Trump also misjudged the politics of COVID-19. Throughout the campaign, he focused on rapidly reopening the economy, often at the risk of rekindling the pandemic. That turned out to be disastrous for the country, but also for his candidacy. Fabrizio found that in the 10 battleground states, “majorities of voters … prioritized stopping the spread of [the virus] over re-opening the economy.” The virus “was the top issue” in these states, the pollster observed, “and Biden carried those voters nearly 3 to 1.” In the exit polls and in McLaughlin’s survey, voters said by significant margins that Biden would handle the virus better than Trump.

Fabrizio flagged two particularly foolish mistakes in Trump’s response to the virus. One was ridiculing masks. In the 10 battleground states, voters who favored mask mandates (Biden’s position) outnumbered those who opposed mask mandates (Trump’s position) by a ratio of three to one. The enormous pro-mask constituency went to Biden by about 30 points, on average, in the five states that flipped to him. Trump’s other dumb move was his persistent slander against Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In the five states that flipped to Biden, 72 percent of voters approved of Fauci’s job performance, and 63 percent of those voters went to Biden.