Trump Gets a Bump

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ImageA bakery in Bern, Switzerland, has added a new accessory to its chocolate bunnies.

Credit…Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Immediately after President Trump announced yesterday that he wanted to reopen the country by Easter, a Fox News host dubbed his plan “a great American resurrection.”

Turns out the president may be experiencing a resurrection of his own.

A series of polls released this week showed Mr. Trump receiving some of the highest marks of his presidency.

A Gallup poll published on Tuesday showed Mr. Trump’s overall approval rating tied for its highest point in his presidency, at 49 percent. Sixty percent of Americans gave him positive reviews for his handling of the coronavirus situation.

Most strikingly, his job approval among independents rose to 43 percent from 35 percent earlier this month, and it rose among Democrats — yes, Democrats — to 13 percent, from 7 percent. More than a quarter — 27 percent — of Democrats approve of his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Polls from CBS News and Monmouth University found similar results, with at least 50 percent of Americans saying Mr. Trump had done a good job handling the outbreak.

Democrats point out that governors are still getting higher marks than the president. In the Monmouth polling, 72 percent said their state’s governor had done a good job.

The president’s critics are also eager to play down his rising numbers as simply the norm in times of crisis. They have a point: Historically, polling shows a rallying effect behind a president during national challenges.

“Most presidents get a bump when there’s a national crisis,” said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster. “While I think many of us would argue his handling of this crisis has been insufficient and inconsistent, when people started to tune in to the severity of the epidemic was when he started sounding more serious.”

Yet, Mr. Trump hasn’t behaved like a traditional president in a crisis moment. At times, he’s acted more like our national id, telling Americans what they may want to hear, even if those claims are false or are considered downright dangerous by public health experts.

His Easter promise is a perfect example. Experts say the idea that Americans can return to normal life by April 12 is about as realistic as a giant bunny hiding chocolate eggs.

None of the public analyses modeling the spread of the coronavirus suggest that there will be a resolution of the pandemic in the United States anywhere close to Easter. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a member of Mr. Trump’s task force, has said it’s possible that the country will see a peak in the number of cases around May 1.

Believe me, I understand the desire to know when normal life will resume. Finding the space to write to you this evening involved bribing children with television and cookies. But in this case, experts agree that opening up too early can be catastrophic. One model found that, without action by governments and individuals, 2.2 million people in the United States could die (though some action has, of course, already been taken).

And Mr. Trump cannot actually reopen the country with a snap of his fingers: Governors issue stay-at-home orders and decide what opens and remains closed in their states. The president doesn’t have the authority to overrule them.

That reality may not matter, at least not politically. The polling shows that despite Mr. Trump’s dubious comments, Americans blame the virus rather than the president for our current situation. At least, for now.

It’s a classic move from the Trump political playbook: He makes an unrealistic promise (ahem, completing The Wall) and then blames the establishment, the news media, Senator Mitt Romney, whoever, when it fails to happen.

He could execute the same plan if governors ignored his push to reopen, as they had already indicated they were likely to do. Mr. Trump could then attribute any economic pain to their decisions to flout his recommendation.

Or, things could go in a vastly different direction. Let’s say some governors lift restrictions too early, the medical disaster predicted by experts occurs and the economy takes another nose dive. It’s harder to see how Mr. Trump can escape some culpability, given that he has injected himself into the situation with a request that undermines public health recommendations.

As with so many parts of this evolving situation, we’ll just have to wait and see. Probably past Easter.


We wrote in yesterday’s newsletter that pro-Democrat groups are starting to run attack ads criticizing President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. But one such ad appears to have gone too far for the executives at Fox News.

Unite the Country, a super PAC supporting Joe Biden, released an ad late Tuesday night that was critical of Mr. Trump’s stewardship of the response to the virus, highlighting the president’s previous statements minimizing the crisis. The ad includes a narrator saying, “Donald Trump didn’t create the coronavirus, but he is the one who called hoax.”

On Wednesday, the super PAC said in a tweet that Fox News had rejected the ad and would not allow it to air on the network.

Tom Lowell, the channel’s vice president and managing editor of news, said in a statement, “Fox News declined the spot proposed by Unite the Country because it contains a statement that has been widely disputed by independent sources as being misleading or false.”

At issue was the ad’s reference to comments Mr. Trump made about “a hoax.” While critics said that Mr. Trump had called the virus itself a hoax, the president and his supporters argued that he was referring to Democrats’ criticism of his response to the virus. Several independent fact checkers had agreed that Mr. Trump did not call the virus itself a hoax, though he made many other statements playing down the threat it posed.

Networks do occasionally reject campaign ads from running on their network, either citing known false statements or technicalities (like a missing “I approve this message” disclaimer). In September, CNN refused to air an ad by the Trump campaign regarding Mr. Biden and Ukraine, citing a similar reason about misleading statements in the ad.

Officials at Fox News said they had turned down several ads this year from groups across the political spectrum, including an ad from the Trump campaign about impeachment that claimed Democrats were carrying out a “coup.”

Unite the Country said its ad would still run on other networks, including CNN, MSNBC, NBC and ABC, and would be backed by “seven figures.” And it will be on air soon: The group just made a $200,000 ad reservation on CNN’s national network to begin today, according to the tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

We’ve received so many messages from our readers over the past few days that we’ve decided to start a new feature to share your experiences from life on lockdown. The opening entry in our little diary comes from Daniel Jaret, a daily newsletter reader in New York City who recently proposed to his fiancée, Carly Scheinberg.

The two wanted to share the good news with Mr. Jaret’s grandparents. Luckily, they live on the second floor!

Credit…Daniel Jaret

Congratulations, Daniel and Carly. We here at On Politics send our elbow-bump love and wishes for a non-socially distant wedding and a largely hand sanitizer-free marriage.

Do you have an experience to share, good or bad? We want to hear it. Please email us at, and don’t forget to include your name and where you live.

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