Covid-19, which has killed at least 200,000 Americans, may still claim the presidency of Donald Trump. A new book by journalist Bob Woodward, Rage, on the Trump administration quotes the president admitting that he deliberately played down the pandemic and that he knew it was much more lethal than seasonal influenza. The book adds to other unflattering revelations about Mr Trump’s disdain for men in uniform, his belief in dictatorship and the dysfunctionality of his family in articles, interviews and books written by his former lawyer, his niece and others who have worked with him. The question is whether any of this will make a difference to his re-election campaign.
Mr Trump commands the blind loyalty of about 40% of the electorate. They believe he has been good for their livelihoods. They believe he has taken on the Washington “establishment”. They also believe in his not-so-discreet White supremacist politics. But this is not enough for him to win the elections. There is a broad consensus that a middle bloc of suburban women, Hispanics and educated conservative White men — many of whom support Mr Trump on policies but dislike his personality — will determine the final result. Mr Trump’s blatant attempts to play on racial and class fears aim to bring this group back into his fold. But many, especially women, are more concerned about the pandemic. These women voted for Barack Obama, turned against Hillary Clinton, and are now leaning towards Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Mr Woodward’s revelations and the growing number of Covid-19 cases in heartland America could just tip an election that is on a knife’s edge — or the point of a hypodermic syringe.