Battleground Bulletin: Trump’s self-inflicted coronavirus wounds will bite him at the ballot box

September 13, 2020

Trump’s self-inflicted coronavirus wounds will bite him at the ballot box

The Woodward revelations are just the latest reason voters will hold Trump accountable for his pandemic failures.

Despite what you might have heard from his sycophantic staff, Donald Trump is no master strategist. He’s not playing four-dimensional chess. He’s barely playing Chutes and Ladders — and he always seems to land on those darn chutes.

Trump tripped over his own feet again this week when it was revealed by Bob Woodward that the president had repeatedly lied to the American people in the early days of the coronavirus crisis. Not only did the president know exactly how deadly the virus was from the very beginning, but he purposely downplayed its severity to the public for months — wasting valuable time and ultimately making the pandemic much worse than it needed to be.

This latest self-inflicted wound torpedoed Trump’s recent efforts to shift the campaign conversation away from the coronavirus crisis by transparently attempting to distract the public with an increasingly unhinged “law and order” message. No number of bizarre TV ads about Antifa taking over the suburbs can drown out the president having the blood of tens of thousands of Americans on his hands.

The Woodward revelation is a good reminder of why the Trump campaign has been trying so hard to change the subject: If voters are thinking about Trump’s disastrous coronavirus response when they enter the voting booth, he’s going to lose.

Trump’s attempts to change the subject away from coronavirus have failed.

Even before this week’s blockbuster news, Trump’s efforts to refocus voters’ attention on crime had largely fallen flat: the pandemic remains very much top-of-mind for most Americans.

According to a recent Navigator poll, when asked whether they’re more concerned about the coronavirus or crime, voters say they’re more worried about the pandemic by a 15-point margin. And that shouldn’t be much of a surprise: several recent polls have found that the pandemic remains among the top issues likely to influence voters’ choice in November.

Perhaps that’s because Americans are still feeling the effects of the outbreak in their daily lives and seeing the toll it continues to take on their communities. According to another Navigator survey, nearly seven in ten voters say the pandemic is causing them stress right now, while more than one in five personally know someone who has died from COVID-19. (The latter figure is even higher among voters of color, with 33% of Black voters and 30% of Hispanic voters saying they know someone who lost their life to the virus.)

Voters know this is not OK. And no matter how many times Trump tries to pass off several thousand new deaths every week as an acceptable “new normal” and simply move on to other, more politically favorable topics, the American people aren’t buying it.

In an election defined by the pandemic, Trump is in deep trouble.

Trump knows that the pandemic isn’t a winning issue for him. That’s why he’ll do basically anything to stop talking about it. (He should probably stop running his mouth to Bob Woodward as a first step.)

FiveThirtyEight’s average of recent polling shows Trump’s approval rating on his handling of the coronavirus crisis mired below 40%, while two-thirds of voters say they remain concerned that they or someone they know will contract the virus. Similarly, Navigator also found that 55% of voters say Trump and his administration are not doing enough to respond to the pandemic, while a similar number say that the United States is doing worse than other countries at combating the outbreak.

This week’s developments seem to have only made things worse. According to a new poll from Yahoo News and YouGov, 23% of registered voters said their opinion of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has changed as a result of the Woodward revelations — including 15% of those who voted for Trump four years ago. And even more concerning for the president, 15% of survey respondents reported that the recordings have made them less likely to vote for Trump, with a third of those being 2016 Trump voters. In a close election with very few remaining persuadable voters (as we wrote about last week), this shift represents a potentially fatal blow to his reelection prospects.

And this abject failure isn’t just Trump’s alone — the public points the finger at the Republican Party as a whole. When presented with a list of important issues facing the country today, voters were most likely to choose the coronavirus as the issue that Republicans are not focusing on enough. (For comparison’s sake, these same voters said the pandemic was the issue that Democrats were most focused on.)

The political calculus here is pretty clear: The American people are still deeply concerned about the coronavirus and the threat it poses to their lives, their families and their communities. They hold Trump and his Republican allies responsible for bungling the response and making the crisis far worse than it ever needed to be. And now they know that their president knew what was coming and chose to lie about it rather than fulfill his sacred duty to protect the American people — all in a pathetic attempt to get himself reelected.

It’s not hard to see how all that adds up in voters’ minds as they fill out their ballots between now and November. If you were Donald Trump, you’d probably try to change the subject too — but you likely wouldn’t do 18 on-the-record interviews with Bob Woodward while you did it.

ICYMI: Priorities USA Spent Smart as Trump Lit Money on Fire

Last week, the New York Times reported that the Trump campaign has now burned through more than $800 million of the over $1 billion that they have brought in this cycle — with little to show for it. Donald Trump is still running behind Joe Biden in almost every battleground state poll despite a sizable, early cash advantage.

By contrast, Priorities has been effectively allocating our resources and spending smart in battleground states for over a year. Our latest memo outlines where we spent our money and how we’ve made a difference.

  • While the Democrats were spending their time in early primary states, Priorities ran an aggressive digital ad campaign in battleground states starting in July 2019 to hold Donald Trump accountable for his failures. Priorities determined that this campaign lowered Donald Trump’s net approval rating in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by 3.5 points.

  • Priorities’ multimillion-dollar ad spend in battleground states holding Donald Trump responsible for his failure to control the coronavirus decreased Donald Trump’s net approval rating by 2.5 points.

Between April and June, Priorities closed the gap between Biden and Trump’s paid media spending in the core battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin:


Priorities USA Action released a new digital ad following the release of tapes recorded by Bob Woodward showing definitively that Donald Trump intentionally misled the American people about the threat of the virus, costing our country nearly 200,000 lives. “Cover Up” will run in English and Spanish across battleground states including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Arizona.


Even though our country is still in the midst of a deadly pandemic, Donald Trump remains focused on gutting health care access for millions of Americans. “Mask,” a new TV ad from Priorities running in battleground states, holds Trump accountable for abandoning the American people — proposing billions in cuts to Medicare and threatening to gut the ACA while millions have lost their jobs and their health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mask” will also run on TV in Florida as part of Priorities’ multimillion-dollar partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund.