Voters rage against Trump's feeble pandemic fight

Voters rage against Trump's feeble pandemic fight
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The COVID-19 pandemic is the defining issue in the 2020 campaign, but other problems will also shape the outcome of the vital election that will dictate how the nation faces up to the threats to its survival. The sorry state of the economy and the destructive impact of racism will also play a decisive role in the verdict that voters hand down in November.

Three of five (60 percent) of the registered voters in a recent CNN national survey indicated that the tragic coronavirus outbreak was their biggest worry. The prominence of the pandemic in the minds of voters is hardly a surprise. About 190,000 Americans have died from devastating COVID-19 pandemic, millions have been afflicted with the disease and millions of other people are mourning the death of friends and loved ones or taking care of people suffering from the lingering effects of the dreaded disease.

Sadly, the nation will soon need to deal with the news that 200,000 Americans have died. This tragic milestone will increase the level of concern about this plague-like pandemic. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy MORE’s feeble fight against the COVID-19 outbreak is his greatest obstacle to reelection. The CNN survey showed that Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies Biden says Ginsburg successor should be picked by candidate who wins on Nov. 3 MORE had a 12 percent advantage among registered voters as the candidate who is best able to combat the vile pandemic.

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This voter assessment of the ability of the presidential candidates’ capacity to fight the pandemic was recorded before news about the details of Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage” reached the public. The author’s taped conversations revealed the president knew earlier this year about the devastating nature of the pandemic. Despite this knowledge, Trump downplayed the effects of the disease and even called the pandemic, a “Democratic hoax.” It’s fair to say that the publicity focused on the book will make the pandemic an even bigger problem for the president than it already is.

The CNN poll indicates that there’s almost as much voter concern about the state of the economy (58 percent worry) as there is over the shattering pandemic outbreak. Voters may worry as much about the economy as they do the pandemic, but the two issues have a much different political dynamic. While Biden enjoys a big edge among voters for his ability to fight the pandemic, the two presidential candidates are nearly equal in voter assessments over their capacity to deal effectively with the economy (Trump 49 percent, Biden 48 percent).

Pocketbook issues should give Biden a strong edge since the state of the economy under Trump’s watch is so deplorable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 11 million jobs have disappeared since February. Many of those unemployed Americans will not have jobs to return to when and if the pandemic subsides. Millions of Americans are in danger of eviction from their homes and apartments.

The massive level of unemployment should be but isn’t working in Biden’s favor. Trump shouldn’t get a pass for his lack of action against the spread of the coronavirus and the subsequent economic fallout. Biden needs to address bread and butter issues more aggressively.

Voters are looking at the ruinous pandemic and the sad state of the economy as separate issues. The Democratic standard bearer needs to connect the dots and make the case that the COVID-19 depression is a direct result of the president’s failure to aggressively fight the demoralizing pandemic. 

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The Democratic nominee should act on Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 Biden's fiscal program: What is the likely market impact? McConnell accuses Democrats of sowing division by 'downplaying progress' on election security MORE’s (I-Vt.) advice, which has included pushing raising wages, job creation, expanding health care, to name a few. 

The voters’ judgment on which of the two candidates will be a better steward of the economy could determine the outcome of the race. If Biden takes a big edge on repairing the broken economy, it would likely clinch victory for the Democratic nominee. The credit that many voters give Trump for dealing with the economy is the only factor that keeps the incumbent’s campaign from collapsing.

Ranking closely behind COVID-19 and the economy, is voters’ concerns about the impact of racism. Half (52 percent) of the registered voters say they worry about racial inequality. 

Trump’s insensitivity to the aspirations of African American voters and Biden’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement have given Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Senate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg Cruz: Trump should nominate a Supreme Court justice next week MORE’s vice president an impressive advantage on the issue of racial justice. A clear majority of voters give the challenger an edge (56 to 38 percent) over the incumbent for fighting racial inequality.

The president has tried to offset his unpopularity with minority voters by focusing on law and order and attacking the demonstrations against racial injustice that have occurred in cities since the murder of George Floyd. But there is far less concern about the risk of crime (37 percent) than there is about the pandemic, the economy and race relations. To make the situation worse for the president, voters give more credit to Biden than Trump (51 to 44 percent) for handling the criminal justice system. 

Trump will need to find a more compelling issue to run on or against if he has any hope of overtaking the frontrunner in the last two months of the campaign.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.