Will Coronavirus derail Trump’s re-election bid?

Sport may be cancelled but politics carries on as usual. In fact coronavirus is generating even greater focus on the 2020 US Presidential Election.

Betfair markets souring on Trump re-election

Over the past fortnight, the odds about Donald Trump winning a second term have drifted markedly. From a low of [1.64], equivalent to a 61% likelihood, Trump is now trading at 2.12. Yesterday his odds rose beyond [2.3].

There is no one single explanation for the changes and, as ever in the Trump era, opinion is bitterly divided.

Evidently, plenty believe Trump is handling the situation badly. In a matter of days, the President, Fox News and the social media army have flipped from calling the crisis a left-wing hoax to a state of emergency.

Trump talking points imploding by the hour

The administration is clearly way behind the curve and ill-prepared. NPR are quoting sources claiming that the White House knew of the threat back in January, yet delayed it so as to not damage Trump’s re-election chances.

One piece of misinformation after another has been exposed. This isn’t the place to go through them all but, for example, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown absolutely nailed Trump’s lies about who sacked the government’s pandemic team.

Many pundits believe this is a disaster which has exposed Trump, and from which he cannot recover. See this piece in The Atlantic entitled “The Trump Presidency is Over”.

Little evidence yet of opinion shift

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has read any of my work during the Trump era to learn that I agree with the broad thrust of this NeverTrumper’s critique. Where I differ is the writer’s confidence that it will finish Trump. That very much remains to be seen.

I remain solidly against his chances of being re-elected and have bet consistently in that direction, but not due to any faith in Trump’s supporters ‘finding him out’.

Rather my bets are based on a simple calculation. That opinion is virtually fixed, and deeply entrenched, on both sides. And there are many more in the ‘strongly against’ column, who are better motivated to turn out than ever.

Don’t bank on bad news moving the needle

This fundamental dynamic has been evident in pretty much every mid-term or special election, and can be seen in approval polls.

They over-ride everything else. They rendered a strong economy irrelevant. When the Democrats recorded their best mid-term result since Watergate, exit polls showed two-thirds of voters were positive about the economy. It mattered not.

So if positive developments didn’t move the needle, why should we assume negative ones will? This is a culture war, based around a personality. Perhaps the most Marmite figure in US political history. Hardly anybody switches on Trump.

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