Swing State Pres

Monday, May 4, 2020

BTRTN: Pandemic's Box: Trump Drifts Towards Irrelevance

Tom with the BTRTN April 2020 Month in Review.

As of March 31, there were roughly 212,000 total cases of coronavirus in the United States, and the death toll had just edged over 5,000.  Now, one month later, we have passed the one million mark in cases, and the death toll has ballooned harrowingly to over 60,000 – more than was lost in Vietnam in our two-decade struggle there -- and still climbing fast.  The ultimate number of deaths is likely to surpass 100,000, even had there been no premature “re-openings,” which, of course, will almost certainly push the number even higher.  And a “second wave” is also on the horizon, come the fall when the virus reemerges.

April 2020 Calendar Printable Template in PDF, Word, Excel – Free ...In retrospect, we ended March with two moments that, at least in the main, unified the country.  The first was passage of the $2.1 trillion economic relief bill on March 27, on overwhelmingly bipartisan terms, the third and by far the largest of three coronavirus-inspired relief bills passed in March.  And the second was on March 29, when Trump finally came to grips with the folly of his “open-by-Easter, pews-will-be-full, rarin’-to-go beautiful-timeline” myth and extended the social distancing guidelines until April 30, per the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci.

But by the end of April, these hard-won measures of national purpose had been shattered in so many different ways.  Protesters, first in Michigan, then in other red states, and finally in many states across the country, chafed at “shelter at home” orders that they felt restricted individual “freedom” and blunted economic renewals.  The protests over time morphed from non-socially distance gatherings to more disturbing ones features weapons, culminating by month's end with the nauseating sight of militia roaming the Michigan state capitol in Lansing, fully armed. 

Governors, heeding political winds instead of health advisors, began to split along traditional red/blue lines, and by month’s end a slew of GOP states were opening for business (albeit in phases).  These governors were even ahead of the Trump administration, as they began to open without achieving federal guidelines announced by the Coronavirus Task Force, which called for 14 consecutive days of declining new cases, which no state had achieved.

And the era of good feelings enjoyed by Congress finally ran out of steam, with little progress on a badly needed Phase 4 bill; even the fate of the House procedures were uncertain, as Republicans began to return to Washington to meet in person (as a show of support for the re-openings) while Democrats pushed for remote legislation in light of obvious health considerations.

And where was Donald Trump in all of this?  Seemingly everywhere and nowhere at the same time.  Quickly recognizing the ratings bonanza of the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefings, Trump commandeered them with a daily assault on anyone’s sense of leadership under duress.  A typical Trump “presser” includes most of the following elements:  an opening statement that consisted of a set of bullet points handed to him summarizing the Coronavirus Task Force meeting (which he rarely attends); off-script riffs on enemies to whom he assigns blames (China, the World health Organization, Democrats, Obama, the press and certain Democratic governors); alternative claims of absolute federal power and deference to state houses over the control of reopening decisions; bullying of the press; demands of praise for shutting down China flights; endless hyping of his administration’s track record in dealing with the crisis (one even included a Powerpoint presentation on this topic); praise of CEOs and big business; varying degrees of disagreement with the assessments of the experts; and fabrications about the state of testing.   

What his comments lack are any statements of empathy for the victims, any sense of a coherent national plan for dealing with the containment of the virus, any direction for reopening geographical areas, or how to address the various materials and testing gaps that have emerged (except for endless pounding about ventilators) – and any sense of overall responsibility for what has happened to date.

Trump then turns the podium over to Mike Pence, who dutifully ascribes any positive developments to the wisdom and action of the president.  Drs. Fauci and Birx make appearances, more Birx of late; she appears to be more willing and even eager to carefully modulate Trump’s statements and reconcile them with her own views.  Fauci, who at times cannot hide his disdain for Trump, and is less likely to obscure the truth, has been shunted aside at these confabs.  Various other aides grovel to Trump as they report on aspects of the saga he deems worth reporting.

The press conferences – which are little more than Trump rallies transferred to a new venue -- have hurt him for these defects, lies and omissions.  But one press conference stood out even in this morass – the astonishing one on April 23 in which Trump went rogue on the topics of disinfectants and intense light.  Both have been shown to be effective in killing the virus on surfaces, and, thus inspired, Trump mused on their potential as a cure if they could somehow be injected directly into the human body.  Yes, the President of the United Stated mused aloud, staring at his scientists, about the possibility of humans ingesting bleach or Lysol, which will kill you.

This, of course, followed weeks of Trump’s beyond dubious claims about the effectiveness of an anti-malarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, which he had been touting as a cure, over the advice of virtually any scientific or medical expert.  While testing of that drug is still early and inconclusive, one study concluded that those who were given hydroxychloroquine in trials suffered a higher mortality rate than those who were given a placebo.

The look on Dr. Birx’s face was priceless as Trump directly these thoughts at her.  The CEO of Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Lysol, immediately issued a statement sternly warning consumers of his product to not, uh, consume his product.  Ultimately, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland revealed that his state’s hotline has received over a hundred calls asking about the advisability of swallowing disinfectants to battle the virus.  In the aftermath, Trump’s advisors ramped up their calls for him to abandon, or at least shorten the briefings, advice Trump rather haltingly followed in the ensuing week.

Apart from the press conferences, Trump of course has been active on Twitter, and in no way more astonishing than his apparent support of the protesters as they ramped up.  His April 17 tweets to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA” were hard to believe in and of themselves, but particularly since those states were all following his own guidelines.

The net effect of all of this – the utter lack of leadership Trump has brought to the crisis, the disdain of science, the irresponsible statements, the refusal to use the power of the federal government to commandeer procurement of needed supplies or allocate scarce materials, and the deferral of all decision making to governors – has strangely rendered Trump more or less irrelevant in the management of this crisis, stuck in a pandemic's box of his own making.  It is a stunning turn of events that has no ready analogy, except, perhaps, the inaction of James Buchanan before the Civil War or Herbert Hoover in the early years of the Depression.  Even Neville Chamberlain and Lyndon Johnson doggedly pursued their ill-fated strategies; they neither shirked their responsibilities nor blamed others for their plights.  Both stepped down voluntarily when their follies became crystal clear.

Clearly this has become the moment for the governors.  Andrew Cuomo of New York has become a national superstar, the anti-Trump of crisis management.  GOP governors Hogan (Maryland) and DeWine (of Ohio) have achieved bi-partisan praise for their non-partisan leadership.  Governor Whitmer of Michigan has become a Vice-Presidential contender, while governors Kemp of Georgia and DeSantis of Florida have become laughingstocks.

But we are thus operating with the chaos of 50 different plans, ranging from the meticulously cautious) New York’s plan) to the absurdly casual (Georgia’s).  There is nothing about the various approaches that is coordinated, apart from some task forces created by Northeast and Northwest governors.  Most states do not have any detailed plans for the pillars of reopening:  adequate testing capability and contact tracing procedures and resources required to contain the second wave.  Perhaps the absurdity is best reflected by the following data point:  the states that have reopened actually were experiencing higher daily new case growth rates, in the week before they reopened, than the states that remain restricted (4% versus 3%).

Nevertheless, one can be sure Trump will claim full credit if the crisis ends (no matter when or at what cost), and will put the blame on the governors if it lingers unabated or their actions prompt a second wave.  He will continue to blame China for the virus’s onset, WHO for its initial laxity, Obama for those so-called empty stockpiles, and the governors for everything else.

One thing is unambiguously clear:  the US has failed to bring down the number of new cases as well as other large countries.  A direct comparison of the US with the combined totals of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – who have a total population just about equal to that if the US – bears this out.  While Europe was hit with the virus first, the US has since surpassed the Big Five in total cases.  And of late, the US has labored to drive total daily new cases down, stuck in the 25,000 to 30,000 range, while Europe, using more aggressive and disciplined national shutdown strategies, has driven daily cases from roughly that same range 25,000 – 30,000 range to about 12,000.

USA
BIG FIVE EUROPE
Week Ending
Avg. Daily
Cum
Cum % Change
Avg. Daily
Cum
Cum % Change
17-Mar
47
353
8%
1,034
8,366
46%
14-Mar
353
2,825
35%
4,203
37,786
24%
21-Mar
2,984
23,710
36%
11,876
120,915
18%
28-Mar
13,914
121,105
26%
22,450
278,066
13%
4-Apr
26,682
307,876
14%
27,678
471,814
8%
11-Apr
31,080
525,436
8%
23,729
637,919
4%
18-Apr
28,467
724,705
5%
19,592
775,064
3%
25-Apr
29,856
933,698
4%
15,775
885,488
2%
2-May
27,589
1,126,822
3%
12,147
970,518
1%

Meanwhile, the economy is in a shambles.  The GDP declined by 4.8% in the first quarter alone, and that was only the beginning of the crisis.  More than 30 million jobless claims have been filed in the last six weeks; the unemployment report that will be filed this Friday will be devastating.  The economic packages to date will doubtless mitigate even worse effects, but each have been sloppy in their own ways. 

The stimulus checks have been slow to get to needy Americans.  The Payroll Protection Plan somehow found its way to the Los Angeles Lakers, a franchise that is worth more than $4 billion and generated more than $100 million in operating profit last year, and many other large, publicly-traded companies.  And the intended target, small businesses, have been either unable to get them (due to systems snafus that make the Obamacare start-up look like the model of efficiency) or cannot use them (since it would require them to re-hire laid-off employees to make products for which there is no demand).

There is no longer any rational debate about whether Trump has handled the crisis well.  Even a healthy subset of the GOP – in polling -- thinks he was too slow off the mark is reacting to the threat of the virus and is not a credible source of information.  The blue half of the country is contemptuous of his efforts with plenty of facts to support the critique.

The only question is whether this epic fail will cost him the election in November.  And that, indeed, remains an open question. 


MONTHLY MADNESS

What more can be said?
Trump suggests 'injection' of disinfectant to beat coronavirus and ...

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute.  And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” 


TRUMP’S HANDLING OF THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

The presidential playbook for dealing with an epic crisis is clear:  soar above partisanship and unify the entire country against the scourge; balance the cold hard facts with determined optimism; and rally the country to make the sacrifices required to conquer the evil.  You don’t have to be much of a student of history to recall those moments when presidents past made their marks: FDR in fighting first the Depression and then the Nazis, JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis, George H.W. Bush and the Gulf War, George W. Bush and 9/11.  Each found the proper notes, each were rewarded with sky high approval ratings.

Um, that hasn’t happened here.  Not a bit.  No cold hard facts, no call for sacrifice, no soaring above the fray.  And Trump has not been rewarded by bipartisan support.  Instead, he has veered from minimizing the threat, to embracing it, to rejecting it again and finally the low mark, the insanity of the Call for Lysol, which plunged his “handling the crisis” ratings back down to the low 40% range.

TRUMP HANDLING OF CORONAVIRUS
Week ending
3/7
3/14
3/21
3/28
4/4
4/11
4/18
4/25
5/2
Approve
41
44
50
51
45
46
47
46
42
Disapprove
48
51
45
45
47
51
51
51
53
Net
-7
-7
5
6
-2
-5
-4
-5
-11


Some deeper perspective on Trump’s performance is given in this chart, from Morning Consult, which covers a range of metrics.  Trump fails to clear 50% approval on any measure, but comes closest on economic matters.  He falls particularly short – below 40% -- on such measures as providing accurate information, adequate testing and developing a vaccine.  He barely does better – at the 40% mark – for managing the spread of the virus and ensuring hospitals are properly equipped.  This is a hideous scorecard for the crisis of our times – and many governors of both parties are doing far better.


TRUMP APPROVAL RATING

But while his handling of the coronavirus approval levels have risen and fallen over the duration of the crisis, his overall approval rating has been as placid as a pond in New Hampshire on a lazy summer’s day.  It has risen modestly in the face of the crisis, and held at 45% through the month of April.

April became the 28th consecutive month that his approval rating was in the 40-45% range. 

That’s a long way from the maximum levels of bi-partisan support enjoyed by JFK in the Cuban Missile crisis (67%), George H.W. Bush in the Gulf War (86%) and George W. Bush after 9/11 (also 86%).


TRUMP APPROVAL RATING

2017
2018
2019
2020

1H
2H
1H
2H
1H
2H
J
F
M
A
Approve
44
39
42
43
42
43
43
44
45
45
Disapprove
50
56
54
53
54
54
54
54
53
53
Net
-6
-17
-12
-10
-12
-11
-10
-11
-8
-8


TRUMP VERSUS BIDEN HEAD-TO-HEAD

Joe Biden continues to hold a commanding lead over Trump in national head-to-head polls.  However, it should be noted that due to the GOP’s structural advantages in the Electoral College (which essentially boils down to California being underrepresented), Biden +3 would be considered “even.” 


TRUMP VS BIDEN HEAD-TO-HEAD
NATIONAL

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
Biden
50
50
50
48
Trump
45
46
43
42
Diff
5
5
6
6

Biden is showing some daylight in aggregated swing state polling, now +3 versus Trump.

TRUMP VS BIDEN HEAD-TO-HEAD
SWING STATE
National
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
Biden
48
46
47
48
Trump
45
47
45
45
Diff
3
-1
2
3
Swing states: AZ,FL,GA, IA, ME, MI, MN, NC, NV, OH, PA, TX, WI


GENERIC BALLOT

The Democrats continued to hold a healthy lead in the generic ballot, which is a very strong predictor of November performance.  If the Democrats continue to hold a 7-point lead come Election Day, they stand to pick up 15-20 more seats to add to their overwhelming majority in the House.


GENERIC BALLOT

2019
2020
Jn
Jl
A
S
O
N
D
J
F
M
A
Dems
45
46
47
47
47
47
48
45
47
49
46
GOP
39
38
38
39
39
39
41
41
40
40
39
Net
7
8
9
8
7
7
8
5
6
9
7



TRUMPOMETER

The Trumpometer sharply dropped from March to April, from +7 to -14, as the impact of the coronavirus began – though it is clear this number will go much lower in the coming months.  The -14 Trumpometer reading means that, on average, our five economic measures are 14% lower than they were at the time of Trump’s Inauguration, per the chart below (and with more explanation of methodology below). 

The Dow actually increased last month with the positive effect of all the stimulus packages, though it is down from its peak level.  Consumer confidence dropped sharply, not surprisingly, from 120 to 86.  Gas prices continued their free fall with the near-complete drop in demand.  This actually helps the index – low gas prices are better than high ones, but it is rather meaningless for house-bound consumers.  The GDP fell to -4.8% in the first quarter.  Only the unemployment rate has yet to see an impact, and that is only because the latest report has not come out yet (but will on May 8, and it will be a doozie).

The “Trumpometer” was designed to provide an objective answer to the legendary economically-driven question at the heart of the 1980 Reagan campaign:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  The Trumpometer now stands at -14, which means that Donald Trump cannot make that claim, and pretty soon it will be at George W. Bush levels. 


Clinton
Bush
Obama
Trump
TRUMPOMETER
End Clinton  1/20/2001
End Bush 1/20/2009
End Obama 1/20/2017 (Base = 0)
Trump 3/31/2020
Trump 4/30/2020
% Chg. Vs. Inaug. (+ = Better)
Trumpometer
25
-53
0
7
-14
-14%







  Unemployment Rate
4.2
7.8
4.7
4.4
4.4
6%
  Consumer Confidence
129
38
114
120
87
-24%
  Price of Gas
1.27
1.84
2.44
2.10
1.87
23%
  Dow Jones
10,588
8,281
19,732
21,917
24,346
23%
  GDP
4.5
-6.2
2.1
2.1
-4.8
-100%


If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at borntorunthenumbers@gmail.com.

Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Trump Inaugural on January 20, 2017, on an average percentage change basis... The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline, and the GDP. 








5 comments:

  1. No mention of the credible allegation of sexual misconduct against Vice President Biden. Oh the Tangled web that was weaved when Progressives assaulted Justice Kavanaugh. Those of us who championed due process still feel Biden deserves this. Those progressives who felt any accusation by a female should be believed and the male convicted face their hypocritical reality. Of course that will not stop the Progressives from supporting Biden but the world sees the hypocrisy, just like the world knows the same people supported Bill Clinton probably the biggest sexual predator ever allowed public office. Just like the world knows that on any American campus title 9 has been abused by the Obama Biden presidency and any woman can convict a male, have him thrown out of school with accusations without presumption of innocence. Now Biden prays for due process while he denied it to his political enemies. So sad and even more sad are the people that allow and condone it.

    The second point is that it is time for the American people to stand up and accept the reality that unless we go back to work a depression is unavoidable. Shortsighted people do not understand that the depression will cause much more death and harm than the virus. It is time for all not at risk people to go back to living their life and opening up the economy. To protect the people at risk but the rest of America step up and accept the small risk that something bad might happen but it is their patriotic duty to keep this country from cycling in to a horrible depression. At this point in time there is no leadership. There are cowards unable to put the countries overall health above their political aspirations. Unless this country stops listening to the hysterical media, accepts the reality of the virus and the low risk people get back to work the end result will be the cure was so much worse than the disease.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Biden's guilt or innocence aside, let's just focus on the one fact you pointed out --- "at this point in time there is no leadership." Why is that? Is there a good reason, or is this statement an attempt to reason where none exists? I'd like to think this is an attempt to figure things out. That implies change; and people like you and me have only one change available --- one vote. We have to vote so that people like you and me who are slated to die in the future can live, not die as they would as if we had done nothing. So the onus for action is on us, on you and on me.

      Delete
    2. Please show your work on your conclusion that "the depression will cause much more death and harm than the virus."

      What factors will leap in order to create 1,700 excess deaths per day (average of the last 10 days)? Where do you see things going off the rails so badly that there will be more "harm" than the consequence of that many deaths, 30,000 additional cases PER DAY, and 6,000 or so new hospitalizations each day?

      Delete
  2. There is no hypocrisy. Biden has denied it. Unlike Kavanaugh there is no investigation. The alleger has said she did not file a sexual abuse charge at the time, she "chickened out." What do you want to happen?

    As for you and your "low risk" scenario: nearly 70,000 people are dead. I'll let you read the rest of this "breaking news" alert I just received from the NY Times:
    "As President Trump presses for states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, nearly double from the current level of about 1,750.

    The projections, based on modeling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pulled together in chart form by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now.

    The numbers underscore a sobering reality: While the United States has been hunkered down for the past seven weeks, not much has changed. And the reopening to the economy will make matters worse."

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for that response to the original poster above, well said and presented

    ReplyDelete

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