TRUMP IN DEEP TROUBLE
Republican President Donald Trump is in deep trouble just three months before the election, as the coronavirus pandemic has shown a resurgence in the United States in what could be the clearest sign yet of his failure in handling the public health crisis, according to a piece written by Miya Tanaka of Kyodo News.
Recent national polls suggest that Trump, who trails his Democratic rival Joe Biden, is less trusted on a range of issues he is facing, including the response to the pandemic, racial inequality and even the economy, which was long seen as the incumbent's strong point.
"Donald Trump has been pretty much in freefall," Elaine Kamarck, an expert on U.S. politics at the Brookings Institution, said in a recent webinar, attributing the downward spiral to the president's "poor" pandemic management and his "unempathetic" response to the public outcry against police brutality following the death of a black man in police custody in May.
The highly contagious virus, first detected in China late last year, began raging in the United States from March, leading to widespread shuttering of businesses and stay-at-home orders.
But Trump has given the highest priority to reopening the economy, while frequently downplaying the seriousness of the health crisis and blaming China for failing to stop the virus at its source, even as public health experts have warned that easing restrictions too soon could lead to an outbreak that veers out of control.
The concerns appear to have become a reality, with the country now reporting around 60,000 new infection cases and 1,000 deaths from the virus each day. Some southern and western states crucial to Trump's re-election, including Florida and Arizona, have been among those with particularly dramatic spikes in cases throughout June and July.
Finding himself in an awkward position, Trump has abruptly signaled a shift in tone on the coronavirus issue, explicitly encouraging the public to use face masks to slow the spread of the virus and resuming press conferences to update the public on his administration's pandemic response, which he had not done since late April.
The country is seeing "a new 2.0 version of President Trump now taking the coronavirus very seriously," public opinion pollster John Zogby said in a recent podcast.
The pandemic also forced Trump to cancel a full-scale Republican convention scheduled in Florida in August, during which he was supposed to deliver his nomination acceptance speech with great fanfare.
As events to reach out to voters go largely virtual for both campaigns, some experts said that Trump is losing his edge in this aspect given that he can no longer make effective use of his "strong suit" of "putting on a show."
"One important thing that simultaneously hurts the president and helps Joe Biden...is that this is going to be a race that is far less about performance, and by that, I mean sort of the physical onstage performance, not performance of doing the job, but just how good of a show can you put on," said John Hudak, an election expert at the Brookings Institution.
"And what's going to be elevated is an election where voters have to look at the candidates and think about the ideas, more than the show that's getting put on in front of them," he added.