Much of the commentary emanating from speakers on night one of the Republican National Convention (RNC) either ignored the coronavirus pandemic completely or exaggerated President Donald Trump’s handling of it, several observers noted.
“The message coming from the RNC last night was basically, ‘Forget everything that you’re seeing right now, remember the good times,'” CBS News reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns noted, adding that there wasn’t “acknowledgment” that the pandemic was ongoing.
There may be a reason for that: by and large, Republican voters are giving Trump credit for how he’s handled COVID-19, even though the rest of the nation views his response in a negative way.
According to a poll from CBS News/YouGov published this week, 73 percent of Republican voters believe that things are going well when it comes to how the U.S. is dealing with coronavirus. Only 27 percent of the party’s voters think that things are going badly.
When it comes to voters overall, Americans express the opposite point of view, with only 38 percent saying things are going well and 62 percent believing things are going badly.
Notably, Republicans are also more likely to be unmoved by the high number of casualties that have come about from the disease. At the time the poll was conducted, around 170,000 Americans had perished from coronavirus — a number that 57 percent of Republican voters say is an “acceptable” level of deaths.
The cheery viewpoints from Republicans regarding coronavirus and how the president has handled it were on full display on Monday evening, the first night that the party hosted its national convention. Video that was played at the event described Trump as a “decisive leader” on tackling the pandemic, and which also claimed that Democrats “got it wrong,” charging that they downplayed the threat of it.
Yet it was just the opposite: Trump was the one downplaying the gravity of the situation in the early days of the pandemic, going so far as to claim that 15 cases of the disease in the U.S. would soon be “close to zero” even as experts warned otherwise, for example. Trump also castigated Democrats and the media in late February, calling their criticisms of his lackadaisical approach to COVID-19 a “new hoax” being perpetrated against him for political reasons.
In March, Trump continued to downplay the threat COVID-19 posed to people in the U.S., wrongly describing the disease as no more worrisome than the flu, and later in the month, urged states that had implemented stay-at-home orders to “reopen” their economies.
And it took until July for Trump to even wear a mask in public, previously saying people who wore them were doing so in order to spite him or to show their disapproval of him as president.
The errant ways in which Trump has treated the disease were observable even during the RNC, when Trump met with front-line workers in a segment that featured, among others, two nurses, a police officer, and a U.S. Postal Service employee — none of whom wore a mask during the meeting, including the president.
As he has many times before, Trump claimed, using racist terminology for coronavirus, that the disease was disappearing.
“I’m for the nurses. I’m for the doctors. I’m for everybody,” Trump said. “We just have to make sure this China virus goes away, and it’s happening.”
Casting a positive spin to his response on the coronavirus pandemic is an important aspect of Trump’s reelection strategy as recent polling indicates that he is not doing well on the issue.
According to the Pew Research Center, which conducted polling earlier this month, 62 percent of Americans say coronavirus is a “top issue” for them. But an Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted just last week found that nearly 7 in 10 Americans disapprove of the way Trump has managed the crisis.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 5.7 million cumulative cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the U.S., with 177,198 deaths attributed to the disease. Experts warn that the number who have died from COVID-19 is likely an undercount.
Earlier this month, the president took heat for shrugging off the number of COVID deaths in the U.S., saying, “It is what it is,” in an interview with Axios.