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3 Ways Coronavirus Could Derail Trump's Reelection: Andy Friedman

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As the economic and public-health impact of the coronavirus worsens, political analyst Andy Friedman examines three ways the virus could derail President Donald Trump’s chances of re-election.

In a televised address Wednesday, “Trump assured the public that his administration has had ‘tremendous success’ battling the coronavirus, that the risk to America is ‘very low,’ and that only ‘one or two people will be infected over the next short period of time,’” said Friedman, founder and principal of The Washington Update.

These assurances, however, “are at odds with the CDC’s more dire pronouncements,” Friedman said.

As of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 14 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., plus 45 cases in travelers from Asia who have been repatriated by the State Department, largely from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

According to Friedman: “If the virus in fact turns into a national crisis, it might reduce Trump’s chances of reelection” in the following three ways:

Capability: “Trump’s ability to respond to a national crisis might be called into question.”

Credibility: “For the most part, Trump’s supporters have ignored his exaggerations as the matters he is addressing do not affect them directly. But, if the virus becomes widespread in the U.S., some supporters, looking back at his televised speech, might question his credibility.”

Economic: “The market drop could erode consumer confidence, which in turn could hinder production and employment. Even if the spread of the virus slows, the adverse economic effects could linger until Election Day.”

The share of voters who approve of Trump’s handling of the economy exceeds the percent who approve of him personally and of his performance in office by 7 percentage points, according to a poll, according to Friedman. An economic downturn could jeopardize the support of the former group.

But he adds: “Not all these marginal voters will react negatively to an economic downturn. Some might view the virus as out of Trump’s control, and believe that he will reconstitute the strong economy when the effects pass, just as (in their view) he produced a strong economy after he took office. Nonetheless, Trump’s overall support could decline to some extent.”

— Check out It’s Official: The Stock Market Is in a Correction on ThinkAdvisor.