President Donald Trump is down by a significant margin to former Vice President Joe Biden with just three weeks to go in the 2020 campaign. One of his apparent answers to climb out of that hole is to continue to feature Dr. Anthony Fauci in an ad, which the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases wants taken down, and to attack Fauci on Twitter.
From a political standpoint, Trump’s willingness to go after Fauci makes almost no sense. If anything, Trump’s actions are a manifestation of the traits that have led him to a historic deficit in the polls.
Right now, Trump’s ratings on the coronavirus are terrible. Just 40% of Americans approve of the job he is doing on handling the virus. After Trump tested positive for the coronavirus, more than 60% believed he acted irresponsibly in “handling the risk of coronavirus infection to the people who have been around him recently,” according to a recent CNN/SSRS poll. Biden leads Trump by double digits on who voters trust more to handle the pandemic in the same survey.
Trump’s low ratings are debilitating to his campaign because Americans say the coronavirus is one of the nation’s top problems.
One of the chief reasons Americans don’t like Trump when it comes to the pandemic is that they don’t think he is listening to the experts. A May AP/NORC poll found that 62% of Americans say Trump is not adhering to the advice of the experts enough. Just 31% said he was listening enough.
That’s why it’s frankly confounding from a political perspective that he would go after Fauci, the nation’s most recognized health expert.
Fauci has been well liked and trusted throughout the pandemic. Exactly 50% of voters said they had a positive view of him in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finished in June, while a 11% had a negative view. The vast majority, 71%, of voters told Fox News in August that they approved of how he was handling the coronavirus pandemic. And in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll completed in September, 68% of Americans said they trusted Fauci a great deal or fair amount to provide information on the coronavirus.
The same poll showed that just 40% had a great deal or fair amount of trust in Trump to provide accurate information on the pandemic. The majority (59%) had not much to no faith in Trump.
Indeed, this has been a consistent theme in the polling done this year. Fauci always scores better than Trump does when it comes to the pandemic.
You would think that Trump would not want to be in a big public disagreement with a guy who is trusted by a lot of Americans – especially when Trump has his own trust problems and is continually losing on the issue of trust compared to his rival, Biden.
Trump, though, can’t seem to help himself. His problem is that he continually plays to his base. In that Kaiser poll, 78% of Republicans and independents who lean Republican have a great deal or fair amount of trust in Trump to provide information on the coronavirus.
Trump struggles outside of Republicans. Only 9% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents trust Trump to give coronavirus information. A mere 26% of pure independents do.
Fauci is above 60% on providing information with both groups.
In other words, this is the typical Trump issue. He’s polling better with Republicans than he did four years ago, while polling significantly worse with Democrats and independents. Trump thinks this play for his base is enough, when the polls clearly suggest otherwise.
With three weeks to go, this episode with Fauci is evidence Trump has no desire or plans to change tactics. If he doesn’t, the polls today will likely be fairly close to the results in November.