Pandemics have a way of changing, well, just about everything.
In the wake of this one, sports seasons are being eliminated, Olympics are being delayed and leisure travel has been all but canceled. It is a moment when Americans have already begun thinking down-range, to prepare for what could be a very different future.
Will this deadly pandemic give renewed life to those wanting to fully transform America’s delivery of health care? Will we opt to travel less and commute less? Will face-to-face communication, both at work and at home, be replaced more and more by Skype and Zoom and Facetime and Google Duo? Will we gather and commune differently? Will we save more, spend more or simply bury all our valuables under the mattress?
As COVID-19 makes uncertainty an everyday reality, where no one and no thing is spared, all bets are off when it comes to predicting what lies ahead, and who will lead us there.
Yet if you had to make one wager today, bet on President Donald Trump to keep his job for another four years. Here are three reasons why:
First, and despite some early muddle, the president is now fully commanding the bully pulpit with announcements and press conferences delivered with daily frequency and nightly impact.
This gives him the opportunity to show leadership when it’s needed, strength when it’s called for, empathy when it’s yearned for and bi-partisanship when it reinforces the “all hands on deck” imperative if we are to win the war against COVID-19.
Like other world leaders today (Italy’s Giuseppe Conte, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron, et alia), Donald Trump is earning the highest job approval numbers of his presidency. It makes sense; we want our leaders to succeed in their fight against the virus, and the clock.
Second, in times of peril or uncertainty, voters traditionally become more conservative, more risk-averse, more comfortable with the status quo. They embrace the familiar and fear the unknown. FDR won the presidency three times because Americans sought reassurance in overcoming a depression, and continuity in overpowering a genocidal wartime enemy. Abraham Lincoln fared much the same, gaining a second (albeit short) second term as he projected the steadying hand of unity amid the blood-stained disunity of a Civil War.
By any reasonable definition, America’s fight against the novel coronavirus is all-out war, and Donald Trump – part Patton, part Eisenhower, and all in – is our Commander-in-Chief.
Third, assuming Joe Biden remains the presumptive Democrat nominee, Trump wields competitive advantages that coaching can’t fix and time won’t solve. As much as America know the president, they’ve yet to learn the full story (and record) of Joe Biden.
As the LA Times superbly surmised, “Biden is carrying a 20th Century record into a 21st Century political dogfight.” He has been against abortion rights and gay marriage, supported the Iraq War and Social Security cuts, defended segregationists and illegal immigrants, and is still defending himself against charges of molestation and sexual assault of women. He merits the wrath of Bernie Sanders and other progressives for shouting down Medicare for All, and an all-out assault on corporate America.
Then, when we finally get to the toe-to-toe showdowns between Messrs. Trump and Biden – the undefeated debate champion versus the unmitigated mutterer of bloopers and blunders – the chasm in competence (and compos mentos’) will speak for itself.
Two months ago, the economy was roaring with record numbers of new businesses, new jobs, and personal wealth. Today, due to COVID-19, America’s economy – like every other nation on earth – has hit a rough patch. In normal times, this could disqualify a president’s claim to a second term in office (cue Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush). Yet even here the president gets a pass from most Americans as long as he tries to keep the economic ship afloat amid the worse of the viral tsunami.
Today, the president is leading the campaign to save America. As long as that continues, and his efforts remain determined, it will be his winning campaign for four more years.
Adam Goodman is a national Republican media strategist and columnist. He is a partner at Ballard Partners in Washington D.C. He is also the first Edward R. Murrow Senior Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. Follow him on Twitter @adamgoodman3