In some cases, Donald Trump's base reportedly trusts him exclusively to handle the coronavirus crisis gripping the nation. But in other cases, fissures appear to be developing among some of Trump's most fervent acolytes that could doom him electorally in November.
Politico reports that Fox News’ Tucker Carlson dared to tell his loyal following last week that Trump officials were trivializing “what is clearly a very serious problem." Meanwhile, Sean Hannity framed the outcry among Democratic officials as “fear-mongering by the deep state.”
The mixed messages from Trump loyalists have played out across the board, from media figures to religious leaders to GOP lawmakers themselves. Even as Trump downplayed the coronavirus for weeks to the point of encouraging people to go to work with it, some of his most fervent defenders on Capitol Hill decided to self-quarantine and get tested, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Trump's newly tapped chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
Seth Mandel, editor-in-chief of the right-leaning Washington Examiner magazine, noted that conservatives have gone from electoral euphoria to dread in the span of about two weeks as they watched the prospect of a Trump reelection bid against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders turn to dust and horrifying coronavirus news out of Italy start migrating to U.S. headlines.
Mandel also lamented how Trump had initially responded to a crisis uniquely suited to a nationalistic framework—i.e., fear of outsiders, particularly China and its economic dominance. "When the president had a crisis that hit that would have, theoretically, been designed perfectly for the nationalist argument, he didn't reach for it. So maybe he doesn't really believe it,” he told Politico.
But bottom line, the mixed messages and splintering among his base are problems Trump simply can't afford, given his razor-thin margin for error in November.