Donald Trump has “ruled out” more sanctions on top Chinese officials for now, according the ubiquitous “people familiar with the matter”, who spoke to Bloomberg.
A list of possible targets was prepared in advance for Trump, who decided against further action prior to signing legislation aimed at punishing those responsible for undermining democracy in Hong Kong on Tuesday afternoon. The list reportedly included Carrie Lam.
While the White House has all the bipartisan support it needs to move ahead with further escalations, Trump is wary, and it’s not hard to understand why. Despite a surging stock market, the US economy is fragile and could be on the verge of another swoon amid new lockdowns across a number of states experiencing record rises in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. With the fate of the next virus relief package still uncertain, it’s entirely possible that the incoming data, which has been surprisingly buoyant of late, is about to roll over.
Simply put, the president can’t afford to risk pushing the envelope too far with Xi with less than four months to go until the election.
Or at least you wouldn’t think so. And yet, on Wednesday evening, The New York Times said the administration is weighing a sweeping travel ban on Communist Party officials. Perhaps Bloomberg’s sources aren’t well informed.
In a testament to how precarious the situation really is, Trump lost his only head-to-head advantage against Joe Biden in the latest Quinnipiac survey released on Wednesday.
Voters now give Biden the lead over Trump (50-45) in a direct match up when it comes to handling the economy. That’s a reversal from last month, when Trump was clinging to a 51 – 46 percent advantage. Overall, Trump is now underwater on the economy, 44 – 53 percent, versus 52 – 45 percent in June. These are his worst numbers on the economy in nearly three years.
“Trump’s strongest card, the economy, shredded by a killer virus, may have left the president with no go-to issue or trait to stave off defeat — not leadership, not empathy, not foreign policy, and certainly not his handling of COVID-19”, Quinnipiac polling analyst Tim Malloy said.
On a day when the White House struggled to distance itself from an inflammatory Op-Ed penned by Peter Navarro (who castigated Anthony Fauci in USA Today), the Quinnipiac poll shows two-thirds (67 – 30 percent), say they don’t trust the information Trump is giving the public about the virus. On the other hand, almost two-thirds, 65 – 26 percent, say they do trust Fauci.
“He may be out of the loop and in disfavor with the White House, but it’s clear from the numbers, voters would like Dr. Fauci back on call”, Malloy remarked.
When it comes to reopening schools, voters say they disapprove of Trump’s approach by a staggering 61-29 percent margin.
Frankly, the poll is a complete wipeout for the president. Here are some additional findings:
- On handling the military, voters give the president a negative 41 – 51 percent approval.
- On handling foreign policy, voters give the president a negative 37 – 59 percent approval.
- On handling health care, voters give the president a negative 35 – 59 percent approval.
- On handling race relations, voters give the president a negative 31 – 65 percent approval.
- Voters say 54 – 40 percent they support removing Confederate statues from public spaces around the country.
- Voters support 51 – 42 percent renaming military bases named after Confederate generals.
- A majority, 56 percent, see the Confederate flag more as a symbol of racism. Thirty-five percent see it more as a symbol of Southern pride.
Overall, registered voters back Biden over Trump 52 – 37 percent. “Yes, there’s still 16 weeks until Election Day, but this is a very unpleasant real time look at what the future could be for President Trump”, Malloy went on to say. “There is no upside, no silver lining, no encouraging trend hidden somewhere in this survey for the president”.
And it’s not just the Quinnipiac poll. Later, a new NBC/WSJ poll showed Biden opening up an 11-point lead, up from 7 points last month. 7 in 10 Americans said the country is on the wrong track.
In the NBC/WSJ survey, Trump remained above water on the economy, but voters strongly disapprove of his handling of the virus, and especially race relations.
“Half of voters say there is no chance at all they would vote for Trump, compared with 37 percent who say the same of Biden”, NBC writes, documenting the results. “And in a separate question, a majority – 52 percent – say they would be ‘very uncomfortable’ voting for Trump”.
As discussed earlier this month in “‘Katrina Moment’: Is Trump Even Running For Reelection Anymore?” one wonders if, behind the scenes, Trump has already thrown in the towel.
It wasn’t all bad news for Trump and Republicans in the NBC/WSJ poll, though. In addition to Trump staying above water on the economy, Biden’s personal ratings fell from last month, and the survey notes that “Democrats no longer hold a double-digit lead in congressional preference”.
I suppose you could also suggest that if Trump does ultimately decide against escalating tensions further with Beijing, that’s evidence that he still hopes he can turn things around.
That said, tweets like those he sent throughout the day Wednesday aren’t likely to help. At one point, the president told ~84 million followers that Biden wants to “abolish the suburbs”, before claiming that “No one will be SAFE in Joe Biden’s America!” At this point, I think even some Trump supporters would agree that the president isn’t doing himself any favors in terms of building a broader coalition of voters by spending an inordinate amount of time each day trafficking in the outlandish.