Whitmer’s numbers here are less interesting than Trump’s, but they’re noteworthy. A month ago her overall job approval jumped to 60 percent after stay-at-home orders started being issued nationally. Three weeks later she’s slipped a little but not as much as I would have thought given her emergence as a lightning rod for Republicans unhappy with her more heavy-handed restrictions. She’s at 57/37 on her COVID-19 response today, assuming this new survey is accurate. Inevitably, the longer her orders stay in place and the more economic damage is done, the more her approval will decline. But it’s resilient so far, a reminder that the protests in Michigan this past week represent a small but noisy minority.
Trump’s numbers in Michigan are steady as well, which isn’t great under the circumstances.
By contrast, 44% of those polled approved of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis while 50% disapproved. The Republican president who is running for re-election has sporadically criticized Whitmer, who is a national co-chairman of of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign and is being considered as a potential running mate…
Trump’s approval numbers are almost identical to what his overall job approval numbers have been for the better part of three years now in Michigan, said Richard Czuba, a Lansing-based pollster who conducted the survey.
“For this moment in time, that’s startling,” Czuba said. “And that’s because this is very much a rally-around-the-flag moment, and voters typically would be rallying around the leadership of the president, and they clearly are not.”
Trump’s numbers are ultra-polarized among Republicans and Democrats, with indies in Michigan rating his handling of the epidemic at 40/52. Whitmer scores much better with independents at 56/35 and she does better with Republicans than you might expect. They split 22/70 on her performance, a bad mark in the abstract but not bad comparatively for a Democrat who’s become a top Trump foil and the target of grassroots right-wing protests locally. As I say, though, her numbers will change as unemployment gets worse. Fully 29 percent surveyed said they’d been furloughed, laid off, or otherwise unable to work while everything’s shut down. What will her approval be when it’s 40 percent who say so?
In the end, though, no one cares about her. We want to know how Trump’s going to do in Michigan this fall against Sleepy Joe — but, weirdly, there have been no new presidential polls of the state in the past month. Biden led Trump by an average of 4.4 points there the last time a survey was in the field, between March 16 and 20, around the time lockdown orders were being issued in various states. Biden’s hardly been seen since, and so a new poll of him and Trump right now in Michigan would be a nearly lab-quality experiment in how the state’s voters are feeling about the president’s coronavirus response. Given that Trump’s approval in Michigan has barely budged lately, we might expect that Biden’s lead over him has barely budged too.
But don’t be so sure. In every poll of the state taken this year, Trump has pulled 44 percent or less of the vote against Biden. That leaves a lot of room for the Democrat to grow. It may be that Trump has an absolute floor of 43 percent or so in Michigan but that Biden’s ceiling, which depends on undecided voters, has risen in reaction to the federal government’s woes in managing the epidemic. Circumstantial evidence:
A new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll this weekend showed that fully 65 percent of Americans say Trump did not take the coronavirus “seriously enough at the beginning.”
That echoes a Pew Research Center poll from late last week that showed the same number (65 percent) said Trump was “too slow to take major steps” to address the situation. In that poll, even one-third of Republicans and GOP-leaning voters conceded that Trump didn’t react quickly enough…
Other findings in recent polls reinforce that. The NBC-WSJ poll, for instance, shows 50 percent say Trump is handling the situation well now and 44 percent approve of his handling of it, but when given a choice between him and Joe Biden to handle the situation, just 36 percent choose Trump — as compared with 45 percent who choose Biden. When it comes more broadly to who people trust to handled a crisis, Biden holds another nine-point lead, 47 to 38.
There’ll be a lot of unenthusiastic Biden supporters this fall but their votes count just as much as those of Trump superfans.
The president has been left scrambling to find a message that’ll close the gap between them but he’s stuck right now because the public is so consumed with the COVID-19 crisis. If the feds had responded well and kept the number of deaths in the U.S. below, say, European levels, Trump would be running on that. (In fairness to him, the number of U.S. deaths *per capita* is lower than it is in some European countries.) But he knows that between the testing screw-ups and his many foolish comments in February about defeating the virus soon that he’s better off not focusing public attention on how his administration has responded. Instead he’s going on offense, toggling between accusing Biden of being a chump for China and Democratic governors of killing the economy by not reopening for business sooner. Can that work in November?
Get real, says Chris Christie:
Ultimately, Mr. Trump’s advisers said, most of his team is aware that it can try to drive down Mr. Biden’s poll numbers, but that no matter what tactics it deploys now, the president’s future will most likely depend on whether the economy is improving in the fall and whether the virus’s spread has been mitigated. Those things will remain unknown for months.
“This is going to be a referendum,” Mr. Christie said, “on whether people think, when we get to October, whether or not he handled this crisis in a way that helped the American people, protected lives and moved us forward.”
If anyone can successfully run a “lesser of two evils” campaign during an economic catastrophe involving tens of thousands of people dying due in part to an incompetent federal response, it’s Trump and his messaging machine. But they have less to work with in Biden than they did in Hillary, both in terms of personal scandal and raw likability. I think Trump can win if technology catches up to the virus this summer and figures out a way to avert a second wave this fall. For instance, maybe some antibody therapy will come along soonish and cut the fatality rate down to a fraction of what it is now. The economy recovery will then begin sooner than expected; Trump will become the beneficiary of a lucky biotech break. But barring some deus ex machina, it’s hard to see what sort of positive narrative he’ll have for his management of the outbreak by November and it’s equally hard to see how he’ll avoid being judged for it. The election’s going to be a straight-up question of his job performance. What will he say? “Hunter Biden” won’t cut it.