- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2020

President Trump’s hopes of eating into the Obama coalition have faded in recent weeks as his handling of the coronavirus has left a sour taste in the mouths of minorities, young voters and college graduates.

Democratic candidate Joseph R. Biden’s lead among voters younger than 35 has more than tripled since April, from 12 percentage points to 42 points. Among white college-educated voters, he has gone from 9 points to 33 points over Mr. Trump, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

Earlier this year, Mr. Trump was eating into those demographics and also into the share of the minority vote. Some polls suggested that the strong economy could power him to nearly 40% support among Hispanic voters.

All of that has changed as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps an icy grip on the country.

Glenn Bolger, a Republican Party pollster, said voters used to be split between those who saw the coronavirus as more of a health care problem and those who saw it as an economic problem. No longer.

“Now more people say it is a health care problem, and those people are overwhelmingly voting for Biden,” Mr. Bolger said.

A CBS News poll released over the weekend showed Mr. Biden winning 72% of the voters in Arizona, 68% of the voters in Texas and 67% of voters in Florida who are “very concerned” about the coronavirus. All three states have become COVID-19 hot spots.

The slide for Mr. Trump has crossed most demographics.

Mr. Biden cut into Mr. Trump’s lead among non-college-educated voters and now holds a 49% to 43% edge among White voters, marking a reversal from three months ago. No Democrat has won the White vote since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

Even among self-identified Republicans, Mr. Trump is no longer at the record highs he has touted: 15% of them said Mr. Biden would do a better job of confronting the coronavirus crisis.

“From the moment it became clear that the coronavirus was a long-term, life-altering, national crisis, the president’s numbers have been in a free fall,” said Tim Malloy, of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute. “When the economy went with it, reelection got a lot more difficult.”

A majority of registered voters in an NBC News poll released Thursday did approve of the way Mr. Trump has handled the economy, but 6 in 10 voters panned the way he has handled the coronavirus and race relations.

Mr. Trump’s strongest backers, in most polls, continued to be men and non-college-educated voters.

Republican faithful say they don’t see danger signs and think party voters will support the president in November. But for swing voters, they say, the virus has kept the focus on the president, making it harder for him to define Mr. Biden and frame the race on his terms.

“I think the biggest impact all the health concerns have had is the president hasn’t had an opportunity to be on the offensive against Biden as much as he’d like to and talk about what a second term would look like,” said Bruce Ash, a member of the Republican National Committee from Arizona. “Obviously, this isn’t going to go on forever, and they will make their case and he will carry Arizona.”

“I know what the polls say, but I don’t believe all the polls,” he said. “I don’t believe the polls when they say we are up or when they say we are down.”

Mr. Trump has derided the polls as “fake.” He said they are meant to dampen the spirit of his supporters and pointed out that “Crooked Hillary Clinton” lost in 2016 after leading the “SUPPRESSION POLLS.”

But there are signs Mr. Trump and his campaign are worried.

The president took the first steps with a campaign shake-up this week, ousting Brad Parscale as a campaign manager and installing Bill Stepien.

He also took to the White House Rose Garden in a stunning display of campaign oratory, unloading in deeply partisan terms on Mr. Biden and going point by point through the Democrats’ proposed “unity” platform on immigration, taxes and the economy.

The Trump camp this week started airing a campaign ad warning that a vote for Mr. Biden is a vote for the “left-wing mob” that wants to “defund” the police.

“Who will be there to answer the call when your children aren’t safe?” the narrator says in the ominous ad.

Asked about the recent polling, the Trump campaign repeated the charge that Mr. Biden “has become a puppet of the far left.”

“These socialist policies will tank our economy, raise our taxes, kill our jobs, defund our police, and destroy our health care system, hurting all Americans regardless of age or political affiliation,” said Courtney Parella, a Trump campaign spokeswoman.

Yet for many voters, Mr. Biden is an afterthought. Their vote is about Mr. Trump, and they are increasingly dissatisfied.

The Gallup Poll shows Mr. Trump’s approval rating has dropped 10 points over the past two months to 39%.

In Arizona, an OH Predictive Insights tracking poll of likely voters released Thursday showed Mr. Biden up by 5 points and found Mr. Trump’s supporters are not as enthusiastic about voting for him as they were a month ago.

In Florida, the new epicenter of the epidemic, people blame Mr. Trump, said Doug Kaplan, president of Gravis Marketing polls.

“Trump has a big problem,” he said.

Mr. Trump defended his response to the pandemic. He said the moves his administration has made in regard to travel bans, testing and the distribution of ventilators has “saved millions of lives” and made governors look good.

“But if we had listened to Joe Biden, hundreds of thousands of additional lives would have been lost,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Biden, aware of the good fortunes of the moment, is pressing his advantage.

He rolled out a campaign ad in Florida this week focusing on the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and urging people to stay safe by wearing masks.

He is even running ads in Texas, the biggest state in the Republican coalition and one that no Democrat has won since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University poll, said there is a “huge gap between the president and pretty much any other public official in the public’s ratings of how they are handling the outbreak.”

“But other factors also carry some weight,” he said. “For example, on top of the pandemic, Trump’s response to racial unrest has generated negative reactions among key swing voters, which has also bolstered Biden.”

Republican Party insiders are now wondering just how poisonous the situation is, and the party’s three-seat advantage in the Senate is suddenly in doubt.

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