The Current

Spread of COVID-19 into 'Trump country' could pose problem for president's re-election hopes: David Frum

Writer and political commentator David Frum discusses how U.S. President Donald Trump has handled the evolving pandemic in the U.S. — and what it means for his re-election hopes.

Pandemic won’t stop U.S. elections in November, predicts political commentator

Writer David Frum says Trump-supporting states could be caught up in the next wave of COVID-19 cases. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

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Political commentator David Frum says the U.S. presidential election will go ahead in nine months, but the COVID-19 pandemic could still pose problems for U.S. President Donald Trump's re-election hopes.

Frum, a staff writer for The Atlantic and a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, thinks the pandemic will have died down enough by November to allow voting to go ahead, but believes "the economic problems, the economic shock will be very much with us."

Even though a recent Gallup poll puts Trump's approval rating at a high of 49 per cent, Frum said that could change given the pattern in which the virus is spreading across the U.S.

COVID-19 hit Democrat-strongholds like New York first, he told The Current's Matt Galloway.

"But it's not like it's going to spare Florida. And Michigan, which is so crucial to his hopes, has over 2,000 cases now and rising very, very fast," he said.

The COVID-19 death toll passed 1,000 in the U.S. Thursday, with more than 65,000 confirmed cases. Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week amid the widespread economic shutdown prompted by the pandemic.

Speaking earlier this week, Trump said he wants to get people back to work and end social distancing by Easter, in 17 days time.

Republicans tried to play down the seriousness of the crisis in its early days, before Trump declared a state of emergency on March 13.

He said states like Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana had "made it kind of an article of support for your president not to do the social distancing," but those states could become "the next wave of cases."

"They're less densely populated. They're less urban. So I think they're less connected to the rest of the world," he said.

"But viruses don't care. They just move slower."

A recent poll shows high popularity for U.S. President Donald Trump, but Frum, right, says that might not last. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Small states will be 'overwhelmed faster'

Frum warned that when cases of the virus begin to spike in Republican states, their models of small government could hinder the response.

"The government of Mississippi is less comprehensive than the government of California," he told Galloway.

"And so when it hits, as it's now hitting in Louisiana for example, those governments are going to be overwhelmed faster. They have less capacity than the richer, blue states do," he said.

"It is going to sweep through Trump country too, it's just going to come a little bit later because Trump country is a little less networked to the rest of the planet."

He thinks the president's positive polling numbers are "just a brief moment."

"Jimmy Carter saw his poll numbers rise in the early stages of the Iran hostage crisis as people thought he was doing something, then reality arrived."

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Ben Jamieson.

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