Coronavirus is key to Trump’s new strategy

PUBLISHED: 12:18 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:44 21 May 2020

President Donald Trump tours a factory producing N95 masks during his first trip since lockdown. Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump tours a factory producing N95 masks during his first trip since lockdown. Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

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BONNIE GREER on Donald Trump’s reckless plan to get re-elected this autumn.

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Like the plot of a Dario Fo play or a scenario from a Mel Brooks movie, the notorious germophobe Donald Trump has met his biggest opponent yet: a killer virus. “I can’t get sick! I can’t get sick!” he is known to cry as he backs away from friend and foe.

He has a furtive tick in which he sometimes wipes his hand quickly on his upper thigh after he is forced to shake hands. It can be said that this is the one thing that he and the top epidemiologist in the United States agree on: handshaking is probably dead.

The economy was Trump’s trump card, so to speak, and the sole pitch that he could direct at – particularly – the black community in this autumn’s election.

Now, because of the pandemic, all of this, for the moment, is gone.


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It seems to be this – his re-election hopes – that are really motivating him at the moment, rather than the welfare of the nation. And he backs any governor who sees things his way and attacks any who disagree.

In this crisis it is the state governors who are coming the superstars of American politics. Yet Trump has found what he thinks is a way to assert his supremacy over them.

Egged on by Trump State Television – otherwise known as Fox News – the 45th president has found a new card to play and it is this: to encourage the idea that the measures created to protect the American people, by his very own government, are wrong.

And anyone promulgating these measures – his very own measures – is wrong, too.

This may seem like a breathtaking stance, but not so much in light of Trump’s performance during the pandemic – the peak of which was the time that he suggested in a press briefing that the nation might consider trying drinking bleach as a cure to the virus.

Since this fiasco, he has tried to malign his very own chief medical doctor, the renowned Anthony Fauci.

Dr Fauci is the man who helped make the world understand that the Aids virus could attack everybody and was not just a “gay plague”.

Now Trump’s various minions are using the mantra “Tony Fauci was not elected” to implant in what I call the MAGA –Trump’s Base – that somehow this plain-speaking doctor is setting himself up to be dictator.

The beauty of the 45th president is that which he accuses others of is often what he is attempting himself. He is utterly transparent.

Trump’s approval ratings have never reached close to 50% as polled by Gallup, the gold standard in these matters. There is usually a ‘rally around the flag’ bump in national crisis. Not so for this president.

This man is in Jimmy Carter, George HW Bush territory. That is, if you go by past metrics, he won’t get re-elected. Normally.

Yet, Trump just might.

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And this is how: the key is to how he won in the first place. And the coronavirus might be a blessing in disguise in this respect.

The president of the United States is elected by the states. Individual votes add to the tally of the number towards winning what is known as the electoral college.

This was set up by the framers of the US Constitution to ensure that the smaller states were not overwhelmed by the more populous ones. Each state has a certain number of votes which has to add to a tally of 270 for the win.

Trump won 304 votes in 2016. Hillary Clinton received 227, even though she had one of the biggest popular vote hauls in history.

Trump once hated this mechanism. Now it is his friend.

His entire strategy is an electoral college/battleground state one. This is why he has travelled numerous times to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio and Michigan. These, along with Florida, are the states that made him president.

But the battleground has changed since 2016. For a start, some of these states are now ruled by Democratic governors.

Therefore many of the battleground governors are now embroiled in a Trump-concocted battle in which they and scientists are pitted against the libertarian and conservative nomenklatura who view the president as their Messiah. This is his most dangerous ploy and could cost lives.

The Democratic governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, has had to face anti-lockdown and pro-Trump protestors gathered at the capital, Lansing.

Brandishing Glock handguns and AR-15 semi-automatic rifles – which they are legally allowed to ‘open-carry’ in the state – they turned up at the state house to the terror of officials there. The protesters wanted the state opened faster, something Trump had been urging.

Mike DeWine, a Republican and governor of Ohio, is a guy who had been steadily climbing the greasy pole of state politics and at 72, reached the top last year. He has become a household name because he has defied Trump. Along with Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, he is charting his own path. Sometimes it is the one proposed by the leader of his party, Trump. Sometimes it is
not.

DeWine closed down schools faster than any governor in the country. His daily briefings are called by his fellow Ohiohans “Wine With DeWine.” Because at 2pm, in isolation, they open a bottle to listen to his folksy talk.

He had to take on a Republican state senator who compared the actions of the director of the Ohio Department of Health to Nazi Germany. The director, Amy Acton, is Jewish. This is just one example of how Trump has brought his base to the brink.

In some states, Republican lawmakers have urged defiance of their Democratic governors’ own orders to keep non-essential businesses closed.

To stoke the fire, Trump flew to Allentown, Pennsylvania for a politically-charged tour of a medical supply facility. He was the just about the only person in the place not wearing a mask.

The major victories that Democrats have won in Pennsylvania, especially in the suburbs, make this year’s election in that state a particularly fierce battle.

Trump will return to Pennsylvania time and time again before the election – and his supporters will gather to hear him, even in defiance of social distancing.

The president will keep coming, despite his fear of contamination. He won’t led a pandemic stop his drive for that second term.

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