When American war deaths in Vietnam spiked in 1967 and early 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he wouldn’t seek a second term. When the Iraq War spun out of control in George W. Bush’s second term, his presidency collapsed. Similarly, there is now a grim conversation quietly happening in Republican circles about the Covid-19 death count, with some saying that if there are 250,000 people dead by Election Day, it will be hard for Trump to win reelection.

Others are slightly more optimistic that the overall number of deaths is less important than the trajectory of new cases and whether there are signs of an economic rebound. “Allowing people to get to some semblance of normal without a second wave occurring and the economy showing glimmers of hope would be a success,” argued one Republican close to the president…

“We’re a country of 330 million people,” said a person close to the president when asked about the climbing death toll. “But how many people die from the strain A of the flu every year? How many people die from strain B? Are we counting the deaths accurately? Just because you had corona in your system doesn’t mean that was the reason you died.” (Covid-19 has killed more people in a few months than the flu is estimated to have killed during the October to April season, and on some days Covid-19 surpasses heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death in America.)