She supported bad trade deals; she supported stupid wars; she sold the country out to special interests and foreign governments; vote for her and you get more closed factories, more soldiers dead or crippled, more illegal immigration, more power to Wall Street and Washington, D.C.

In 2020, on the other hand, the Trump campaign has been stuck toggling back and forth between two very different narratives. One seeks to replay the last campaign, portraying Joe Biden as the embodiment of a failed establishment (hence all the references to his 47 years in Washington) who will sell out American interests to China as soon as he’s back in power (hence the attempts to elevate Hunter Biden’s influence-peddling).

But the other narrative goes after Biden as though the Democrats had actually nominated Bernie Sanders, insisting that his advancing age makes him a decrepit vessel for the radical left, a stalking horse not just for Kamala Harris but also for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and antifa.

A truly brilliant campaigner might be able to weave these two narratives together, but on the lips of Donald Trump their contradictions are evident. The resulting incoherence just feeds his tendency to return to old grudges and very online grievances, as though he’s running for the presidency of talk radio or his own Twitter feed. Without Steve Bannon to keep him grounded or Clinton to keep him focused, he’s making a closing “argument” that’s indistinguishable from a sales pitch for a TV show or a newsletter — suggesting that even more than four years ago, the president assumes he’ll be in the media business as soon as the election returns come in.

Read the entire piece here.