COVID-19 and George Floyd’s death could have major impact on Trump’s re-election hopes

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During the beginning stages of the Democratic Party nomination race last year. Trump was favourite to win a second term. However, in recent months, the US has suffered over 115,000 coronavirus deaths and seen protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody. Speaking to, Dr Andrew Moran, Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at London Metropolitan University said: “His [Trump] popularity has been declining as the numbers of Covid-19 deaths increases.

“His response to the death of George Floyd has been widely condemned in both the US and around the world. In fact, it is worth remembering that the effects of Trump’s behaviour reach beyond the US – many around the world accuse Trump of abandoning any sense of global leadership, something China has sought to capitalise on.

“It’s hard to see how he can recover from this in a broader sense, but many of his supporters still remain faithful to a President they believe is making America great again.”

Trump has suggested he would be willing to deploy US troops to restore order in the US and has even taken aim at state and local governments, while most protests following the death of Mr Floyd have been peaceful, some have taken a violent turn.

However, his Defence Secretary Mark Esper has spoken out against such a move, arguing that such a decision should only be made in specific circumstances, which have not yet occurred.

When asked if the protests had generated enough outrage for Trump to start to feel worried, Dr Moran explained: “For Trump the death of George Floyd and the demonstrations that have followed are nothing but an opportunity to reach out to his own base. The widely condemned photo opportunity in Washington outside the St. John’s Episcopal Church saw Trump reach out to evangelicals by uncomfortably holding a Bible, appeal to gun owners by promising to protect Second Amendment rights in a speech about restoring order and comfort traditional conservatives by portraying himself as a law and order president (not unlike Nixon, but even Nixon had the guts to meet demonstrators, which Trump does not).

“Trump may claim he has done more for black Americans than any other president, which is simply not true (ask Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson or Obama), and his only evidence appears to be falling black unemployment levels – something which had begun under Obama.”

Abraham Lincoln was the US President who led the Union to victory in the American Civil War and abolished slavery, while Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 which prohibited ethnic or racial discrimination in the nation’s defence industry, the first federal action to prohibit employment discrimination.

Lyndon Baines Johnson submitted to Congress the Civil Rights Act 1964 which aimed to end racial segregation in schools, employment and public accommodations, the median income of African-American households increased by 4.1 percent between 2014 and 2015 during Mr Obama’s time at the White House.

Dr Moran accused Trump of only caring about what his own supporter base wants and added: “Whether Trump’s approach will work remains to be seen. What it does allow him to do is shift the agenda away from his incompetent handling of Covid-19 which has led to over one hundred thousand Americans dying, a disproportionate number of whom, like Britain, are from the BAME community.”

Trump infamously suggested exploring injecting disinfectant into the body to help beat coronavirus, although he later claimed he was being sarcastic.

On how Trump might approach the five months prior to election day and what to expect, Dr Moran said: “Trump’s strategy of running on the economy has been badly damaged by the economic shocks of Covid-19. Though last week showed some positive statistics on a possible turn around it is very unlikely that the recovery will be as dramatic as Trump hopes, certainly not by election day.

“What is probable, as a result, is Trump positioning himself as a law and order and anti-immigration candidate. We are already seeing him attempt to do this with mixed success.


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“I suspect we will also see very brutal attacks on Biden, linking him to the Obama Administration that so many Trump supporters opposed.

“For Trump it is about getting out his base – he has never been a candidate or president who has sought to unite the country. Trump is now dealing in small margins and with declining support he will have to have a very targeted Electoral College strategy. If he is reelected, he will almost certainly be a minority President, i.e. attracting less overall votes than Biden but having enough in the right places when it comes to the Electoral College. The numbers are moving towards Biden, but he is not the strongest candidate and is prone to gaffes. Whatever happens, it is going to be a fight fought with gloves off probably in a way we have never seen before. Prepare to be astonished, appalled, and bemused. Trump will not go quietly – if he goes at all.”

Trump’s former Defence Secretary Jim Mattis accused him of not trying to unite Americans, and John Kelly, Trump’s former Chief of Staff told Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director: “I agree with him.”

“There is a concern, I think an awful big concern, that the partisanship has gotten out of hand, the tribal thing has gotten out of hand.”

Dr Rubrick Biegon, Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Kent, told that the impact coronavirus has had on the economy might be a cause of concern for Trump: “Donald Trump enjoyed some of the strongest polling of his presidency early in the coronavirus epidemic. This was due to the “rally ‘round the flag effect”, in which citizens show greater support for national leaders during times of crisis.

“By signing an economic stimulus package, Trump appeared to take seriously the pandemic’s effects. As the public health and economic crises grew more pronounced, however, Trump’s approval rating declined, though not dramatically.”

Dr Biegon added he doubted the death of Mr Floyd was going to have a major impact on voting due to the partisanship of US voters on such issues.

He explained: “Cultural issues such as the protest movement around the killing of George Floyd are unlikely to move the needle much in either direction since Americans are fairly polarised on these matters.

“Although ongoing disturbances may allow Trump to advance a ‘law and order’ message, he had planned to run on the economy. The US is now officially in a recession, so this is harder to do. Although the “law and order” rhetoric will play well with Trump’s base, economic uncertainty is likely to override this message for many independent and ‘swing’ voters.”

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