Summary of the week’s campaign.
- Coronavirus dominated the news agenda. On Thursday the US set a single day case record with more than 50,000 new cases reported – more than an 85% increase since two weeks ago.
- The impact on the election: Of the ten states where coronavirus cases are rising the fastest, eight voted Republican in 2016 and 4 of these were flipped by Trump from Democrat to Republican: Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. Within these states it is older white and male voters bearing the brunt of disease – many of whom were behind Trump’s victory.
- This week set the ground for two major themes that we can expect to dominate the campaign.
- It was reported by CNN that Trump had undermined traditional allies (UK and Germany) in phone calls with their international leaders. The New York Times reported that Trump had not acted against Russia when informed of reports that they were paying militants in Afghanistan bounties for killing US Soldiers. Biden accused the President of failing to protect American troops – a charge that reveals his strategy of painting Trump as unpatriotic and a President who has undermined American international interests.
- Both candidates exchanged barbs over their senility. Biden accused Trump of not being ‘cognitively aware of what’s going on’ whilst Biden revealed he is ‘constantly tested’ for cognitive decline. American elections frequently involve focus on a candidate’s health, something likely to be more pronounced this time with Biden aged 77 and Trump 74.
*** A feature of American politics is increasing polarisation. This was caused by long-term trends in the operation of American media and the use of social media. President Trump used this changing world of communications to help in his 2016 victory. He has then as President exacerbated such polarisation by the use of ‘alternative truths’ and accusations of fake news. It looked as though finding common events and truths on which this election will be debated around was unlikely. Covid-19 has changed this. When the media reports of rising cases this cannot be branded by the Trump campaign as ‘fake news’. Why? Because the voters feel and see the impact of the disease directly. This is unlike the many other stories Democrats have used to criticise Trump. Nevertheless, there is a significant difference between witnessing the impact of Covid 19 and then blaming the President for it.