A newly released report from the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services — appointed by Donald Trump — paints a devastating portrait of the Trump administration’s failures during the coronavirus pandemic. The medical conclusion is inescapable: thousands of US citizens will die from the coronavirus because Trump failed to act early and decisively, and, when it was obvious, failed to provide medical and protective equipment to medical personnel. The political conclusion is also inescapable: it is more than possible that Trump will lose 40+ states, including some in the Deep South which often have limited health care resources as well as governors who refused to issue early protective and mandatory orders.
Let’s be clear. Even before the pandemic, more than 50% of suburban white women and more than 90% of African-Americans would vote against Trump no matter who the Democratic candidate is (other than Bernie Sanders). In 2016, Trump won 53% of suburban women and Clinton won only 85% of African-American voters. The combination was sufficient to give Trump a 170,000 vote margin of victory in five critical states. Every national poll that I have seen suggests this pattern will not reoccur in 2020.
Additionally, as the Super Tuesday results reveal, the animus towards Clinton was very widespread. It is now clear that, in the 2016 primaries, much of Bernie’s success was predicated on opposition to Clinton and not support for Bernie. Unfortunately for Trump, he isn’t running again against Clinton but rather against Joe Biden, who, for all of his foibles, is a very likable and decent man whose character and temperament is well suited for the current crisis.
Finally, in a pandemic environment, healthcare and administrative competence will be the dominant issues. In 2018, the Republicans lost consistently on the healthcare issue. The country is simply not going to trust Trump on healthcare and his management style is going to be increasingly frightening in the context of a pandemic.
The death toll, and its inexorable and unrelenting rise over the next five months (even if the rate declines) will be a political death knell. Trump is the 21st century equivalent of Herbert Hoover; he just doesn’t know it yet.