President Trump wants to be a wartime president. However, any rally 'round the flag phenomenon seems short-lived. (Morning Consult, the latest poll to demonstrate this, shows Trump down 13 points in net approval since March 20.) By contrast, former vice president Joe Biden is holding up well, despite (or is it because of?) the enormous imbalance in coverage between him and the president.

In the key swing state of Florida, the University of North Florida poll shows Biden winning by a 46 to 40 percent margin over Trump. What is stunning is not the margin but the percentage for Trump. (Anything under 50 percent traditionally signals trouble for an incumbent). “The poll shows 45% strongly or somewhat approve of the job Trump is doing to address the pandemic, with 53% disapproving. … Trust in Trump is notably lagging, with 41% trusting and 58% not trusting his information about the virus.”)

On a national basis, the picture is not much brighter for Trump. According to the IBD/TIPP poll, “Likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden saw his lead on Donald Trump widening in the latest poll, even as the number who said they would vote for him dipped slightly. In total, 47% said they would vote for Biden, while just 41% said they would vote for Trump.” Biden’s position has improved since March when he was leading by just three points. Once again, an incumbent president who draws only 41 percent in the midst of a national crisis appears rather weak. (Biden, incidentally, crushes Sen. Bernie Sanders by a 62 percent to 30 percent margin among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, one more sign that the Vermont senator has no path to the nomination.)

It is important to keep in mind a couple of points.

First, we are only in early April, meaning Trump has seven months to convince voters he did not fail to recognize the threat of the pandemic, did not fail to exert presidential leadership, did not mislead the American people and did not abdicate responsibility for the worst domestic disaster in more than 100 years.

Second, it is not impossible to turn this around, but a prolonged recession would spell disaster for an incumbent whose sole bragging point was the economy. And a prolonged recession could well be where we are heading.

Rather than a “V” shaped economic path — a deep recession and a swift and steep recovery — many economists now see “an economy that might rev hard at first but may be prone to sputtering, stalling and wheezing before finally hitting cruising speed,” as CNBC reports. Former Federal Reserve chair Janet L. Yellen painted a frightful picture in an interview on Monday. “If we had a timely unemployment statistic, the unemployment rate probably would be up to 12 or 13% at this point and moving higher,” she said, while predicting at least a 30 percent downturn in gross domestic product. Instead of a “V,” she worries about a “U” (a prolonged downturn) or worse, an “L” (a downturn and sustained recession).

In short, we are seeing an unprecedented phenomenon — a fleeting bump for the incumbent in the midst of a national crisis and a sustained lead for a challenger who is by and large trapped in his basement. Maybe Trump’s daily diatribes are not helping him.

Read more: