Trump Under Pressure: Recession, COVID-19 Crisis and Racial Unrest Threaten His Reelection

Donald Trump’s popularity is at rock bottom. The dissatisfaction with his handling of the pandemic and racial unrest is growing among Republican voters. At the same time, the resurgence in coronavirus cases in several large states could set the economic recovery back several months. Ultimately, it could cost Trump the victory in November.

The United States under President Trump looks like a country that has gone into free fall. The coronavirus has now infected more than 2.8 million Americans and 131,000 have died, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. On Wednesday, for the first time, the number of new daily infections surpassed 50,000 − a record for the outbreak in the United States.

Throughout 40 states, there are reports that there has been an explosive growth in the number of infections. So far, 12 states have suspended their plans for reopening, and in some places, hospital bed and test capacities have reached the absolute limit.

At the same time, criticism of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, recession and racial unrest following George Floyd’s police killing is growing, and there is increasing concern in the Republican Party, with many turning the spotlight on the president’s abysmal polling numbers.

Republican senators, for example, are deeply frustrated that, until recently, their president has refused to cover the lower part of his face with a mask. They, themselves, have deliberately chosen to be photographed with a mask covering their mouths and noses.

But for Trump, wearing masks to protect against the spread of the infectious virus is a sign of weakness. This despite the fact that epidemiologists believe it is the best protection against infection. Pressured by the new coronavirus outbreaks, he changed course this week, recommending in an interview with Fox News that Americans cover the lower parts of their faces while in public spaces.

However, Trump’s advice may have come too late.

Following the premature reopening in May of states such as California, Florida and Texas, as well as several Southern states, COVID-19 has made a huge comeback. Governors in those states are now pressing the pause button for a restart of economic activity, and have even ordered bars and pubs to close and have forbidden people access to beaches this weekend, when the country is celebrating the 1776 Declaration of Independence.

Health experts are convinced that the rapidly growing number of cases is due to an overly-relaxed attitude toward keeping a physical distance and using masks in the affected states. It is unusual that many young Americans have been infected.

Trump was the one who urged Republican governors to reopen before the number of coronavirus cases and the death toll began to decline. Now, the backlash in the fight against COVID-19 will surely delay the economic recovery, which is Trump’s best chance to secure his reelection.

Huge Humiliation

Nevertheless, when future historians determine the possible beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency, the failure of Trump’s recent Tulsa rally may well be regarded as crucial.

For months, Trump had been looking forward to restarting his rallies and again basking in the light of his core voters’ admiration. Accordingly, he ignored warnings about avoiding large indoor gatherings from the government’s own health experts. Only 9,000 supporters defied the health experts’ warnings. Neither in the 2015-2016 election campaign nor during his 3 1/2-year presidency has Trump had the experience of making an exhibition of himself in a half-empty hall. A huge humiliation for him.

When Joe Biden defeated Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries in early March, Trump looked like a favorite for reelection in November. During three years under Trump, on average, the U.S. economy grew 2% and unemployment fell to 4%. Trump avoided entangling the United States in new wars overseas. The Senate acquitted him in the January impeachment trial, and Trump’s tough trade policy toward China won recognition even among Democrats.

Now, four months before the Nov. 3 presidential election, the president looks like a loser. He is under tremendous pressure from all sides. In national polls, Trump is far behind former Vice President Biden, who has spent the last three months in the basement of his home outside Wilmington, Delaware.

The most authoritative poll, The New York Times/Siena College National Survey, which contacts 13,000 registered voters over several weeks, recently reported a record low at 36% of voters who support the incumbent president. Biden stands at 50%. If that figure holds true on Election Day, the Democrat candidate will win a landslide victory. In addition, Republicans will lose their majority in the Senate.

In the six of the most important states – Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona and Michigan – Biden leads by 3 to 10 percentage points. Even in conservative Kansas and in the southern state of Georgia, Biden is ahead.

Polls show a loss of support especially among older Trump supporters.

“I think if he weren’t such an appalling human being, he would make a great president, because I think what this country needs is somebody who isn’t a politician,” Republican voter Judith Goines told The New York Times.

The 53-year-old finance industry executive for a home building company in Fayetteville, North Carolina, is now ashamed of having voted for Trump in 2016. Goines has come to the realization that during a coronavirus pandemic and unrest due to police violence against Black Americans, the United States “need[s] a politician, somebody with a little bit more couth.”

Lagging Behind

In fundraising also, Trump has fallen behind. His opponent Biden collected the most in campaign donations in June: $141 million against Trump’s $131 million, which is quite unusual for a president who is up for reelection. Moreover, in the last three months, Biden has also outpaced Trump in fundraising, with $282 million to Trump’s $266 million.

It is therefore no wonder that anxiety is spreading among Republican politicians over the prospect of a system-wide change in 2021 that could send them out into the cold for four years or longer.

Legendary Republican adviser Karl Rove, who secured George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004 amid the Sunni insurgency against the U.S. occupation of Iraq, is not yet ready to acknowledge a defeat for Trump.

In his Wall Street Journal column on Monday, Rove noted that Trump’s campaign still has time to turn the tide.

“It is crucial that Trump presents a bold agenda for his second term at the Republican National Convention in August.”*

Thus, Trump still has time to turn the tide, but right now, he looks like the loser he most fears becoming. He has never had to recover from such a downturn before.

*Editor’s note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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