In his business and political careers, Trump has mastered branding and self-promotion. In New York real estate and reality television, brash goes a long way. It can in politics, too: Voters may overlook broken promises such as building a border wall and making Mexico pay for it, seeing it as within the realm of campaign embellishment. But bluff doesn’t work with a pandemic, and voters don’t like it. Significantly, the White House appears to have realized this at the eleventh hour and is restoring its daily pandemic briefings.

Trump made many dismissive and triumphant statements about the coronavirus early on, and we warned him to adopt a more sober approach. His early statements — remember the boast: “When you have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done” — are ammunition for Democratic campaign ads…

What is happening now is more than a mere communications problem. It’s a results problem. The spike in cases is worrisome, given that the summer months were expected to provide a respite. Most experts believe that there may be a big surge in the fall, coinciding with the new flu season. Should the U.S. enter that season with a high baseline of infections, things could get really ugly. If November arrives with widespread school closures, lockdowns, and surging cases, voters will not care for presidential bravado.