Trump lost in large part because he mishandled the pandemic, his aides and allies say; appears to have hurt his margin in Kentucky
Joe Biden usually wore a mask; President Trump didn’t. (Washington Post photos: Demetrius Freeman, Jabin Botsford)
President Trump lost Tuesday’s election in large measure because he mismanaged the novel coronavirus, many of his aides and allies told The Washington Post, which recounts the election in a 9,200-word story. Politico has a similar account.
The Post reports: “He lost, they said, over the summer, when the virus didn’t go away as he promised; when racial unrest roiled the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death and protesters ran rampant through the streets; and when federal and local authorities gassed largely peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square across from the White House so Trump could stage a photo op. And he lost, they said, during a roughly three-week stretch from late September to mid-October, when an angry and brooding Trump heckled and interrupted his way through the first debate and then, several days later, announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus. He also lost, aides added, after years of confrontational and incendiary conduct turned off independent voters, who finally said they had seen enough.” And there were money and managerial problems, but the overarching reason was the pandemic.
Josh Holmes, a longtime adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, told the Post, “The pandemic is the difference between him winning and losing. The better question is: Could he have still won during the pandemic? I think we’ve seen a number of times when America has had great challenges, when you have leadership that’s rewarded. That just didn’t happen here.”
“If he loses, it’s going to be because of covid,” Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, told the Post shortly before Election Day. She was one of 65 “Trump and Biden aides, advisers, confidants, lawmakers and political operatives, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details of the 2020 campaign,” the newspaper says. Aides played a role in Trump’s failure, too. The story begins with Trump deciding not to wear a mask in the public part of his visit to a Ford Motor Co. plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., in May.
“Do you think I should wear a mask?” he aides and advisers as Air Force One came in for a landing, the Post reports: “The responses were nearly unanimous, with senior White House officials arguing that wearing a mask was unnecessary and would send a bad signal to the public about the magnitude of the crisis.” At about the same time, Joe Biden made his first public appearance in 71 days and wore a mask. “The mask would become a symbol of his entire campaign — a durable cloth representation of Biden’s caution and deliberation, his steady leadership style, his adherence to science and facts, his reassuring vanilla decency.”
In contrast, “Trump kept returning to a faulty strategy of trying to wish, tweet and riff away the deadly virus. He forced his team to create an alternate reality in which he held massive rallies — supporters packed together, few sporting masks — and said that the coronavirus was only a modest threat and was going to disappear any day. . . . In the end, 82 percent of voters who said the coronavirus was their most important issue in choosing a president supported Biden, according to preliminary national exit polls.”
Trump carried Kentucky, but by about two-thirds the margin that he had in 2016. In the exit poll for The Associated Press, 91 percent of Kentucky voters said the federal government’s response to the pandemic was a factor in their vote. Trump won that group of voters, 60% to 38%; his share of the vote was 58.2%, less than his 62.5% in 2016.
A plurality of voters, 39%, said the pandemic was the most important issue facing the country, and Biden won those voters 56% to 43%. Next came the economy and jobs, at 32%, and Trump son those voters 89% to 9%. Health care was a distant third, at 8%, and Biden won those voters 58-41.
Just over half of Kentucky voters, 55%, said the coronavirus in the U.S. is at least somewhat under control, and Trump carried those voters 88-10. Among the 45% who said it is “not at all under control,” Biden won 68-31. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
Kentucky voters were evenly divided when asked if the federal government should limit the spread of the virus, even if it damages the economy, or if the priority should be limiting additional damage to the economy, even if it increases the spread of the virus. By 66-34, Biden won the 50% who gave the virus top priority; Trump carried 89-9 the 48% who chose the economy.
Gov. Andy Beshear mentioned the virus in congratulating Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris: “We will work with the incoming administration, as we have the current White House, to improve lives and opportunities for every Kentuckian. Now, the election is over, and it is time to come together as Americans and as Kentuckians. We are in the fight of our lifetime against covid-19 and we must unite to battle this virus that has killed 235,000 Americans, including more than 1,500 Kentuckians.”