In the days since that pronouncement, Covid-19 has taken the lives of almost 150,000 Americans, many more than have died in recent wars combined. Data from over 328,692 interviews in 3,025 counties across the nation suggest that coronavirus-related deaths, like casualties of war, are hurting the president’s approval rating and may cost him and his party votes.
The gap between stated voting support for Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. grows by about 2.5 percentage points in Mr. Biden’s favor when a county has extremely high levels of coronavirus-related deaths relative to when it has low levels. These changes may come within counties as the number of virus-related deaths change, or across counties at any given point in time. For example, Covid-19 fatalities exploded in Wayne County in Michigan in April, suggesting a 1.25-point expansion of the gap between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.
Cases in Maricopa County, in Arizona, have nearly quadrupled in the last two months, suggesting an 0.6-point increase in the vote support gap between the candidates. Other places have seen little impact from Covid-19, such as Wyoming and some Plains states. Our data show that Mr. Trump has continued to do well in those states, perhaps even increasing his share of the vote in recent months.
Republicans running for the U.S. House and Senate lose just as much support as Mr. Trump does when deaths rise locally. It may feel as if all politics is national, but it is not.
While on one level it’s depressing that this isn’t costing him more support, he has almost no margin for error to begin with. And in states where he goes down he’ll take Republican Senate candidates with him. And if that’s not enough the decision by Senate Republicans to interrupt unemployment benefits and delay relief is highly likely to make the political situation for Trump and his Senate candidates even worse.
As I’ve said before, this is a case where for once the interests of the Republican Party and the public interest are directly aligned — and they’re completely fucking it up anyway.