A triple whammy tests Trump’s support ahead of election

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WASHINGTON: Battered by crisis after crisis, President Donald Trump appears to be in political peril as never before.
Since taking office in 2017, Trump has weathered storm after storm, always emerging with a fighting chance at being re-elected. After he survived an impeachment trial that saw him acquitted by the Republican-led Senate on Feb. 5, things looked up. Now Trump’s Teflon shield is being put to an acid test as he faces a triple whammy – the biggest public health crisis in a century, the worst economic downturn in generations and the largest civil unrest since the 1960s. This week, Trump’s calls for a crackdown here on nationwide protests over police brutality have drawn rebukes from civil rights advocates, religious leaders, opposition Democrats and some fellow Republicans.
Even former Republican president George W Bush felt the need to issue a statement that the protesters be heard here
Perhaps of more concern to Trump and his re-election campaign, however, is that almost every opinion poll points to clear signs of erosion of his electoral support since the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has taken almost 109,000 American lives since February and led to 40 million jobless claims. At the same time, his Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Joe Biden, has re-emerged in public from a coronavirus lockdown, with a message of unity and civic healing here that stands in marked contrast to Trump’s talk of “thugs” and “lowlifes” and “law and order.”
So far, Trump’s aggressive tone does not seem to be matching the moment. An opinion poll by Reuters/Ipsos this week showed that a bipartisan majority of Americans, including twice as many independents, sympathize with protesters and disapprove of Trump’s bellicose response.
Republicans say he has time to turn things around, particularly if the economy begins to rebound. And, they note, if the protests persist and become unruly, voters may become more responsive to Trump’s hardline approach.
“As awful as this is, it does allow Trump the opportunity to reframe the debate the way he wants it to be – law and order versus chaos,” said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee official and frequent Trump critic. “That is part of the conversation that he wants.”
A source close to the Trump campaign said the protests have taken attention away from the government’s often-criticized handling of the pandemic.
And Trump could ultimately benefit if states continue to re-open their economies and job numbers improve in the fall, said the source, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly.–Agencies