An anxious nation waits in suspense. Will he recommend a reckless May 1 reboot or an even more reckless reboot sometime this month?
Actually, if this WSJ preview is correct, he’s going to take a smarter and safer course by punting to the governors. Yes, that’s a reversal from his “total authority” and “mutiny” talk of a few days ago but it’s the wise play politically. The worst thing that could happen to his reelection chances is if he strong-armed governors into reopening too soon and triggered a major local outbreak or even a second wave nationally. Better to hang back, put it on them to make the fateful call, and then watch. If it backfires he can say, “Wasn’t my decision.” If it succeeds he can say, “Didn’t I tell you all along that we needed to reopen early?”
I don’t think he’ll really sit back and watch, though. His base, encouraged by Fox News, is starting to get wound up about protests against stay-at-home orders in Michigan and elsewhere. It’s a matter of time before he begins cheerleading those on his Twitter account. Governors will have the final say but he’s going to make their jobs harder by complaining loudly about the slow pace of ending the lockdowns. There won’t be any calls for patience or national unity until conditions on the ground hopefully improve.
President Trump is planning to outline new federal guidelines for opening up the country that will put the onus on governors to decide how to restart the economies in their states amid mounting fallout from the coronavirus outbreak…
“The buck stops with the governors,” said one senior administration official involved with the planning…
“You’re going to call your own shots,” Mr. Trump told the governors, according to a person who was briefed on the call. “We’ll be standing right alongside of you and we’re going to get our country open.”…
It will ultimately be up to individual governors to formally lift state stay-at-home orders. While some governors are looking to the federal government for guidance and may feel political pressure to follow Mr. Trump’s lead, most governors will make the decision based on evolving conditions in their states.
He knows that most red states will follow his lead, which means many will try to reopen on May 1. If new infections in those states are slow, Trump can declare victory at the end of the month. It might even encourage some blue states to experiment with reopening parts of their own jurisdictions.
A thought: Did those multistate coalitions that are being formed by (mostly) Democratic governors twist his arm on deferring to state leaders? I didn’t realize it, but in addition to the mid-Atlantic, west coast, and midwest confederations, a northeastern coalition of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont formed a few days ago. I believe we’re now up to 20 states, accounting for a huge chunk of the country’s economic productivity, that have formally declared their intention to go their own way on reopening regardless of what Trump says. Faced with that, and knowing that governors have ultimate authority here, the president may have decided that it’d be silly to force a confrontation he was destined to lose and opted to roll with it instead. Governors want to set their own timetables? Fine. They can take the blame for the slow economic recovery then.
Regional coronavirus agreements are criss-crossing the country. The US is gonna look like a big Risk map by the time this is done. pic.twitter.com/KAld6binoJ
— Neoliberal 🌐 (@ne0liberal) April 16, 2020
More than a dozen states have already extended their stay-at-home orders past Trump’s May 1 target date. Looking at that map, I’m thinking that we must be close to done in terms of any new regional coalitions. Presumably no clusters of red states will be banding together; these confederations are about resisting pressure from Trump, after all, and they wouldn’t dare do that. I’m looking at the mountain region there and thinking that maybe there’s something brewing there with the (mostly) blue states involved. Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico all have Democratic governors; Utah is bright red, but Utah is the land of Romney and tends to go its own way. That might be one last coalition to form, and then we’ll be out of Democratic governors. (Hawaii excepted.)
Trump’s job approval numbers have stabilized after climbing above 47 percent during the first weeks of the crisis and then sliding to 45. He got a bad number today from Gallup, though, and this data from Pew suggests some political peril to come:
Note the second line. The protests in Michigan are good Fox fodder but they’re still a minority view. Two or three weeks from now, that may be a different story.
The thing to watch at today’s briefing is his comments on testing. He’s been glib about that in public remarks but the new federal guidelines apparently do reference testing capacity as a key criterion in weighing whether to reopen for business. (Trump reportedly mentioned progress in testing via saliva on the call with the governors.) He’s also expected to announce today that the CDC will hire hundreds of people to assist the states on contact tracing, which is a drop in the bucket — one estimate is that we’ll need 300,000 — but a move in the right direction. Stay tuned. While we wait, something for your amusement.
Based on list the White House just sent, Romney appears to be the only GOP senator not on the congressional task force. https://t.co/B1JU4wWlVb
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) April 16, 2020
Update: Ah, here’s some good news for Trump. Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, has probably been the single most aggressive Republican governor in shutting things down. But he’s going to comply with Trump’s recommended timetable to some degree, reopening some parts of the state on May 1. Which parts? How extensively? Not clear yet. But having DeWine vouch for an earlier reopening will give other governors confidence to move more quickly.
DeWine — whose stay-at-home order expires May 1 — said he received a verbal update on a plan from a task force to reopen the state. That includes safeguards for companies where employees will return to work, including taking temperatures, wearing masks, wiping surfaces and more, at both offices and stores…
DeWine did not detail a plan for how businesses will reopen, when sporting events can take place or whether kids will go back to school in May. He said he expects to announce something on schools next week.
As for mass gatherings like county fairs, “the stuff we all really like,” DeWine said it will be tough.
NYC Mayor Deblasio tells Bill Hemmer that the city will start to reopen in July or August at the earliest.
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) April 16, 2020
I’m not sure de Blasio said the city won’t reopen until July or August. This story quotes him as saying it won’t get back to normal until July or August. Maybe he’s imagining reopening of some businesses late next month and then a gradual reopening of more over the following months. But yeah, July is … a long way away.
Update: Biden advisor Ron Klain is unsurprisingly unimpressed with the new guidelines. Former Trump advisor Tom Bossert likes them more, but note the bit at the end here about testing and contact tracing.
“A number of states in the West and Midwest have enough…track record to show that they've not only gone on the downward side of this curve, but they've been there for awhile.” pic.twitter.com/2R3xuKNLja
— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) April 16, 2020
Update: Here’s Fauci on “multiple checkpoints of safety” in the guidelines.
Dr. Anthony Fauci on guidelines for reopening: "There are multiple checkpoints of safety there."
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 16, 2020
Update: Here are the guidelines at the White House website for your perusal. I hope Trump sticks to them instead of shifting back tomorrow to pressuring governors to open up ASAP.