Donald Trump and Joe Biden have both had a challenging week.
The source of Trump’s woes is, of course, his administration’s ongoing shambolic response to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week Trump – in an obvious attempt to declare some sort of premature victory over the virus – declared that he was considering winding down the White House coronavirus task force.
Faced with an immediate public backlash, he reversed course in under twenty-four hours, but made it very clear that his decision had absolutely no basis in public health science: “I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday when I started talking about winding it down!”
Biden’s rough week was caused by an entirely different set of circumstances.
In late March Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer, claimed in a podcast interview that in 1993 then-Senator Biden sexually assaulted her.
This claim took some time to be covered by big media, but the second half of April saw mounting attention paid to the allegations – at the same time as Ms. Reade’s family and neighbors came forward to corroborate her claims.
Biden did not help himself with his slow response to Reade’s allegation. Instead of quickly addressing the issue himself, Biden opted to let high-profile Democratic women defend him in TV interviews – while providing them with inaccurate talking points. Biden only broke his long silence on Friday to issue a blanket public denial of the accusations: “I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened.”
However, the latest poll from Monmouth University seems to show that Biden’s slow response to the Reade accusations has not hurt him with voters; the poll, released on Wednesday, showed Biden with an increased lead over Trump of 50% to 41%. The survey – which began asking respondents about Tara Reade’s allegations after Biden’s public denial on Friday – showed that the overwhelming majority of people (86%) have heard about the story.
Patrick Murray (Director of Monmouth’s polling institute) explained that although headlines about Reade’s accusations may affect the former Vice President’s favorability ratings, “most voters still see this election as a referendum on Trump.”
Even with the survey’s 3.6% margin of error, Biden holds a comfortable lead over Donald Trump, news that will be welcome for Democrats.
However, the Democrats cannot not rest on their laurels – Donald Trump was elected in 2016 by the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes.
The Republicans have shown over the past few years that they will do anything to keep this state of affairs in place. To name just one example, Florida Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to clamp down voting restrictions on ex-felons in the state – despite a 2018 ballot measure that restored those felons’ voting rights.
The onslaught of COVID-19 has not slowed Republican attempts at voter suppression at all. In the vitally important state of Wisconsin, the Republicans deliberately turned the state’s presidential primary into a chaotic mess, putting hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites in danger of catching the virus – all with the intent of stopping “undesirable” voters from exercising their voting rights.
Democrats will need to be on the look out for such tactics in the run-up to November. The COVID-19 crisis has only reinforced how vitally important it is to get Donald Trump out of office and install someone (literally anyone) more competent, less egotistical, and less cavalier with Americans’ lives.