The voters are at odds with Trump on the most fundamental question, namely whether to prioritize health or the economy. Among voters, 63 percent are concerned about opening up business too soon (consistent with other recent polls) and 54 percent think the federal government is not doing enough.
To the extent the election becomes a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, he will find it hard slogging, even in red states. Some stunning polls suggest the race is competitive in places where Trump should be winning easily. In Montana, a University of Montana poll finds: “Trump leading Biden by just 5 points, 45% to 40%, despite winning there by 20 points in 2016. A [Democratic] presidential candidate last won Montana in 1992, when Bill Clinton narrowly edged out George H.W. Bush by 2.5% as part of a landslide electoral college victory.” In Texas, the last two polls show Trump and Biden in a statistical dead heat. (Trump won by nine points in 2016.) And in North Carolina, which Trump won by almost four points, one poll shows Biden leading by seven points, and others show a dead heat.
Several points deserve emphasis.
First, if the draft government memo obtained by The Post forecasting 200,000 new coronavirus cases per day by June 1 is accurate, Trump’s numbers certainly will not improve. (Numbers like that would not only increase deaths but also slow or halt his quick reopening strategy.)
Second, as the coronavirus invades rural America and red states, the definition of a “safe” seat may change. The New York Times reports: “Rural towns that one month ago were unscathed are suddenly hot spots for the virus. It is rampaging through nursing homes, meatpacking plants and prisons, killing the medically vulnerable and the poor, and new outbreaks keep emerging in grocery stores, Walmarts or factories, an ominous harbinger of what a full reopening of the economy will bring.” And it’s not just big cities in red states. “Smaller towns and rural counties in the Midwest and South have suddenly been hit hard, underscoring the capriciousness of the pandemic.”
Third, Trump’s increasingly negative tone toward “blue-state bailouts” means not only plenty of negative ads for Biden in places such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, but also a federal government failure of epic proportions. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) took this head-on during a news conference Tuesday. “First of all, this is not a blue-state issue. Every state has coronavirus cases.” He warned, “You need a bipartisan bill to pass. You go down this path of partisanship and politics, you will never pass a bill. If you never pass legislation, you’ll never get this economy back on its feet. So you go down this path of division, you will defeat all of us, because we’re all in the same boat.”
He might have added: If Trump keeps going down this path, he will face a brutal defeat in November. Then again, the damage is already done, and whatever Trump does may not save him or the Republicans who have lashed themselves to his mast.
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