NDN Blog

On COVID, WTF Is the President Doing?

The data doesn’t lie. COVID here in the US, never tamedis spreading again at too fast a rate in too many states for the US govt to pretend it isn’t happening or for it not to act. Because the federal government has done so little to combat COVID (allowing us to have infection rates up there with exemplars Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Sweden), there is much the President could do now to help the country re-open safely – support a national testing and tracing regime, start a big conversation about the need to mask and physically distance, challenge America’s young people to do their part and avoid risky behavior all would be a good place to start.  Our strategy for combatting COVID has failed; the cost to the US in lives, jobs, and our well-being has been immense; it is time now for the President to recognize the magnitude of his failure and course correct.

For all the early mistakes the President made, the most significant mistake he may have made has come in recent days – urging the country to re-open without having the proper tools and protocols in place to lessen the chance of a new surge. The President has time now to correct that mistake and stop asking the entire country to, in essence, sign a waiver absolving him for responsibility for what is happening. The easiest way to do this is for the President and his team to lead a conversation with the American people about the need to maintain physical distancing and mask. These are inexpensive solutions which if widely deployed, could do a great deal to contain the virus and allow us to live “new normal” lives without returning to lockdowns. The President’s attacks on masking and prudent measures by the states have been dangerous, profoundly stupid, and reckless. 

What remains so hard to understand is that with the President and his party seeing truly ruinous 2020 polling numbers, why isn’t the President changing course on COVID? He has clear evidence that the GOP governors who’ve been tough on COVID saw their job approval numbers skyrocket. He has a smart, clear, and well-trodden path to follow. Why, for the good of the nation and for his party, won’t he follow it?

At this point, given the very carnage we’ve seen, and the collapse of the GOP’s brand this spring, we are running out of charitable explanations for the President’s refusal to mount a national campaign to tame COVID. One should note the contrast of the President’s recent intense mobilization of the US military and other federal resources to combat a “terror threat" which didn’t exist to his dogged refusal to mount such an effort to combat the virus. The President didn’t leave our economic response to COVID to the states, or the response to his invented terror threat. Why he thinks it isn’t the responsibility of the federal government to lead a response to a pandemic which affects every American will be the stuff of discussions, books and seminars for a very long time – for it may be the single most destructive set of governing decisions in all of American history.   

Trump and GOP Struggles Continue, Under 45s, The Southwest

Every Thursday NDN publishes its Thursday Poll Roundup, a deep dive into recent polling and political trends. You can sign up to receive it each week and feel free to review previous editions too. 

Short entry today as the trends we are seeing this week are continuations of ones we discussed at length in our last two Thursday Roundups (here and here). Bottom line - five months out, the numbers for the President and the GOP incumbents in the Senate are about as bad as they can be. A few nuggets from new polling this week that stood out: 

Big Biden Numbers - Biden up 12 in Michigan, 9 in Wisconsin, 4 in North Carolina, 2 in OhioTexas and Iowa tied. In 2016 Trump won Ohio by 8.6, Iowa by 9.6 and Texas by 9.2, 

Biden up 14 in new CNN poll (55/41), which interestingly almost exactly tracks 538's Trump job approval aggregate, which today stands at 41.8/55, minus 13.2. 

More Bad Senate News for McConnell – In a new poll taken by a right leaning firm, Leader McConnell trails Amy McGrath in Kentucky 40-41. Using publically available polls no Republican Senate incumbent in any of these 11 GOP held seats - AZ, CO, GA (2), IA, KS, KY, ME, MT, NC, SC - has a definitive lead, and none has a recent public poll showing them above 45. As of today, all 11 of these seats may be in play – an incredible 2020 development. 

The Protestors Are Winning the Argument - We touched on this in our Tuesday email, but there has been a dramatic shift in America over the past few weeks on attitudes towards race and policing. Review these analyses from the NYTimes and the WaPo for more, and we will be tracking these developments closely in the days ahead. 

In the coming weeks, we are going to return to some of the demographic and political analysis NDN is well known for, and share some of our recent work below to whet your appetite a bit. Pay particular attention to the reports below on the under 45 vote, and the accelerating deterioration of the GOP brand in the heavily Mexican-American parts of this US. 

On Wednesdays, be sure to catch our weekly look via Zoom at the 2020 elections and US politics. We do it every week at 2 pm ET, with alternating topics each week. The data is always fresh and current, so if you join us each week, you will always learn something new.

2020 Background Analyses

Americans Under 45 Are Breaking Hard Toward The Democrats - And For Good Reason- Among the most significant political developments of the Trump era is the dramatic shift of under 45 year old voters towards the Democrats. From 2000 to 2016, D margin w/under 45s was 6 points. In 2018 it was 25. 

Dems Have Already Won Back Voters In The Rust Belt. It's Trump Who Needs To Win Them Back Now- It is a myth that Trump's anti-immigrant and protectionist policies have made it difficult for Democrats to win in the Rust Belt in 2020. Trump is trailing badly there now raising questions about Trumpism itself has become a grand failure. 

Notes On The GOP's Erosion In The Southwest- The dramatic erosion of the GOP brand in the heavily Mexican-American parts of the country over the past two elections is one of the biggest stories in American politics. Trump's border extremism has cost the GOP dearly, and it hasn't kept the industrial north from slipping away. 

In All Important Florida, Democrats Lost Ground With Hispanic Voters- In a year when Democrats made gains with Hispanics across the nation, Florida Democrats saw their performance with Hispanics decline. Work has to be done to figure out why. 

$38 Million For Beto, And Why It Matters- Democrats have been raising a lot of money this cycle. This is not just about fear of Trump - it is about the broad adoption of a more authentic people based politics suited for the digital age championed by Dean, Obama, and yes, even Trump himself.

Out of Tragedy, Hope

Out of Tragedy, Hope – This has been an extraordinarily challenging and bitter time for America – a President impeached (and clearly guilty), the ravages of COVID19, Great Depression level job loss, repeated racial violence, protests marred by what DHS has been calling “violent opportunists,” and a shocking overreaction by the White House and law enforcement across the country.  It has been numbing, hard, an incredible period of struggle for so many. 

Then came this weekend, and somehow some of these spontaneous protests, born from such grief and pain, became joyous, warm, hopeful.  You could feel it in the air on Saturday walking along that big yellow Black Lives Matter mural painted on 16th street here in DC by Mayor Bowser.  You could see and feel it in the dancing, the peaceful crowds, the kids atop their parents’ shoulders, the pleasure of being around others after months and months apart.  Something changed in America these last few days. Bitterness, at least for now, was ceding to something more hopeful. 

New polling suggests things have indeed changed in recent days, and that those protesting are winning the argument with the President.  Clear majorities support the protests and are worried about police violence and systemic racism.  Concerns about looting and violence remain, as they should, but it is not hard to be for the protestors, upset at the police and White House violence and against the looting we saw.  The violent reaction we’ve seen from authorities to protests over exactly this kind of violence has helped push the American people into an unprecedented place on race and reforming law enforcement, as did, apprently, the experience of an overwelming majority of people who found the protests in their own areas of the country peaceful. 

Recent polling also continues to show that the public is very unhappy with how the President has handled both COVID and the protests, and together these governing and moral failures have taken a huge toll on the party of Trump and Mitch.  On Thursday we published a detailed review of just how bad the GOP’s numbers are now in both the Presidential race and swing Senate seats.  Since then the President’s numbers have continued to slide, and he is now in one of the worst moments of his entire Presidency.  We are starting to see unimaginable numbers show in up in reputable polls  –  Biden up 14 nationwide, 12 in Michigan, 9 in Wisconsin, Trump minus 13 job approval.   All this data suggests the desire to end this bitter, dark period in our history is swelling up into something powerful enough to alter the trajectory of the 2020 election and thus the country itself.

And that is welcome, and hopeful, news indeed.    

Analysis: 5 Months Out, Ds See Opportunity, Rs Trouble

This is the seventh piece in NDN's new weekly polling round-up, published every Thursday. You can find previous weeks' analyses here.

NDN's 2020 Polling Roundup - As we’ve written in our recent 2020 Polling Roundups, NDN has never been a subscriber to the Trump has magical powers school of political analysis.  Without the help of Jill Stein, Russia and the Comey Letter, Clinton would have likely beaten Trump by 5-8 points in 2016.  Trump’s job approval has been minus 10 or worse for more days than all other Presidents in their first term combined since polling was invented.  He’s led his party to three consecutive disastrous elections (2017/18/19) and he got himself impeached for trying to cheat in a crude and ridiculous way in the 2020 elections.  This is not the record of a political mastermind.  

The President received only 46% of the vote in 2016 even with lots of help from Russia and the FBI, and his party only got to 44.8% in 2018 losing a very high turn out midterm 44.8 to 52.4 (8.6 pts).  As there will be no third party candidate this time, Trump will have to get to at least 48% to have a shot at winning the Electoral College this year, meaning he’ll  have to win 2-3% pts of the vote he HAS NEVER HAD to be competitive. With civil unrest, Great Depression level unemployment, a still yet quelled pandemic, and Putin lite law and order bluster, is this likely? We don’t think so. 

Let’s look at where things stand five months out from the 2020 election: 

Job Approval – Using 538’s excellent tracker, the President’s job approval is 42.7% favorable, 53.8% unfavorable, -11.1 pts. On Election Day 2018 it was 44/52.4, -8-4, on a day where he was beaten by 8.6 pts.  So the President is significantly lower today than he was in a very high turnout midterm where he only received 44.8% and lost by 8.6 pts. 

Congressional Generic – On Election Day 2016 Democrats led in 538’s Congressional Generic tracker by 1 point, 45/44, and on Election Day 2018 it was 50.7/42.0, almost 9 pts. Today Democrats lead 48.7/40.9, 8 points.  This question – your Congressional preference – suggests the overall structure of the 2020 election is far more hostile to Republicans than in 2016, and remarkably similar to the 2018 outcome.  

Party ID – We tend to put a lot of stock in this number, as it is the answer to the basic question of what Party do you current affiliate with.  We are going to do a bit more work on this in the coming weeks as not every poll reports this number, and it is not tracked the same among all polls.  But today we will use a single poll as a surrogate for an aggregate, one that has been in the middle of the pack of polls recently, the daily GSG/GBAO tracker.  Today it has Party ID at 49% Dem, 41% Republican, 8 pts.  

Trump Biden Head to Heads – Using Real Clear Politics’ tracker, the current average is 49.9% Biden, 42.1% Trump, 7.8 pts.  Two polls, Monmouth and ABC/WaPo had Biden’s lead in the double digits this week.  

The Electoral College – Assuming MI and PA go to Biden, Trump must win all three of the next tier – AZ, FL, WI - to win, while also holding on to all of the next tier – GA, IA, NC, OH, TX.  In recent polling Biden leads in every one of these states except for Iowa and Texas, which are functionally tied.  Fox News polls released yesterday had Biden up by 9 in Wisconsin (!!!!), 4 in Arizona and 2 in Ohio. Trump is far below where he wants to be right now.  

The NYTimes has quite a story today which reports on how Trump world is coming to terms with how badly the election is going for him right now.  And don’t forget that all those elections Dems won in 2018 in these states – from Congress to governorships and in state houses – will make the collective Democratic voice in these states much louder this year, helping blunt the traditionally powerful Trump noise machine.    

The Senate – In our analysis last week we noted that Republicans are not performing well in any of the 10 seats they are defending this cycle.  Most of their incumbents are in the high 30s and low 40s, disaster territory for an incumbent this late in the cycle. The only state where Rs are even hitting 45 now is GA, and in one recent poll Senator Purdue trailed Ossoff, and Senator Loeffler was at 32%! 

As Simon was quoted in the NYTimes: “The Republican brand seems depressed across the board,” Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist and founder of the NDN, said in an interview. “A lot of time senators can insulate themselves from the vagaries of the national electorate, but that doesn’t seem to be happening this time.”

Key Takeaways - So putting all this together we see Republican incumbents for President and Senate now living at 41-42-43, and a margin across many different measures of 7-8-9 for the Democrats.  One can only find a poll or two taken in the past several months where ANY Republican in ANY competitive state is even at 45%.  Trump’s job approval is 42.7; his head to head w/Biden is 42.1; Party ID and Congressional Generic is 41; most incumbent GOP Senators are topping out at 42 right now.  When numbers line up like this, and it is not always the case in elections that they do, a clear structure has developed within the electorate, and that structure, that dynamic is as negative for GOP as any election we here at NDN can remember at this point in an election cycle.  

So for Trump to win he and his Party are going to have to travel from 41-42-43 today to 48-49 in November. That my friends is a very very heavy lift, and it is particularly difficult for what is in essence the incumbent party.  Looking back over the past generation of US politics, you will be hard pressed to find any incumbent in a Federal race who was able to come back and win from 41-42-43 this late in the cycle.  And as we said, we don’t believe that Trump has magical powers, can defy traditional politics physics. He has never broken 46% in a race, and he enters the summer with America more battered and challenged than perhaps in any time in the past 100 years.  

Where this election wants to be today is Biden winning 53-55 to 45-47, and the Senate flipping.  Where it will be five months from now we don’t know, but based on all this data we’ve reviewed with you we believe we are more likely to see a Democratic wave this fall than Republicans holding onto either the Presidency or Senate.    

We believe when we look back at this time in future years, we will view President Trump as having been both an incompetent President and political strategist; incompetent but also very very lucky. 

Notes on 2020, COVID, The Protests

Remember COVID, Be Smart - Elected and public health officials – including in the Administration - need to step up and remind the public that the US still has some of the highest COVID infection rates in the world, and we have not yet put the virus behind us. Protestors need to be smart, maintain social distancing and masking, or risk spreading the virus to their communities, friends, and family.   This is no ordinary time, and we cannot forget that.  

In a piece published a few weeks ago, Simon worried that the nation was facing a summer where tens of millions of young people would have nothing to do, and that trouble or social unrest could come.  He encouraged schools and communities to step into this void, and offer online courses and other measures to keep young people learning, active, and engaged.  Last we were proud when Simon’s alma mater Tufts University and the Tisch College for Civic Life there announced an innovative free summer webinar series for all Tufts students, “Navigating the Pandemic.”  Our hope is other educational and community organizations will follow Tufts’ lead, and keep talking and reaching out to our young people this summer, particularly in those communities hardest hit by COVID and incensed by the racial violence we’ve all seen in recent months.  Young Americans need our support and understanding in what has been a very difficult time, while we must also send a very loud and clear message that the looting and lawlessness must come to an immediate end. 

Focus on De-Escalation – As Joe Biden modeled yesterday our nation’s leaders must work now to de-escalate the violence and clashes we are seeing.  We were encouraged by the images of police across the country taking a new, or showing other forms of solidarity with the protestors – it was police violence that sparked these events, and it is on every police force in the country to lead de-escalation efforts now.  The many many images we’ve seen of continued use of excessive force by police in recent days – including dozens of direct attacks on journalists – will need to be addressed out in the open in the days ahead.  

The question of whether organized forces are sabotaging these events, or if the destruction we are seeing is homegrown and viral, is something the WH, FBI, and DHS must explain to us as soon as possible.  In his usual fashion when pressed, the President retreated to Foxlandia this weekend, the imaginary world he sees on his TV each day, and branded Antifa, an organization which has no ideological reason to be disrupting these protests and doesn’t really exist, a terrorist organization responsible for the lawlessness we’ve seen.  It’s critical we put pressure on Trump to do his job this week and work to effectively and maturely keep all of us safe – this is not an us vs them moment – and the President simply must raise his game here.   

What Comes Next? – To us, these last few days are just a huge, powerful reminder of what an utter failure Trump has been as President.  COVID protocols being blown across the country after months of hard work.  Outrageous police violence in city after city.  40m unemployed.  Looting and property crime spreading, with no answer from Trump other than Hannityish right wing babble.  The G7 and WHO spitefully and recklessly undermined.  It is a dark time.  

The public has had it with Trump.  As we’ve been reporting to you over the past few weeks, poll numbers for him and Republicans in critical Senate races are terrible.  The ABC/Washington poll released Sunday had Biden thrashing Trump 53-43.  In a moment of crisis these past few days the President seemed to shrink from the moment, not meet it.  And we all know he is unlikely to do so for a great deal of what we are dealing with is the result of his incompetence and extremism. 

What is clearly needed now is strong, steady, enlightened, and empathetic leadership.  The nation is beset with an extraordinary array of challenges, all at the same time.  There is no simple solution here, no magic wand.  The work ahead of us will take years, not months, and it will be hard. 

Something we’ve been promoting for some time feels appropriate now - the Vice President should begin acting like the leader of the opposition not just a Presidential candidate.  He should try to formally organize him campaign now not just to focus on winning the election but fashioning solutions with like-minded elected leaders of both parties below the federal level – governors, mayors.  The challenges we are facing need national not just federal solutions, and the VP should appoint someone now – perhaps Cory Booker – to take the lead in organizing a national council of state and local electeds to help guide us through this crisis in ways which address some of the clear long-standing inequities these last few months have laid bare for all of us to see. In the last few minutes, we’ve learned that VP Biden is holding a working session today with the mayors of Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and St Paul.  Encouraging indeed.   

Stay safe all. And optimistic.  We can get through this and come out stronger. But we have a lot of work to do.  

Analysis: Trump’s Plummeting Poll Numbers Clearly Threatening McConnell’s Majority Now

This is the sixth piece in NDN's new weekly polling round-up, published every Thursday. You can find previous weeks' analyses here.

As we’ve been writing these last few months, the President’s bungling of his COVID response has been both a policy and political failure.  The policy failure is manifest – the US still has among the highest infection rates in the world, up there with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Sweden and the UK; 100,000 are dead; we are 35th in per capita testing; the US economy took a far bigger hit than other developed nations; and at least 10 states are now seeing their hospitalization rates increase. 

What continues to remain hard to understand is how the President has chosen to play his policy disaster politically.  Rather than appearing to learn from his mistakes and course correcting, he’s chosen to question and undermine aspects of our response designed to keep us safe and are popular with voters – masks, smart stay at home efforts, even testing and tracing.  Republican Governors who’ve attacked the virus with force have seen their poll numbers shoot up.  Not Trump – his numbers are dropping to what now has to be seen as a very dangerous place for him.  Using 538’s Trump job approval aggregate with likely and registered voters, the President begins the morning at 42.7% approve/54.0% disapprove (-11.3), among the worst showings of his Presidency.  On Election Day 2018 the 538 tracker had Trump at 44/52.4 (-8.4) and he lost that night in the House races by 44.8/53.4 (-8.6).  He is three points lower today, -11.3, and dropping. 

As I was quoted in the New York Times last Friday saying, what has to concern the national GOP the most right now is that Trump’s poor showing may be creating a dangerously low ceiling for Senate incumbents too.   If the 538 job approval tracker was pretty accurate in picking Trump’s final vote share in 2018, and it’s 42.7 today, let’s assume Trump is sitting at 42-44 now (Real Clear Politics has Trump at 42.4).   Here are the head to head numbers for GOP Senators in public polls released since April 15th via 538 (adding MI Senate GOP challenger James too):

Arizona – 38, 41, 42

Colorado – 31, 31, 36

Iowa – 42, 43

Kansas (Kobach) - 42

Maine – 42, 43

Michigan – 35, 36, 37, 37, 40, 43

Montana - 39

North Carolina – 33, 34, 39, 40, 41, 41, 44

South Carolina – 42

Georgia, which has a June 9th primary

Purdue - 45, 45, 46

Collins – 44, 45

Loeffler – 32

Of these 10 GOP held seats (2 in GA), Rs do not have a clear lead in any of them; they only have a few polls showing leads at all; and as we can see there sure does seem to be a very low ceiling for all these Senate Rs this year - the numbers 41, 42, 43 keep showing up again and again.  Incumbents in the low 40s this late in an election cycle seldom win their elections. 

If Biden wins the election, Democrats need to win 4 of what are now 10 competitive GOP Senate seats to flip the Senate.  What we are seeing here, above, are signs of a wave election, consistent across the board depression of one party’s numbers regardless of the experience or talent of the incumbent.  While of course it is too early to know if 2020, like 2018, will be anti-GOP wave, the chances of it are rising significantly now.  While we don’t know if Democrats will win those 4 seats (AZ/CO look good now, IA/ME/NC really promising), the chances of Democrats not just winning 4 but winning 6-7-8 seats is now something that is clearly on the table. 

As we’ve written before, it is impossible to explain what Trump is doing now.  His COVID response has been a governing and political failure.  His refusal to acknowledge it all, and course correct remains ever harder to understand.  Mitch and his colleagues have to be increasingly aware that their captain is steering their ship towards the iceberg.  Let’s see if mutinies begin in the coming days, or if they are all just resigned to living the good life of a retired Senator/lobbyist and have begun talks about the next chapters in their lives.

C'mon Mr. President, Wear A Mask

Notes On 2020 - The President’s defiance on masking is worth us discussing this morning.  The case for masks is a powerful one - they reduce the spread of the virus, are low cost, and are simple.  In poll after poll, support for wearing masks and other prudent physical distancing measures is overwhelming.  In a new Huffington Post poll released last week just on masking, 63% of Americans said the President and other elected officials should wear masks.  Only 7% said no.  So why is the President undermining the use of this powerful and simple tool to help us return to work?

The US government only ever had a few options on what to do about COVID, and what remains extraordinary is that the President to this day has essentially chosen to do none of them.  He could have initiated an early travel ban on China and Europe and, while he eventually adopted partial bans, they came far too late to stop the spread of the virus.  He refused to adopt a national stay at home strategy, leaving it to the states.  He’s refused to set up a national testing and tracing regime, something every other developed country in the world has in place and something that at some point America must do too if we hope to restart domestic and international travel (see this WaPo look at Germany’s tracing regime).  And now he’s undermining the wearing of masks in public.  From a public health standpoint it isn't all that different from recommending folks drink Clorox, or take hydroxychloroquine - it is dangerous quackery. 

It turns out that this lack of really doing anything to fight COVID has left America in rough shape.  We still have among the highest infection rates in the world, per capita, on par with countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil.  We are 35th in the world in per capita testing, and while that number is improving, it is possible the virus has spread here more than any other nation in the world, which means we still lag far behind in testing against the local spread of the virus. The hit our economy and workers have taken is far worse than other developed countries.  Former CDC Chief Scott Gottlieb said this weekend that COVID hospitalization rates are *increasing* in many states, including FL and GA, two of the fastest to re-open.  Fundamentally, the President has failed at job one - taming the virus - at an extraordinary cost to the nation. 

So despite very few states hitting the CDC’s recommended guidelines for re-opening, we are re-opening.  And re-opening means more interactions, more density, and probably for a time, more infections and spread.  Which is why if we are sending people back out into a world where the virus is still active, where our testing and tracing regimes still lag way behind, we should be asking people to wear masks, to protect themselves and others.  It’s simple.  And yet the President is refusing to do it; rather, he is mocking leaders like Joe Biden who are doing the right thing now. 

We are at the point in Trump’s Presidency where we really have to start asking hard questions about whether the President is still capable of understanding what he is doing.  His response to COVID has been among the greatest policy failures in our history.  He isn’t learning from what has gone wrong and making course corrections. He is doing things which seem designed to harm people, spread the virus, and slow our recovery.  And everything he is doing is unpopular.  49 of the 50 governors have higher approval ratings on COVID than the President, with many of the GOP Governors who have been the most aggressive at tackling COVID with the very highest ratings of all.   Only 7% believe he shouldn’t be wearing a mask.  His numbers have dropped in the past few weeks, and he is now well below where he was on Election Day 2018 when he lost that election by 8.6 points.  The Senate also seems to be slipping away from his grasp.  I was quoted in a smart NYTimes Senate analysis on Friday, saying  “The Republican brand seems depressed across the board.  A lot of time senators can insulate themselves from the vagaries of the national electorate, but that doesn’t seem to be happening this time. “

Also on Friday, referring to a new piece I'd written, the Washington Post wrote: “Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg urges his party to see Trump not as someone who possesses fearsome magical political powers, but as someone who’s losing, desperate and panicking.” 

If I were Mitch McConnell and House Leader McCarthy, I would do one thing now for the good of their party and the country - get the President to put on a damn mask, and ask everyone else in the country to join him in the days ahead.  The Republicans just have to stop being cowards, and step in here and help our great country tame this virus in the days ahead.   This war against masks, given all of Trump’s other failures, is dangerous anti-science lunacy, and the cries for it to end should be coming from all quarters now, with the loudest of all coming from the office of Mitch McConnell.  

May 27th Update - New polling from the Navigating Coronavirus project show how little support there is for Trump's hostility to masking - 78% want elected official to wear masks, 74% say they are "pro-mask" and 65% disapprove of the President for not wearing a mask.

Looking Ahead to The Fall Elections, Trump Begins to Panic

This piece was originally published on Monday, May 18th and updated on the morning of May 21st with new polling data. 

Donald Trump has long feared Joe Biden.  He hatched a vast conspiracy to extort “dirt” on the Bidens from the Ukrainian government - an illegal plot which got him rightfully impeached and should have ended his Presidency.  Faced with weak poll numbers for himself and incumbent GOP Senators, the President now appears to be panicking - and is not just rolling out ridiculous arguments against the former Vice President, but also has launched a sustained attack against Barack Obama, a political figure far more popular and virtuous than he.  As a longtime political analyst, it doesn’t make any sense to me why he would begin attacking Obama or bring up his illicit relationship with Putin - but little Trump does makes sense to me.  And that’s because despite the bluster he actually isn’t very good at being President or winning over the voters he needs to win. 

This organization has never subscribed to the “Trump has magical powers” school of political analysis.  In 2016, Trump won with just 46% of the vote and only with the help of three extraordinary, hard to replicate events - Russia’s huge intervention on his behalf, Jill Stein’s just good enough candidacy, and the Comey letter which dropped Clinton’s lead from 6 to 2 points in the last days of the election.  When Trump led Republicans into battle in 2017, 2018, and 2019, the Rs had near worst case election results each time.  In 2018, the Democrats won the House by 8.6 points (53.4-44.8), a huge margin; and in 2019, the Dems won the governorships in KY and LA, two deep red Southern states.  As NDN’s Chris Taylor wrote recently, 2020 looks and feels a lot more like 2018 than it does 2016 - which is why Trump has begun to panic.  He’s never actually performed well in an election and he isn’t going to win in 2020 with 45-46% of the vote - his vote share in the 2016 and 2018 elections, and a place where he is struggling to even get to now. 

Perhaps no event captures Trump’s ongoing failures more than his historically inept, reckless response to COVID-19. There is simply no easy way to explain his delay in engaging the virus, his lack of a sustained or understandable response, his repeated undermining of strategies which are working, or his promotion of dangerous, untested remedies.  We are re-opening the country now without most states hitting Trump’s own published criteria for re-opening, and we still don’t have the basic things that we as a nation need - a national testing/tracing regime and strategies for safe domestic travel/business protocols - in place.  We are just re-opening.  Our new infection rate per capita remains among the highest in the world, up there with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and the UK; and while testing has improved, the US is still only around 40th in the world in per capita testing - a very, very low number given that the virus may have spread further and deeper in the US than in any other country in the world. And of course the nation is looking at Great Depression level unemployment rates and banana republic levels of debt. 

As bad as his day-to-day management of COVID has been, his political management of it has also been an extraordinary failure.  Many polls and analyses have captured this failure, but let’s look at new numbers out this morning from the Navigating Coronavirus project:

- Trump’s handling of coronavirus - 41% approve, 55% disapprove

- Has Trump’s management of the coronavirus been a success or failure - 38% success, 51% failure

- Should stores require masks - 84% yes, 16% no

An excellent new Huffington Post poll on masking has similar numbers. Perhaps the most important is the question about the whether Trump himself and othe elected officials should be wearing a mask - 63% yes, just 7% no.  It's hard to put into words how far outside science, reason, common sense and public opinion the President's crusade against masks is.  It's just breathtaking. 

A new Washington Post analysis finds that Trump's approval of his handling of COVID is lower than EVERY GOVERNOR with the exception of his close ally, Governor Kemp of Georgia.  The data is staring him right in the face - thos governors who've aggressively fought the virus have been rewarded in the polls.  Those who haven't, haven't.  To me his siding with the “Liberate!” protesters has been one of the craziest events of his Presidency - it not only makes the spread of the virus more likely, it's operating at the fringe of our politics and has helped drive his numbers down.  The number of people in this hard core Liberate! camp could be as low as 15% of the public, and is certainly no higher than 30%. What exactly are you doing Mr. President? Why haven't you course corrected, for your sake, and for ours as well?

The President is losing the election.  The Senate is imperiled too.  His ridiculous response to COVID has crashed the economy, let the virus run wild, left us without a serious strategy to defeat the virus, and is deeply unpopular.  A second wave may hit us this fall, just as people go to vote.  From where Trump sits now, things are not looking so good.  Hence the “Obamagate” absurdity and new Biden slanders.  It isn't going to help him win, but apparently it is all this spent, failed leader has got at this point. 

In the midst of this pandemic, we all deserve better, much much better.

White House Struggles With COVID Are An Ominous Sign For The Country

White House Struggles With COVID Are An Ominous Sign For The Country - Despite warnings from experts that the virus was still too active in the US to re-open the country, two weeks ago the White House itself returned to work.  The Vice President traveled.  Governors came to visit.  Meetings with outside leaders including the House GOP leadership, which could have been held over video conference, were held inside the White House.  Based on photos from then and subsequent days, the President, his team, and his visitors didn’t wear masks and didn't keep six feet apart. 

Last week, as predicted, COVID came into the White House.  At least two senior staffers and some number of Secret Service agents tested positive for the virus. Dr. Fauci and the heads of the FDA and CDC have all self-quarantined, as have some number of White House staffers.  The Vice President announced that he was self-quarantining last night, but then reversed his decision soon after. White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett, in a TV interview yesterday morning, said that it was "scary to go to work" at the White House but that the urgency of our national challenges required staff there to risk it all, go in, and not work from home.  Re-opening has become a chaotic and dangerous mess, even for the White House.

For every American trying to figure out how to navigate phase II, that the White House is on the verge of shutting down within days of re-opening  is a clear sign of how hard these next few months are going to be.  Perhaps emboldened by their access to rapid daily testing, the President, his staff, and their visitors haven’t followed the protocols - they haven’t worn masks and haven't stayed six feet apart.  We don’t know whether they’ve eaten together and shared meals across from one another, but we have to assume that they have. And the virus came, quickly.  Unlike the rest of us, however, their access to rapid testing may have caught the virus early, and prevented a huge outbreak which could have threatened the President himself.  Most American workers will not be so lucky if the virus hits their workplace, as very few will have access to this level of testing each day.  The virus will come, people will start to get sick, and lock downs will return. It is no wonder, then, that the public isn't happy with the President's COVID response.

As of Saturday, DC has the highest per capita rate of new infections of any state in the country - the virus is spreading faster here than anywhere else.  A Senate hearing tomorrow on the virus will be conducted by a Committee Chairman in quarantine, working from home, and experts will also be quarantined and speaking from home.  It will be another powerful reminder of our struggle to manage this extraordinary time and return to normal - re-opening here, in DC, carries incredible risks at this time for anyone.

At NDN, we hope that the President uses his own struggles with re-opening to help educate the country about the challenges ahead.  The virus isn’t gone or receding - the US still has among the highest new infection rates of any nation on earth, and they aren’t dropping.   Our "lockdowns" were not as aggressive as other nations, and thus didn’t get the virus under control in the way that we all would have wanted.  We don’t have rapid ubiquitous testing in place, like the President does, which is needed to allow workplaces and communities to catch new infections early, isolate the sick, and allow people to keep working.   Re-opening will require an incredible commitment to social distancing and masking (um, Mr. President); and if nothing else the President should admit his errors, and commit now to crashing a national testing/tracing/isolation regime for the country, a regime which has allowed his workplace to stay open.  The President's repeated refusals to adhere to any of the things that experts have recommended to combat the virus - immediate national shelter-in-place, social distancing/masking, testing/tracing/isolation - remain inexplicable and terribly terribly reckless.  He has the opportunity now to course correct, and to help us all learn from this experience.  Re-opening now is fraught with risks, ones that he should be honest about; and risks which, if he is unwilling to admit and address, require Congress to step in and address for him.   

What Are Kids Going To Do This Summer? — A Few Ideas

This essay originally appeared on Medium.

Over the next few weeks school will end for most American students of whatever age, from college to pre-Kindergarten. With camps, recreational centers, community pools and sports teams unlikely to be at full strength this summer or operating at all, summer jobs non-existent, parties and social gatherings scaled way back, what exactly are all these kids going to do this summer?

This is more than just about the opportunity costs of young people not having enriching experiences, socialization, education, jobs and physical activity. If kids are home it is harder for parents to go back to work. If kids have nothing to do, some are assuredly not going to use all this free time wisely. Given how many young people we are talking about — at least 75 million or so — this is no small matter, and it is coming upon us very quickly. We need to start having a big conversation about the summer and our kids, as citizens, parents, educators and elected officials as we all struggle together to adapt to our “new normal.”

We’ve begun that conversation in our own family as our college freshman finished his classes on Wednesday and my two other teenagers finish school in early June. My older children had summer employment lined up — one at a garage, the other at a restaurant. Is it safe for them to do this work? Can they take public transportation? Should they do it for free it the employer can’t pay? And what happens if schools and college don’t reopen this fall? We are facing the prospect of many many months of many millions of kids with very little to do and an educational system facing financial hardship and fatigue.

I don’t know how the US should handle this, but I do have some thoughts what schools of older kids — middle and high school, community and four year college — can be doing this summer. They should stay open, virtually, and be there for their students in some manner. In talking to the schools of my own children, we’ve come up with a few ideas that may be worth trying out, while allowing educators the time off they deserve this summer:

Offer a course called “Navigating COVID19” — Use the academic resources of the school to lead a summer long online course which gives young people a far better understanding of the virus and our collective societal response. The course could include a comprehensive curriculum which teaches them about the biology, economics and geopolitics of COVID. They could study how their own community is responding and discuss the tough decisions we have to make about social distancing, masking, testing and tracing. It can attempt to give them skills to deal with the natural anxiety, loss, struggle which comes with COVID and how and why they need to make good decisions about their own behavior. We should try to make our young people experts in infectious disease — it will be knowledge that they can use their throughout their lives, and could make a real difference in our efforts to defeat this virus in the coming months.

As a parent one thing I’ve learned through this crisis is kids are struggling to understand who to believe, and what is true. They don’t always trust their parents, and let’s be honest, the information coming from the federal government has been a bit wobbly. They need help in navigating COVID — and schools are perhaps the best tool we have now as a society to help them do so.

Questions of whether the course is live or recorded how much homework and reading there is, can be left up to each school. Schools should allow students to keep computers or iPads or other equipment over the summer, and work as hard as they can with local governments to help those students without access to broadband or hardware to participate.

Keep School Clubs Open — Create summer jobs for some students by paying to keep school clubs open — debate, chess, martial arts, e-sports, art etc. Will allow students across the country to stay engaged in hobbies and communities they love, and provide leadership opportunities for tens of thousands of students who may otherwise be idle this summer. Anticipating that parties and gatherings of young people will remain infrequent, we need ways to help break the debilitating isolation so many kids are feeling these days.

Make Sure The School Newspaper Stays Open — Like the club strategy, pay students to keep the school newspaper open and reporting. Will give students an informed student led set of voices to help them stay current as they navigate these challenging times. Encourage experimentation with Zoom or other video platforms for interviews or performances. Keep students talking to one another, learning, engaged. Ask alums or local journalists to “chair” this experimental effort, offering their expertise along the way.

Keep “Advisories” Open — Every school handles small grouping of students in different ways, but for those who have “home room” or “advisories” they should keep meeting weekly over the summer, doing a check in, let folks share their stories of how they are getting by, staying happy. Bigger colleges should break up into smaller “colleges,” and keep video conversations going with 150–200 students weekly. Students need to see one another, stay in touch — this will be a great way.

Like many parents, our family is all of a sudden waking up to the challenge of what exactly will our kids be doing this summer. I think this is a far bigger challenge than many realize, and the country should begin a big conversation about it, spitballing ideas, working to keep our young people informed, safe and happy. Schools have a key role to play, and it is my hope they will step up and let their students know that even though school is ending they will be with them at every step pf the way in this challenging time.

 

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