- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Voters in nine battleground states trust President Trump more than presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden to hold China accountable for the coronavirus crisis, and they overwhelmingly support Republicans’ proposal to shield small businesses from lawsuits related to the pandemic, according to a poll obtained exclusively by The Washington Times.

As the president weighs sanctions against Beijing this week for its crackdown on Hong Kong, the survey for America First Policies found that 57% of voters in those key swing states also favor punishing China for its role in the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 100,000 Americans and battered the U.S. economy. The nonprofit group promotes policies aligned with Mr. Trump’s agenda and is affiliated with the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action.

Voters gave Mr. Trump a 17-point advantage over the former vice president, 50% to 33%, on being better able to stand up to China and hold it accountable for spreading the virus. Three-fourths of voters have a negative view of China.

The Trump campaign plans to keep attacking Mr. Biden through Election Day for being soft on China. America First Action is airing ads in the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin criticizing the former vice president for outsourcing jobs to China.

“The American public does blame China for this virus, and their trust in China is at an all-time low,” said Kelly Sadler, communications director for America First.

The poll was conducted in states expected to decide the November contest: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The breakdown of respondents was 38% Republicans, 38% Democrats and 24% independents, said pollster Adam Geller.

The president traveled to Florida Wednesday to watch America’s first space launch in nearly a decade, although the launch was scrubbed minutes before liftoff because of bad weather. The Republican National Committee said the revival of the U.S. space program serves as “a stark reminder that if Joe Biden had his way, our country would capitulate to China in space.”

Mr. Trump is increasingly leaving the confines of the White House while urging governors to allow more businesses to reopen.

As states reopen, Senate Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pushing for a law to protect businesses from lawsuits related to the possible spread of the coronavirus among workers and customers. In the America First survey, 74% of respondents in swing states support liability protections for responsible small businesses, health care workers and others on the front lines of the pandemic.

The Chamber of Commerce joined more than 200 trade associations and other groups Wednesday in calling for Congress to provide temporary liability protections.

“Temporary, targeted and timely liability relief is critical as employers work to keep their employees and customers safe and reopen their doors as America moves towards recovering from this crisis,” said Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer. “Businesses who follow public health guidelines shouldn’t have to worry about lawsuits. Without temporary liability protections, many companies face a daunting choice of either staying closed and risking bankruptcy or reopening and risking a business-crippling lawsuit.”

House Democrats, who have passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package, oppose liability protections for businesses.

The economy has replaced health care as the top concern of voters, according to a Firehouse Strategies survey released Wednesday. It showed that the economy was the top concern of 31% of voters, compared with 22% who said health care was their priority. The same poll in March showed health care was a greater concern than the economy by a similar margin.

In the America First survey, 52% of respondents said ending the COVID-19 pandemic was their top concern, while 47% of voters said the economy was their priority.

The president signed an executive order last week ordering Cabinet agencies to cut more regulations as an emergency step to spur the recovery. Club for Growth President David McIntosh said Wednesday that his group’s polling shows the action “is broadly supported by Americans, regardless of party.”

“We think it’s a tremendous opportunity and a way to further stimulate economic growth without having to spend trillions and trillions of dollars,” Mr. McIntosh told reporters in a conference call.

He said his group is assembling a coalition to make suggestions to the administration for reducing regulations and cited as an example the permitting process for infrastructure projects.

Since governors began shutting down nonessential businesses nine weeks ago, more than 38 million Americans have filed unemployment claims. The jobless rate is expected to rise to more than 20% in May from a low of 3.5% in February.

Even during the pandemic, respondents in the America First poll said they trust Mr. Trump over Mr. Biden to rebuild the economy, by 46% to 40%. Although the margin is close, Mr. Geller viewed it as a positive for the president.

“We’re in the middle of the global pandemic and economy is really in rough shape, and yet we still had a 6-point advantage,” he said.

No matter what the pace of the economic recovery, Mr. Trump is certain to make China a central theme in his attacks on Mr. Biden. Of respondents in the America First poll, 70% support Mr. Trump’s decision in late January to restrict travel to and from China, where the virus originated late last year. Mr. Biden initially criticized the move as “xenophobic.”

“You would never know that if you were just paying attention to some of the cable news networks,” Mr. Geller said in an interview. “That speaks to where Americans are on this issue right now.”

The president said Wednesday that the media and “Do Nothing Democrats” are still pushing a narrative that he was slow to react to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Wrong, I was very fast, even doing the Ban on China long before anybody thought necessary!” the president tweeted.

In April, Mr. Trump also halted some immigrants from entering the U.S. because of the pandemic. In the survey, 72% supported that action and 25% opposed it.

House Democrats have established a select committee to investigate the administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, a move opposed by 50% of respondents in the poll and supported by 43%.

⦁ Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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