COVID-19 Threatens to Derail Trump’s Reelection Prospects

President Trump’s reelection prospects have become much more dicey in recent weeks, according to recent reports about a pair of internal polls from his campaign and the Republican National Committee. 

In a series of calls and meetings from April 22 to 24, the president spoke with campaign manager Brad Parscale, White House senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, among other officials. They presented Trump with internal polling that showed him falling behind former vice president Joe Biden in key swing states over the prior several weeks.

Obvious external factors outside of Trump’s control like the spread of the coronavirus and the ensuing economic downturn have no doubt contributed to the dip in support, aides said. But according to reports from the Washington Post and the New York Times, advisers also blamed the falling poll numbers on the president’s daily coronavirus briefings and urged him to scale back the number of briefings or stop taking questions. 

The latest uproar from such briefings happened when Trump suggested that injecting bleach or other disinfectants could help kill the novel virus, causing his administration to scramble to contain the damage.

The president was reportedly infuriated by the results and disputed them, saying people “love” the briefings and think he is “fighting for them.” However he did not hold any briefings the following weekend and took fewer questions over the next week.

Even though large campaign rallies and events are still off the table, aides say they hope to get the president traveling outside of Washington soon, where he is more in his element, with potential stops in Arizona and Ohio. They also hope to hold meetings with governors in the Oval Office and participate in events focused on stabilizing and revitalizing the economy, activities that could project a stronger image of a president leading the nation through a crisis.

Public polls confirm slipping support for Trump

A number of public polls corroborate reports about the Trump campaign’s internal polling. A recent Quinnipiac University poll, for instance, found Biden leading Trump 46 to 42 percent in Florida, and a recent Fox News poll found Biden with an even larger lead, 49 to 41 percent, in Michigan. 

On a national level, a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that while 44 percent of Americans approve of the president’s handling of the coronavirus (similar to past polls), his disapproval rating rose six points from 49 to 55 percent. Unsurprisingly, responses differed starkly by party, with nearly nine out of ten Democrats disapproving Trump’s coronavirus response and a similar margin of Republicans supporting him. Where it gets challenging for the president is the response of independents, which disapprove 58 to 40 percent. 

Despite the fact that the economy has suffered its worst quarterly contraction since 2008, with GDP projected to contract at a scale not seen since the Great Depression, half of the poll’s respondents approved of Trump’s handling of the economy. 

The poll also found favorable figures for Biden when Americans were asked who they trust more to handle the coronavirus (55 percent to Trump’s 40 percent) and the economy (51 versus 44 percent).

This contrasts with polls from the end of March that found voters roughly split over who they trusted to handle the coronavirus outbreak — and Trump leading in trust to handle the economy 50 to 42 percent.

Underscoring the concerns of Trump’s aides about his coronavirus briefings, a full third of the poll’s respondents said the coronavirus will be either a major or minor factor in deciding who they vote for. This suggests that Americans’ perception of Trump’s handling of the pandemic will be a decisive factor in the election.

The poll was conducted from April 21 to 26 and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Grassroots Pulse covers public policy and political issues aimed at engaging highly-active policy makers, donors, and grassroots leaders at the forefront of the political process in America today.

Image Credit: Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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