By Lord Ashcroft
This article was first published in the Mail on Sunday
As a woman in Michigan put it during my latest round of polling in America: “It’s almost painful to watch. I have to change the channel.” But her comment did not refer to the scenes played out in hospitals and elsewhere as the coronavirus wreaks havoc across the US. Instead, she was talking about Donald Trump’s performance alongside doctors and scientists in daily press conferences that have transfixed the nation. “He’s missing the compassion gene,” said another. “He goes off on a tangent about how rich he is and how he doesn’t need a paycheck. It’s not what people need to hear right now.”
Both remarks were from people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 but were now having second thoughts. Like many others, they were horrified that the country had seemed so unprepared, with such vital things as ventilators, testing kits and protective equipment for health workers in short supply. People felt the response had been too slow, not least because the President had initially downplayed the seriousness of the situation and had failed to underline its dangers. They lamented a lack of leadership at the national level: “You don’t know who’s in charge, who is the adult in the room,” as one confused observer put it. The President’s references to the “Chinese virus” were considered very unhelpful even by those who thought they contained an element of truth.
These reactions chime with a widespread view that the crisis spells disaster for Trump’s chances of being re-elected in November. Strikingly, though, I found that those most critical of the President – aside from those who had never liked him in the first place – were those who were already disillusioned with him before the current crisis hit (more…)