Trump’s Failure to Reopen Safely Could Hurt Him on the Last Issue Voters Trust Him With: The Economy

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By Keya Vakil

June 26, 2020

Trump’s poll numbers are collapsing nationwide, but a majority of voters in six key battleground states still approve of Trump’s handling of the economy.

Joe Biden has taken a sizable lead over President Donald Trump in six key swing states, though the president clings to a lead on the issue of the economy, according to New York Times/Siena College surveys released Thursday.

Trump, whose 2016 election was driven by surprise victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, now trails Biden by at least 10 points in all three states. He also finds himself down 6 points in Florida, 7 points in Arizona, and 9 points in North Carolina.

A majority (56%) of voters in those battleground states, however, still approve of Trump’s handling of the economy and believe by a double-digit margin that he would do a better job on the issue than former vice president Biden.

There’s reason to believe Trump’s numbers on the economy may dip, however. The president has spent the past two months aggressively pushing to reopen the nation’s businesses and public settings, ignoring public health warnings about a spike in COVID-19 cases and going all-in on the bet that reopening the economy and engineering a comeback will help his poll numbers.

On Wednesday, health experts were proven right, as the U.S. set a new daily record for cases amid skyrocketing case numbers in many parts of the country. Trump’s economy-first approach comes despite the fact that most voters, including those in the six swing states, want him to prioritize public health measures. Fifty-five percent of voters in the key battleground states say the Trump administration’s priority should be to limit the spread of the coronavirus, even if it hurts the economy. Only 35% say the federal government’s priority should be to restart the economy.  

While the nation’s job numbers are marginally better now than they were in April and May, nearly 1.5 million workers still filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, the 14th straight week that the figure has topped one million. Nearly 20 million people are currently collecting unemployment benefits, a number that has decreased since May, but could increase again as the coronavirus pandemic worsens and forces states to hit pause on reopening or shut down again, halting the economic recovery. 

“The renewed outbreak will hinder the recovery,” Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust in Chicago, told the New York Times. “I can’t help but think that the willingness of consumers to be in crowded places has diminished. It’s going to be a long haul to get back to where we were before the pandemic.”

RELATED: These Governors Bungled Their Coronavirus Response. Now Their States Are Paying the Price.

Several states, including Texas and North Carolina, have already hit pause on reopening amid growing outbreaks, and leaders in other states like Florida are under pressure to do the same.

The economy could also fall off a cliff this fall due to the lapse of coronavirus relief benefits, as BuzzFeed News grimly noted earlier this month. Between July and October, the following benefits and protections will expire, putting tens of millions of Americans at enormous risk of complete financial collapse:

  • The $600-a-week expansion of unemployment benefits that has proven to be a lifeline for millions of people is set to expire at the end of July. Republicans have insisted they will not re-authorize an extension, despite Democrats’ efforts to fight for the extension. Unless that changes, the income of tens of millions of jobless Americans will plummet almost overnight.
  • Banks were directed to give customers a six-month break on mortgage payments, if requested, but many of those homeowners will have to resume making payments again at the end of October.
  • Most states also temporarily banned evictions, but many of those temporary moratoriums are coming to a close in July and August. Michigan’s eviction ban currently ends on June 30, Florida’s ends on July 1, Pennsylvania’s on July 10, and California’s on July 28. Unless these bans are extended, many struggling Americans could find themselves kicked out of their homes for missing rent payments.
  • Most student loan borrowers have been given a six-month break on payments, but that ends at the beginning of October, and millions of young Americans who have been disproportionately devastated by the coronavirus’ economic impact will find themselves having to resume loan payments.
  • There are currently no plans for a second round of federal stimulus payments to Americans, due to Republican opposition.

Collectively, the lapse of benefits, failure to enact further stimulus, and worsening coronavirus outbreak means the worst economic damage may be yet to come. Trump has shrugged off the worsening case numbers, sought to end federal funding for some coronavirus testing sites, and continued to tout America’s reopening without emphasizing public safety.

Biden, meanwhile, has introduced a comprehensive plan to safely reopen the economy and combat the coronavirus pandemic in a way that he says won’t make Americans choose between their health and their livelihood. His proposal would include federally funded testing and personal protective equipment for all workers called back to their jobs, guaranteed paid sick leave for workers affected by COVID-19, a federal jobs program to identify and isolate new coronavirus cases, and funding for small businesses to rehire employees. 

As the nation’s case load continues to get worse, Biden pulled no punches on Thursday, criticizing Trump’s failure to plan for a safe reopening and describing the president’s behavior as that of a whiny child. 

“Amazingly, he still hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this crisis: To fix the economy we have to get control over the virus,” Biden said. “He’s like a child who can’t believe this has happened to him. All his whining and self-pity. Well this pandemic didn’t happen to him, it happened to all of us and his job isn’t to whine about it, his job is to do something about it; to lead.” 

Biden also emphasized how Trump’s inaction has led to devastating suffering for Americans, and promised that if elected, he would work to address that pain.

“If I have the honor of being President, I promise you I will lead,” Biden said. “I will do everything I can to take responsibility and ease this burden on you and your families. I will put your family first.”


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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