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Covid-19 and Trump’s polling prospects

Donald Trump has recovered from Covid-19. But will he get re-elected?

Bassem Aly , Thursday 15 Oct 2020
Covid-19 and Trump’s polling prospects
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During a rally in Florida on Monday, US President Donald Trump,74, announced that he is “immune” from coronavirus, sarcastically saying he will “kiss the guys and the beautiful women”.

This was Trump’s first event for his re-election campaign since ending his 10-day hospitalisation period after catching coronavirus. He will hold a series of rallies in different parts of the United States this week.

Trump, meanwhile, mocked his Democratic rival in November’s presidential election, Joe Biden, arguing the former vice president reduced the number of his audiences due to his inability to attract people’s support.

But Trump’s chances for getting re-elected are gradually diminishing. Even his sickness did not bring him empathy from voters. According to a poll published by USA Today on Monday, Biden maintained the lead in 10 of 11 swing states — despite a tie in Georgia and Ohio — and expanded it in seven of them, including Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In general, Biden has more than a 10-point lead.

Jeffrey Berry, political science professor at Tufts University, said polls showed that “Americans are highly critical of President Trump’s leadership on the Covid outbreak”, damaging his chances for re-election. Berry expects that Covid-19 will be part of the presidential debate between Trump and Biden on 22 October, though its format will include many different issues organised under six topics.

Daniel Serwer, political science professor at John Hopkins University, concurs, saying Trump’s illness has harmed his re-election chances. “[It] has reconfirmed for many people the incompetence and incoherence of his response to a disease that has killed more than 214,000 Americans,” Serwer explained.

He added that Biden will “certainly want to talk about the incompetent handling of Covid-19 and the president’s efforts during the epidemic to deprive millions of Americans of their health insurance”.

Furthermore, Biden will want to talk about the “still poor economy” and Trump’s resistance to a new coronavirus relief bill, Serwer noted.

Although a Trump-Biden debate scheduled for 15 October was cancelled, the remaining debate on 22 October will take place. Trump earlier refused to join a virtual event.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States has recorded 7,740,934 total cases of Covid-19, with 214,108 deaths. In the past week, the country saw 344,300 new cases.

The economic impact has been unprecedented. The economic shutdown led to a rise in unemployment by 14.7 percent — numbers that surpassed those of the post-World War II era.

According to The Brookings Institution, more than fifth of households were behind on paying rent in July. The same Brookings report showed that food insecurity has doubled since the start of the pandemic, rising from 14 per cent in 2018 to almost 32 per cent in July 2020. Rates are higher among Black and Hispanic communities, Brookings reported.

The US Congress has offered more than $3 trillion in relief packages, but many Republicans refuse to spend more money. The Trump administration urged Congress Sunday to “immediately vote” on a new relief bill through leftover funds from an expired loan programme for small businesses following failure to reach an agreement on a new large-scale package.

Kenneth Mayer, political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, believes Trump will be held responsible for the situation.

“The president’s handling of Covid-19 prevention measures, and the infection that has swept through the White House, has made his re-election less likely. Polling data show that the public does not trust his handling of the pandemic,” Mayer said.

“It’s possible that his insistence on continuing to hold rallies and large events could make infections worse, as we appear to be heading into a second wave.” Mayer added.

“Trump will undoubtedly focus on his recovery and claims that people should not worry about Covid, but at this point he’s speaking almost entirely to his strong supporters, and has shown little ability to broaden his coalition,” Mayer said.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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