The pandemic, however, has shown that Trump is as out of touch with voter sentiment as Bush was in his campaign. Repeated polls show that voters want someone who places safety over the economy. Yet Trump clearly sympathizes with those who favored stoking the economy over concerns about the virus’s spread. Early polls showing voters approved of his handling of the pandemic turned sharply negative as Trump’s disconnect became clearer. He is left with the worst of both worlds: a pandemic that has never really gone away, and an economy struggling to recover.
The killing of George Floyd exposed another clear disconnect with voter sentiment. Americans were outraged by Floyd’s death, just as they would later be outraged by the police killing of Rayshard Brooks. Voters wanted something done to protect the civil rights of these unjustly killed Black men, but Trump could never summon the empathy and compassion needed to address the moment. Instead, he focused on the rioting and looting that ensued and reverted to his favored stance of a tough guy facing a tough world. The rioting and looting were indefensible, and their continuance in many cities was something he should have dealt with. But the lack of balance and tone-deafness toward injustice were deafening. It’s no wonder that Trump’s job approval plunged as the protests and violence riveted public attention over the summer.
As with Bush, it might be Trump’s debate performance that sealed his fate.