Celebrity political author Bob Woodward has a bombshell revelation about impeached President Donald Trump in a new book: that Trump knew how deadly the coronavirus pandemic was from the very start, and purposely lied about it.
Set aside the ethics of Woodward sitting on that information in order to sell books six months later, after hundreds of thousands had died, and focus instead on the consequences of the revelations themselves. Because unlike almost anything else we’ve seen lately, this has a real chance of further damaging Trump among his dwindling base, and for sure, it puts a serious damper on his reelection efforts. Here are three reasons why that’s the case:
1. Nothing has moved Trump’s job approval numbers in the last year except one thing: his COVID response
Take a look at our Civiqs daily tracker for Trump’s job approvals over the past year:
So much has happened this past year, including scandal after shocking revelation after unbelievable actions by Trump and his merry band of felons and eventual felons. And yet there is only one thing that has moved his number: COVID.
You can see a slight uptick in March, after Trump declared a coronavirus national emergency, as he enjoyed a tiny rally-around-the-flag effect, but that quickly faded as the public realized that Trump wasn’t actually going to do anything about it. There may or may not have been a multiplier effect after the start of the national Black Lives Matter protests (the little bullet point after “Senate coronavirus hearing that may be hidden depending on your browser settings), but it’s hard to say. My guess would be it didn’t, and the movement around that time was pandemic-related.
Now take stock of that movement: Trump went from 43-54 prior to the national emergency announcement, to 41-56 today—a net four-point shift. That’s it! Four freakin’ points. 200,000 dead, and it cost Trump FOUR points. It’s unfathomable!
How many points did calling veterans and our wounded and fallen troops “suckers” and “losers” cost Trump? Zero points. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
Now as I noted earlier, that’s not terrible from an electoral standpoint. It means that Trump’s chances of flipping public opinion in his favor are pretty much zero. Everyone has made up their minds and is locked in. There’s nothing he can do to further damage him. BUT, there is little he can do to recover. And given that he is currently losing the election, we would love for him to lose support, but steady still gets us to where we want to be—his defeat in November.
2. If he’s playing defense, he can’t play offense against Biden
As I wrote earlier today, “Trump’s inability to stay focused has left his noise machine unable to amplify a single line of attack [against Joe Biden]. In fact, they spend more time defending him from his daily ridiculousness, than they do targeting Biden.” And literally, later that day, Trump is once again forced to play defense.
This dynamic applies to everything Trump does. So even if calling our fallen troops “losers” and enlisted soldiers “suckers” doesn’t erode his support, that was one week he spent defending himself rather than focusing a line of attack against Biden. And we have what, seven weeks left in this election? He’s about to spend another week defending himself. And he knows this is a problem for him, because he may have just admitted to being a liar for the first time ever:
Trump, the same guy that has driven his base to hysterics over MS-13, Honduran caravans, “anchor babies,” “the mob,” antifa, black people moving to the suburbs, and countless other bigoted, racist, sexist attacks meant to divide us along class and racial lines, is now going to claim he didn’t want to “panic” people?
What would’ve reduced panic is, you know, not killing 200,000 people by refusing—to this very day—to advocate for mask wearing. Had he come out, sober and serious, and said “this is a serious disease, wear your masks, we’re going to protect the economy with stimulus, be prudent and safe and we’ll get through this together,” things would look different today. Perhaps we could’ve safely reopened schools like Europe has been able to do. Fewer people would be dead, for sure. And see that “rally around the flag” bump Trump got in March? He could’ve ridden that to a stronger reelection position.
Instead, he now has to defend himself over what is likely to be days of revelations, on the one subject that has demonstrably cost him support this year.
3. This reinforces opposition from the one swing demographic—college-educated suburban white women
For all the effort expended on persuasion, only one group of people has moved in any real numbers against Trump since the 2016 election: college-educated suburban white women. That’s why Democrats romped in 2018, picking up 41 House seats, 38 of them in the suburbs. It’s why we’re looking good to potentially pick up even more seats this year, also in the suburbs, while enjoying a wide Senate map. It’s why Trump is struggling in traditional Republican strongholds like Arizona, Georgia, and Texas.
These women turned on Trump because of his bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia, rejecting the GOP’s explicitly racist 2018 campaign. They left Trump long before the pandemic was a thing.
But nothing Trump has done since 2018 has given them any reason to return. This racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement has just reinforced the reasons they abandoned him in the first place.
That said, for Trump to get back to his 2016 baseline, he would need to win these women back. Admitting that he lied about a pandemic and did nothing while 200,000 people died isn’t going to do anything to earn back that support. It merely gives those women added impetus to vote Biden and Democratic this November.
Bonus reason: Republican elected officials are abandoning him
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham seems to be the only elected Republican to have defended Trump. Everyone else is pretending they don’t read news.
Trump is running out of time to reverse his sorry current standing in the polling. He needs to drive up Biden’s negatives and shore up his own terrible job approval numbers. Yet by being forced to spend the next few days to a week defending himself over admittedly lying—on tape!—it prevents him from doing the things he needs to do to actually win.