President Donald Trump’s gamble on reopening the United States economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the nation has backfired, leaving the president in a losing political position just four months before the US election.
Trump cast himself as the cheerleader-in-chief and has pushed US governors and business leaders to reopen the economy with the hope that the virus would wane. That has not happened.
Now, infection rates are exploding throughout the South and West of the US, and the virus is returning to states that had previously peaked. Trump has refused to acknowledge the rising risks, claiming case numbers are a function of more widely available testing and instead pushed to reopen schools beginning as soon as next month.
The talk of reopening schools, as the virus resurges, has unsettled parents and families nationwide and left governors and local officials in the difficult position of having to make plans without adequate resources or guidance.
“Trump has clearly lost his footing,” said Shibley Telhami, a pollster and professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic is not winning over the American public. Opinion polls suggest Trump is trailing his Democratic opponent Joe Biden by an average of more than eight percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics.com. Biden leads in the key states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Florida that are likely to turn the election.
“The president has a governing problem that has become a political problem,” said Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Biden leads Trump in support among Americans by 49 percent to 40 percent, according to a survey of 1,500 adults by The Economist/YouGov taken July 12-14.
“If his poll numbers look this way on election day, he is almost certainly going to lose,” Kondik said.
Indeed, for weeks Republicans who could lose control of both the White House and the US Congress to Democrats have been expressing alarm at the president’s weakened political position.