Trump’s approval bump: Will it last?
“The number of cases of Covid-19 is soaring,” the economy is cratering, yet President Trump’s approval rating is higher than ever, said Matthew Baum in the Los Angeles Times. A recent Gallup poll found 49 percent of Americans approve of Trump, boosted by 60 percent giving his pandemic response “positive reviews.” What gives? Despite “withering criticism” about his two-month delay in taking the pandemic seriously, Trump is benefiting from the nation’s tendency to “rally around the flag” during a crisis: President George W. Bush’s approval rating shot up 35 points, to 90 percent, after Sept. 11. Trump is on TV every day, surrounded by doctors and scientists, talking about providing help to the states and hospitals. But instead of gloating about his poll numbers, Trump should remember that these crisis-related bumps are “notoriously ephemeral.”
Not always, said Mary Kaye Linge in the New York Post. When Abraham Lincoln sought re-election in 1864, “he was overseeing a bloody war, a bitterly divided nation, and a party that wanted to run him out of the White House.” But Lincoln rode to victory, thanks to his “canny” argument against “changing horses in midstream.” That appeal also worked for FDR during World War II. It’s no coincidence that Trump’s approval surged just as he began calling himself a “wartime president.” His presumptive challenger, Joe Biden, had a chance to model “presidential leadership,” said Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal. But Biden instead sounds “small,” parroting partisan talking points to attack Trump. “If Democrats choose to be the opposition in this battle,” Trump will win re-election without having to hold “a single rally.”
His re-election prospects “depend on what happens next,” said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com. The epidemic may or may not last into the summer, and may or may not return in the fall. Trump could exploit the crisis to further his MAGA agenda, stoking “small-town and rural hostility” toward big cities, globalization, and foreigners. He’ll try, said David Leonhardt in The New York Times, but by focusing on the short term, Trump “is almost certainly damaging his chances of re-election.” He has consistently tried “to make the present seem as good as possible,” and his delayed, ineffective response could cause “extended virus outbreaks and a deeper recession.” That could lead to a “miserable” summer and fall—and an unhappy electorate on Nov. 3.