The virus’s spread will create political pressures Trump has so far escaped. At first the disease took root in densely packed blue states where many residents travel internationally and to which tourists flock. Trump seized on that fact, pointing to red states that have had comparatively few infections. He singled out Republican Governor Jim Justice, whose rural state of West Virginia was the last in the nation to report any cases of infection. “Big Jim, the governor—he must be doing a good job,” Trump said at a news conference earlier this month. (Trump on occasion has also praised some blue-state governors for their performance, like Murphy.)
Conservative pundits have amplified Trump’s message. “These spreads are mainly in the blue states,” the author Dinesh D’Souza said in a recent Fox News appearance. “What I find kind of interesting is these blue-state governors and mayors, they’re criticizing Trump, but they also have the outstretched hand.”
Over time, though, Trump may find even some of his closest political allies demanding more help from the White House. Republicans’ traditional aversion to government intervention and economic aid will face a severe test as more and more of their constituents fall ill. Health experts expect infections to appear more widely as people living in red America travel out of state and then return home, and as people in stricken areas venture out. West Virginia, which had done little testing, now has more than 100 confirmed cases. “New York is the hardest-hit state right now only because New York has been doing more testing per capita pretty much than anyone else, and New York has a much higher population density, which is what we would expect,” Michael LeVasseur, an epidemiology and biostatistics professor at Drexel University, told me.