BY CHRIS GOMES
Almost every president has historically had to tackle a defining crisis during their presidency. President Donald Trump’s defining crisis appears to be the outbreak of the coronavirus, and the way he handles it will shape the outcome of the 2020 election.
Generally, in times of national crisis, the population would usually rally behind the given president, a phenomenon that political scientists refer to as a “rally around the flag” effect. This is a traditional surge in the president’s popularity as the nation unites behind its leader during an emergency situation.
However, Trump isn’t benefiting from this effect at all. In fact, most Americans view his response to the pandemic the same way they view his general performance in office: negatively. A series of new polls released show Trump’s approval ratings are reaching the mid 40’s, which are the same ones as almost a month ago, showing no sign of a “rally around the flag.”
The decline in approval ratings can be linked back to Trump’s first three years in office, where his failure to unite the country behind his leadership led to dwindling approval ratings, consistently reaching in the low to mid 40’s. Many Americans disapprove of his overall job, and recently, many believe that his administration hasn’t done enough to protect citizens from the effects of the coronavirus.
Massive unfavorability may come to harm President Trump in his reelection bid in 2020.
Massive unfavorability may come to harm President Trump in his reelection bid in 2020. Democrats have recently narrowed down their presumptive nominee to former Vice President Joe Biden, and the virus seems to continue to be a dominant issue of the 2020 campaign. If the decline continues, Trump will have to fight an uphill battle, one that will be very difficult to fight considering he is an incumbent and would need to prove that he would be able to do more if reelected.
Trump’s low approval ratings defy a historical precedent. Since the dawn of modern polling, U.S. presidents typically see their approval ratings rise significantly when the country faces emergencies. For example, John F. Kennedy’s approval rating stood at 61 percent at the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but surged to 74 percent nearly a month later. The same precedent could be said with Jimmy Carter, and even the recent George H.W. Bush, who saw his approval rating rapidly increase from 58 percent to as high as 87 percent following the climax of Operation Desert Storm.
One of Trump’s only strengths is his will to improve the economy. But with the outbreak of the coronavirus, there has been an associated economic downturn. Many Americans are losing jobs and companies are having to fire their employees at an increasing rate. This will not remain as a good image for the Trump administration in the upcoming 2020 election.
Democrats will also likely focus on the slow response to the coronavirus outbreak, and how that hampers responses to other future pandemics. The Biden campaign has already run an aggressive ad attacking Trump’s response to the crisis, warning that the president’s failure, ego and incompetence will cost lives.
“The virus is not his fault, but the response is his responsibility,” Biden said. “He’s moving too slow.”
The Trump administration’s response to the outbreak can either harm or possibly heal its hopes for a run in November. The pandemic will definitely be a focal point in the election, and Trump’s handling could possibly determine if he can stay in the White House for another four years.
Photo courtesy of Axios