Donald Trump attending briefing on coronavirus.Photo: Donald Trump’s Facebook page
Despite presiding over the most scandal-ridden administration in modern times, Donald Trump has somehow managed to survive. Until the coronavirus epidemic took over, his chances of re-election looked remarkably strong. He had a solid core of voters who stand by him through the worst, and as long as the economy was strong, enough voters seemed likely to overlook Trump’s excesses come November.
All that has changed in the past two weeks. Trump’s handling of the pandemic has been disastrous. He frittered away valuable lead time and still refuses to marshal all of the federal government’s power against the virus.
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What has hit Trump particularly hard is the stock market crashing. Throughout his term, he has touted the market as the sign of his economic genius. Now when Trump opens his mouth, he literally detracts from the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
So, Trump’s disastrous performance should be reflected in the polls, right?
The first poll is out that measures what Americans think of how Trump is handling the public health crisis. Amazingly, a majority of Americans — 55 percent — approve of the job Trump is doing.
Those numbers may change as the severity of the upcoming financial disaster becomes clear – meanwhile, Republicans are already trying to turn Trump’s handling of the epidemic to their advantage.
This strategy is straight from their past playbook. There’s the blatant racism, with Trump’s insistence on calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” There’s the routine attacks on reporters for being “nasty,” and – there’s the Trump-patented denial of reality.
Already, Trump and his supporters are trying to portray Trump as a wartime president. They picture Trump as Churchill leading Britain through World War II, even though to date Trump has acted more like Neville Chamberlain.
Trump also has an advantage–at least temporarily–in that no one is paying attention to the presidential campaign. Indeed, if the epidemic extends into the fall, calls to postpone the election itself could grow. Trump would like nothing more than to suspend the election indefiinitely and declare himself president for life.
By now, everyone should know that Trump should never be counted out. He has a feral impulse for self-preservation at whatever cost. But if the economy hasn’t recovered by Election Day, nothing he can do might save him. After all his huge scandals, Trump could finally be defeated by a microbe.