For months, President Trump has been scrambling to deflect criticism for the breadth of the coronavirus pandemic toward whatever target might be available. During a news briefing Wednesday, he returned to one of his favorites: Democratic leaders.

He pointed to a graph that the White House first unveiled in the spring, showing two estimated ranges of possible death tolls depending on the extent of efforts to contain the virus’s spread.

“This was a prediction that if we do a really good job, we’ll be at about 100,000 and — 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, and we’re below that substantially, and we’ll see what comes out,” he said. “But that would be if we did a good job. If the not-so-good job was done, you’d be between 1.5 million — I remember these numbers so well — and 2.2 million. That’s quite a difference.”

For what it’s worth, we are not below 240,000 deaths substantially. Instead, the country has seen at least 193,000 deaths, a figure that is probably an underestimation. For example, there have been 263,000 more deaths in the United States in 2020 than would have been expected based on the past several years. If those are attributable to the novel coronavirus, we’ve already moved out of good-job territory.

But of course, Trump wanted to reinforce that this was not his fault.

President Trump said during a Sept. 16 news conference that coronavirus “tremendous death rates” from "blue states." (The Washington Post)

“So we’re down in this territory,” Trump continued, “and that’s despite the fact that the blue states had had tremendous death rates. If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue state-managed.”

It is true that the early surge in deaths was heavily weighted toward states that had voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. New York and New Jersey in particular recorded hundreds of deaths a day in April, quickly contributing to the country’s total number of fatalities.

Over time, though, the percentage of total deaths that have occurred in blue states has dropped. The most recent data, through Tuesday, indicates that about 53 percent of deaths have occurred in blue states — meaning that 47 percent have occurred in red ones.

In other words, more than 90,000 deaths have occurred in red states. If that were the country’s total, we would have seen the second-most number of deaths globally, trailing only Brazil. The United States would still be responsible for 11 percent of global deaths, despite constituting only about 4 percent of the world’s population.

Why has the ratio of blue-state to red-state deaths shifted? Because most of the newly occurring deaths are happening in red states. Since mid-June, a majority of the new coronavirus deaths each day have occurred in red states. Since mid-July at least 70 percent have.

(The odd blip on the percentage chart above is a function of New Jersey belatedly adding a batch of deaths.)

It’s important to remember that despite Trump’s rhetoric, the pandemic isn’t particularly close to being over. The University of Washington’s Institute on Health Metrics estimates that there will be nearly 413,000 deaths by the end of the year.

Of that total, almost precisely half are projected to have occurred in red states.