Trump spent little time trying to get America out of its coronavirus crisis this week, which was booked by an erratic Rose Garden press conference on Tuesday and a campaign speech clearly voiced by Vice President Mike Pence in Wisconsin Friday afternoon. Clearly lose the messaging battle, the president and his team sought to reframe the 2020 election as a choice between their “freedom and opportunity” agenda and what Pence claimed to be Biden’s vision of an America under “increasing control of the world.” ‘State’ – a future which, according to him, would lead to ‘socialism and decline’.
Their goal – in keeping with the president’s relentless pressure to reopen the U.S. economy regardless of the human cost – is to get Americans to focus on something other than the raging virus while distracting the flawed efforts of the U.S. administration to control it earlier this year, a diversionary tactic that has so far not worked.
After an aggressive bait for the race earlier this summer, the Trump team is focusing more on the GOP’s long-standing tactic of trying to present its Democratic opponent as weak and ill-equipped to protect and defend America.
Trying to signal a reshuffle to deal with declining polls, Trump demoted campaign manager Brad Parscale this week and elevated more senior Republican agent Bill Stepien to the leading role. In his first public comments as campaign manager on Thursday, Stepien argued that the Trump campaign had “better voter information, better ground play, better fundraising” and a “better candidate,” and has promised that the team would use the time between now and November to “expose Joe Biden as an unfortunate tool of the far left.” “
Pence on the stump
Distilling the Trump campaign argument in Ripon, Wisconsin on Friday, Pence described Biden as something akin to a zombie candidate who had been co-opted by the Vermont senator. Bernie Sanders and the radical left, and falsely claimed that Biden is now aligned with far-left activists who want to fund the police.
The vice president noted a document released by the task force convened by Biden and Sanders to unify the Democratic Party after Biden won the Democratic nomination: “I thought Joe Biden had won the Democratic primaries, but looking at their unity program, it looks like Bernie won, ”said Pence in Wisconsin, a key swing state that Trump won by less than a percentage point in 2016.
While barely mentioning the human toll of the coronavirus, Pence accused Biden and Sanders of adopting a program based on government control that would be defined by “an avalanche of regulations”, “open borders” and hostility towards the police.
Although Biden rejected calls to “defund the police” after the death of George Floyd, who was killed at the hands of a Minneapolis cop, Pence distorted the former vice president’s words in a recent interview with activist Ady Barkan (where Biden said he “absolutely” agreed that some police funds should be redirected).
With that comment, Pence said Biden had “capitulated to the radical left-wing crowd.”
“Joe Biden would weaken the Thin Blue Line that separates order from chaos,” said Pence, noting that the Trump administration would never fund the police. “We will defend the police every day. … The hard truth is that you will not be safe in Joe Biden’s America. ”
Trump echoed the comments in a tweet Friday night: “Corrupt Joe Biden wants to disband our police. He may use different words, but when you look at his pact with Crazy Bernie, and other things, that’s what he wants to do. It would destroy America! “
Resume an unproven argument
But the president tried in vain to has been making this argument for several months now – and it doesn’t seem to go that far – as he tried to stir up racial divide in America to make supporters wary of the cultural shift inspired by Floyd’s death.
In his latest attempt to torch white suburban voters, Trump used an event on the South Lawn of the White House to condemn an Obama-era federal rule that seeks to reduce housing segregation, saying that ‘it would “wipe out” the American suburbs.
Using tired racial tropes that were used in the previous century – and which seem to be far out of step with the opinions of most Americans today – Trump has argued that under the rule, homes would “shrink in value and homes crime rates would rise rapidly. .. The suburbs will no longer be as we know it. ”
But there is little evidence that Trump’s fear-and-racial divisive tactics are working. This week, another poll showed Biden leading Trump in double digits, as his coronavirus performance still appears to be a major factor in his approval ratings.
More alarming for the Trump campaign, as CNN’s Harry Enten noted this week, Americans continue to lose faith in Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, and this erosion is starting to show up among whites without a college degree and rural voters. , two groups that supported Trump. around 30 points of margin as the core of its base in 2016.
In an average of recent ABC News / Ipsos and Quinnipiac polls, Trump’s approval rating for the coronavirus among whites without a college degree was around 50% and the numbers were similar among rural voters, Enten noted.
And as much as Trump and Pence would like to take the conversation away from the coronavirus, it is still the concern of Americans as the United States broke a new record on Thursday with more than 77,000 new Covid-19 cases.
Two-thirds of Americans (66%) said in a new ABC News-Washington Post poll that they were at least somewhat worried that they or a family member would catch the coronavirus, and 60% said they disapproved of the president’s handling of the epidemic. .
The gap in confidence for the president when it comes to Covid-19 is glaring: 64% of those polled said they trusted “not a lot” or nothing at all in what Trump says about the pandemic.
Lack of leadership
And yet, Trump doesn’t appear to be doing anything to show he can lead the virus. The president spent the week talking about the dishwasher and posing with cans of Goya products on the Resolute desk. Some of his colleagues would like him to return to the podium in the briefing room for regular briefings on the coronaviruses, but the last time he did so, he told the Americans that ingestion of disinfectant could help to treat the disease.
The measures taken by the administration to suppress public information about the spread of Covid-19 will certainly not help restore voter confidence. The Trump administration’s decision ordering hospitals to bypass the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send their data directly to the Department of Health and Human Services has sparked a furious reaction from experts in public health this week.
In a statement on Friday, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield stressed that the gear change was intended to reduce “reporting burden” by reducing “confusion and duplication of reports”.
“No one is taking the access or the data from the CDC,” Redfield said.
But the administration’s decision was widely seen as yet another attack on the transparency of public health data. Meanwhile, the White House is preventing Redfield and other agency officials from testifying before a House committee hearing next week on the reopening of schools.
Trump continues to push states to reopen their economies and resume school in person this fall, despite concerns from public health experts about how it could accelerate the spread of the virus to vulnerable populations, nearly a quarter of which teachers across the country.
Trump’s deliberate disconnect from the reality of coronaviruses was also highlighted at the end of this week by an unpublished report prepared for the White House Coronavirus task force, which was obtained by the Nonprofit Center. for public integrity, which recommended canceling reopenings in 18 states that are part of the “red zone” coronavirus.
Devin O’Malley, spokesperson for Pence and the task force, said the report showed “encouraging signs” amid the pandemic, as a few weeks ago Pence reported that “16 states met the criteria. increase in cases and increase in positivity rate ”. In the unpublished report, he noted that only 10 states met these criteria. “This is just a data point of many encouraging signs that we are seeing across the country as we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” O’Malley said in a statement to CNN.
But as many times as Trump and Pence try to pretend that America is getting the virus and all is well, the data continues to tell a different story.
“Do people say it’s a second wave? No. We’re still in the premiere, “National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday night on” The Situation Room. ”
“It never quite went away,” after the major outbreaks of March and April, Collins said, “and now it’s coming back down a very steep slope, which is, of course, of great concern to anyone. , especially in these difficult conditions. -hit zones. ”