Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Politico's Nancy Cook writes this, but I don't believe it:
President Donald Trump’s political fate now hinges on a simple premise: Everybody who needs a coronavirus test must be able to get a test.
I don't believe it for a simple reason: Trump's poll numbers may be declining, but they're still slightly better than they were for most of his presidency. Right now, in the Real Clear Politics average, Trump's disapproval exceeds his approval by 5.3 points. Between March 19, 2017, and February 17, 2020, that number never dipped below 6. It was frequently in double digits. A similar pattern is seen in the FiveThirtyEight average. It may be the case that Trump is headed back down to pre-COVID-19 (and pre-impeachment) levels, but I'm going to make the contrarian prediction that his approval rating won't drop below the low 40s, no matter how much he screws up or how bad the death toll and economic downturn become.

It pleases me, though, that Republican insiders disagree, according to Cook.
“If the testing does not get sorted out as soon as possible, it will be another nail in an almost closed coffin,” said one Republican close to the White House who argued messaging alone cannot solve the political challenge the pandemic presents for Trump.
Nevertheless, it appears that messaging is all the Trump team cares about (as usual).
The president and his team in the White House are rushing to counter perceptions and develop a coherent message about the nation’s ability to test Americans for the coronavirus quickly and broadly, a prerequisite governors and business leaders have outlined to successfully get the economy back on track.
The message is, as always, that Trump is perfect, any problems are other people's fault, and amazingly positive things will happen very, very soon.
“We are moving very rapidly,” Trump said about the testing at Monday’s White House briefing. “And we'll be doubling our number of daily tests if the governors bring their states fully online to the capability that they have. We have tremendous capability out there already existing.”

“We have testing coming in two weeks that will blow the industry away,” he said later in the Monday briefing.
Cook's sources -- like most of you, probably -- think the election will turn on how Trump handles the crisis between now and November.
“The biggest political narrative that threatens them now is that they were slow to respond to the virus — and testing is a key component of the ‘slow start’ narrative, especially with the early testing fiascos,” said a second Republican close to the White House, who argued the administration needs to spend the next four to eight weeks getting the coronavirus under control and reopening the economy without incident before voters make up their mind about Trump’s leadership.
But America won't get it under control in the next two months. The hasty reopenings in the red states will lead to more suffering and death.

Yet Trump's numbers won't change much. They never do. A slight majority of the country doesn't trust his leadership, but the minority that thinks he's an amazingly good president still might be enough to win the Electoral College, even if we have a six-figure death toll and an unemployment rate well into the double digits on Election Day. Trump will just keep arguing with reporters, identifying scapegoats (today it's immigrants, tomorrow it will be blue-state governors with ongoing lockdowns), and promising miracles (though he appears to have already moved on from hydroxychloroquine, which was found to be a bust in another study). The base won't abandon him, even though we'll probably never have all the tests we need -- tests for the sick, tests to trace infection patterns, tests for antibodies -- as long as he's president.

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