Expert assess impact of Trump’s statements about COVID-19 on outcome of US elections

The US President Donald Trump risks being branded incompetent because of his conflicting statements about the coronavirus, but this may not stop him from being re-elected for a second term, as the elections for the pandemic year are unpredictable, Ted Anagnoson, professor of political science at the University of California, told the reporters.

Expert assess impact of Trump's statements about COVID-19 on outcome of US elections

Last week, Trump publicly announced that sunlight and bleach will help fight coronavirus. Also, he said, “the disinfectant knocks out the virus in a minute, and if there is a way that we can do something like an injection, then it will penetrate the lungs and affect a significant amount of lungs”. He later explained that he said it “sarcastically” in order to “test the reaction of the media”. Nevertheless, opponents of Trump began to actively use this statement as evidence of the incompetence of the President and even his danger.

“Perhaps President Trump’s statements made last week will shape his image to the detriment of himself. But perhaps he will be able to overcome this image of incompetence”, – Anagnoson said.

He noted that now, six months before the elections to be held on November 3, politicians running for President are trying to establish “the conditions for the election campaign and structure the problems in such a way as to be beneficial for themselves”.

Speaking about the impact of the pandemic on the elections, Anagnoson expressed the opinion that this will become an important factor.

“The pandemic and its impact on the economy at this stage, in spring, seem to be the main elements that determine the election. I assume that the speed of lifting restrictions (due to coronavirus) in the states and the consequences of these decisions for the pandemic will also be important. In addition, it will be difficult for presidential candidates to turn a blind eye to what, as a result of which unemployment will rise to 15-25%”, – he said.

Earlier, a number of states have already announced a partial lifting of restrictions; others plan to do this in early May.

In the United States on April 30, more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 were recorded, more than 60 thousand people who were diagnosed with coronavirus died. Thus, Trump’s forecast for the total number of deaths, which he gave several weeks ago, was exceeded. However, earlier the President said that 100-200 thousand dead would mean that the authorities did a “good job” to combat the pandemic, as otherwise there could be more than 2 million dead.

The professor also commented on the ratings of Trump and his main rival in the election, Democrat Joe Biden, who should formally be approved as a party candidate at the congress in August. According to most ratings, in April Biden was ahead of Trump by an average of 6% (48% versus 42%), which roughly reflects the Democrats’ advantage over Republicans. However, four years ago, a democratic majority among voters did not prevent Trump from winning the election thanks to the US electoral system.

Characteristically, as the situation with the coronavirus worsened, ratings of both Trump and Biden declined in April, albeit slightly. According to the Real Clear Politics portal, if at the end of March the president’s average rating was 44.4% and his rival had more than 50%, then by the middle of the month they fell by 3%, having risen by the end of the month by a percentage.

“Ratings at this stage, leadership of 5 or even 10 points – all this can completely change in the fall, and this is the most important aspect. We had elections where the candidate had leadership in the spring of 15 or 20% in the spring, and then it evaporated, as soon as the Americans really began to pay attention to the election campaign, which usually starts not earlier than the beginning of September”, – the political scientist noted.

“The pandemic introduces a large element of uncertainty into any ratings. Those that are now do not matter, especially in such rapidly changing conditions… We don’t know what will happen, but we know that the situation is unpredictable. The President can still win, but he can win his opponent”, – the professor concluded.

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