Democrats are talking about a landslide, due to Covid-19. Many people blame Donald Trump because the United States has the worst record in the world—160 thousand deaths. That’s more than one-and-one-half times as many as the second-highest, Brazil, at 96 thousand. But Trump could actually benefit from the pandemic—because Republicans, on balance, are not taking it seriously, so more Republicans will be willing to go out and vote.
Just look at attitudes toward wearing a mask. A recent Gallup Poll makes the point.
While majorities of women (54%), Democrats (61%), Northeasterners (54%), and those with annual household incomes under $36,000 (51%) say they always use masks outside their homes, their counterparts do so less often. Still, with just one exception, majorities in each of these subgroups — as well as education and age groups — say they wear a mask in public at least very often.
The one exception is Republicans, among whom a majority say they wear masks infrequently — either sometimes (18%), rarely (9%) or never (27%). . . The issue has been politically charged from the start when Trump announced that he would not wear a mask at the same press briefing when the recommendation was made.
More than a third of all Republicans say they “rarely” or “never” wear a mask. Why is this important? Because more Republicans will be willing to go to the polls and stand in line, because they either don’t believe the pandemic is real, or don’t think it could hurt them. That means a higher rate of in-person voting.
That may also explain Trump’s attack on mail-in voting, a practice that has been in place since the Civil War. If fewer Democrats vote in person, and mail-in voting is restricted, obviously, Republicans will have a great advantage. That explains the Trump Campaign’s lawsuit to try to stop mail-in voting in Nevada, according to Fox News.
Before filing the suit, Trump called the bill an “illegal late night coup” that made it “impossible for Republicans to win the state.” He tweeted that the post office wouldn’t able to handle all of the mail-in votes without preparation. . . “Using Covid to steal the state. See you in Court!” he wrote. . .
Gov. Steve Sisolak. . .dismissed Trump’s claims about the post office this week. “The Postal Service delivers a lot of mail, we’re talking about a minimal amount of mail in the overall scheme of things that the Postal Service delivers,” he told CNN. “They deliver sample ballots. I’m sure they’ll do a fine job, delivering these ballots.”
The concern doesn’t make sense. At least 78% of Americans can already vote by mail. In fact, the mail-in system has a long history of success across the country, with five states voting exclusively by mail, with no problem.
With that, Trump said the quiet part out loud: There is no significant difference between absentee voting and voting by mail. Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at UC Irvine School of Law and one of the foremost authorities on election law, tells me, “I think Florida’s system for voting by mail is secure and safe, but no more secure and safe from many other states that have widespread vote by mail.” Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah have had universal mail voting with no trace of fraud.
And, of course, Trump then realized that he might be throwing away one of the swingingest of the swing states: Florida.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday reversed his opposition to mail-in voting and encouraged it — at least in one crucial battleground state — after railing against the practice for months amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True,” Trump wrote in a tweet.
OK, so Republicans will have an advantage in voting in person, and mail-in voting is at least break-even. But there’s another Republican advantage—thanks to Covid-19. Again, since Republicans are more willing to go out in public, they have a decided advantage in getting-out-the-vote. And a new article by Politico runs under the headline, “Trump’s campaign knocks on a million doors a week. Biden’s knocks on zero.”
The Republican and Democratic parties — from the presidential candidates on down — are taking polar opposite approaches to door-to-door canvassing this fall. The competing bets on the value of face-to-face campaigning during a pandemic has no modern precedent, making it a potential wild card in November, especially in close races.
Biden and the Democratic National Committee aren’t sending volunteers or staffers to talk with voters at home, and don’t anticipate doing anything more than dropping off literature unless the crisis abates. . .“people are not necessarily wanting someone to go up to their door right now,” said Jenn Ridder, Biden’s national states director. . .
Trump and the Republican National Committee, in contrast, started deploying mask-wearing field staffers and volunteers to the streets in June. The GOP quickly ramped up and now claims more than a million doors a week despite Covid-19 surges across the country, including in swing states like Arizona.
Republicans say their door-knocking dominance could make a difference in November, since in-person conversations have long been considered the most effective type of voter contact.
Going into the year, Trump was confident that the economy would help him win. That could have been argued. Forbes Magazine, the business publication by former Republican presidential primary candidate, Steve Forbes, has run a series of articles that argue against the Trump economy: The last three years of Obama showed higher job growth than Trump’s first three, pointing out that Trump brought 1.5 million fewer jobs during those three adjacent years for each—long before the pandemic.
The same goes for GDP growth. Meanwhile, long before the pandemic, Trump’s first three years of deficit spending was twice that of Obama’s last three years. Forbes even shows that the stock market performed much better under Obama.
Regardless, the economy is off the table. That leaves Covid-19. As noted above, the pandemic should significantly boost Republican in-person voting, compared to Democrats. And there are no Democrats out, knocking on doors, so their party faithful may feel neglected, while Republicans are beating on a million doors a week. So in a number of ways, Covid-19 should greatly improve Trump’s chances this year.
There’s only one other variable that may kick in. We may see a replay of the 1920 election. After the 1918-1920 pandemic, Warren G. Harding ran on a slogan of bringing back “normalcy.” He won 404 Electoral Votes, and more than 60% of the popular vote. After more than three years of bluster and drama, the public may just be ready for a little peace, with “Sleepy Joe.”