As Ed Morrissey recently pointed out, President Trump has received some of the only good news going around the country lately, coming in the form of the best approval ratings of his presidency. This has been a serious problem for most of the major liberal newspapers and cable news outlets who generally continue to insist that the Bad Orange Man is always Bad, no matter what happens. The majority of them have avoided talking about his improved ratings, or if they do, they add in every caveat imaginable about how it either won’t last or doesn’t matter.

Not everyone has buried the news entirely under the rug, however. The distressing fact (for the left) that nearly two-thirds of the public approves of how Trump is handling the pandemic came to the attention of Professor Matthew Baum, a professor of public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Never one to be daunted by alarming aspects of reality, Professor Baum took to the pages of the Los Angeles Times op-eds to puzzle out what could possibly make an increasing number of presumably otherwise normal Americans say that Donald Trump may not, in fact, be the Devil. And he’s determined to get to the bottom of it.

The number of cases of COVID-19 is soaring in the United States. The economy is in free fall. Tens of millions of Americans are locked down in their homes. Hospitals around the country are becoming overwhelmed by the day. The U.S. is arguably facing its most severe crisis since World War II.

Yet despite the worsening pandemic and withering criticism of President Trump’s performance by public health experts and media pundits, his overall approval rating is up 5 percentage points in the most recent weekly Gallup poll. For only the second time in his presidency, Gallup found more Americans approving (49%) than disapproving (45%) of his job performance. Some 60% gave him positive reviews for his handling of the pandemic.

What accounts for this?

Yes, what could possibly account for this indeed, Professor?

Professor Baum gamely takes a few stabs at guessing what might have accounted for the President’s higher approval ratings. He starts by citing what’s sometimes referred to as the “rally-round-the-flag” effect. It’s the theory that when the country is facing a moment of crisis or tremendous challenge, people tend to be more inclined to stand behind their elected leaders who are expected to guide them to calmer waters. He cites FDR’s double-digit spike in approval after the Germans bombed Pearl Harbord. (Sorry… I still can’t resist a good Animal House reference.) Even more striking was George W. Bush’s 35 point leap in approval after 9/11.

I’m sure that’s part of the explanation, but it can’t be all of it. After all, almost everyone on MSNBC and CNN, along with the raw tonnage of editorials and op-eds cranked out by the New York Times and the WaPo reassure us on a daily basis that not only does the country largely detest Donald Trump, but he’s mishandled the coronavirus response from day one. (Never mind that many of their main items of criticism have either had to be walked back or were found to be bogus.)

Allow me to translate that for you. According to the good Professor, the bump in the polls would have happened no matter who was in office and as such, it couldn’t be attributed to the President’s actual performance.

The one concept which seems to completely elude Professor Baum is that maybe… just maybe… even some of the voters who may not find Trump to be their cup of tea on a daily basis recognize that the pandemic is a massive challenge that won’t be solved overnight. Perhaps those same persuadable people realize that the travel ban Trump instituted early (and was roundly criticized for in the media) was one of the factors that slowed down the spread of the virus long enough for us to try to prepare as well as we could. It’s possible that they noticed how he has gathered together a panel of experts and has largely listened to their advice, even if he still goes on the occasional Twitter rant making them wonder if he was going to follow through.

In other words, while the concept is clearly unthinkable to Professor Baum, it’s just conceivable that Trump’s numbers are gliding upward because more people are beginning to believe that there’s more to this presidency than just Donald Trump’s social media presence and that he’s actually capable of handling one of the greatest challenges we’ve faced in many generations. A crazy idea, I know. But maybe it’s so crazy that it just might be right.

Professor Baum wouldn’t leave his target audience of Trump-haters hanging on a depressing note. He has some good news for the faithful and he sums it up this way.

Improvements in public approval ratings are notoriously ephemeral — usually lasting only a month or so. The COVID-19 rally seems unlikely to last long enough to help Trump’s reelection effort.

Indeed, as the campaign season approaches, the bipartisan support he has thus far received will almost certainly diminish.

See? Nothing to worry about. Trump can’t possibly sustain any improvement in his poll numbers and they will almost certainly go back down in time for the election. Now everyone can go back to eating their avocado toast and agreeing how horrible the Bad Orange Man is.

What actually happens to Trump’s approval numbers from now until November will, in reality, almost certainly depend largely on how well he does getting us past this pandemic (assuming that’s even possible by the end of the summer) and beginning to return the economy to something resembling normal. If that effort fails, he likely will lose the ground he’s gaining. After all, the captain of the ship takes the blame when it hits an iceberg even if he wasn’t at the helm. But if we pull this feat off, Baum may be in for an unpleasant surprise come November.