Will COVID Optics Derail Trump 2020? This Is Pence's Masterful Answer


As polling reports and Washington rumors painted a White House in chaos this past week, Vice President Mike Pence disputed notions the Trump administration is placing outsized focus on the political optics surrounding its COVID-19 response.

Pence visited Phoenix on Wednesday morning to join Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in further coordinating Arizona’s emergency virus response amid an ongoing spike in confirmed coronavirus cases in the state.

“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the coronavirus relative to politics,” Pence told The Western Journal in a news conference following that meeting. “I think about it relative to people.”

“President Trump, before the end of January, suspended all travel from China and set up the White House Coronavirus Task Force … we marshaled not only the full resources of the federal government, but the full resources of the American economy to scale testing at an unprecedented level,” the vice president said.

“I think the American people understand this is an unprecedented moment, but President Trump has brought unprecedented leadership and we’ve spared no expense. We’ve pulled together all the resources of this nation, and we’re going to continue to do that every single day until that day comes that we put the coronavirus in the past.”

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The statement comes as nationwide coronavirus hospitalization rates rise, with the United States recording its largest single-day case surge since the beginning of the epidemic as 52,789 new infections were reported Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Both Arizona and California, polar opposites in their coronavirus response strategy, had reported record surges of their own the previous day, contributing to the staggering nationwide totals.

As of this report, nearly 2,687,000 people have contracted the virus and more than 128,000 have died in the U.S. alone.

Serving to exacerbate mounting stress on the American engine, months of lockdowns — followed up by weeks of at-times violent social demonstrations in light of George Floyd’s death — have left countless American cities out millions of dollars and the economy as a whole out more than 40 million jobs.

A shot in the arm did come Thursday by way of an official jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor, which revealed roughly 4.8 million of those jobs had returned in the month of June and did wonders for the stock market at the opening bell.

Trump’s polling numbers, however, have received no such boost, with reports suggesting a mild loss of goodwill for the president among segments of the electorate key to his historic 2016 victory.

Widely held as the public opinion pollster most favorable to the president, even Rasmussen has seen Trump’s approval rating fall to record lows amid ongoing unrest and pandemic uncertainty.

Taking note of these trends, Fox News late-night host Tucker Carlson and fellow Trump stalwarts have begun to float concerns the administration’s management of recent crises may be alienating members of the base and thus leaving presidential re-election prospects severely hampered.

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“An awful lot of people voted for Donald Trump precisely to avoid a moment like the one we’re now in,” Carlson said in his June 25 monologue. “And yet, when widespread looting and disorder arrived, the president did not act as decisively as many had hoped. He said little, he did less. Some voters felt undefended, some turned against him.”

“Not many people are saying it out loud on the right, but the fact is that President Trump could well lose this election. In fact, unless fundamental facts change soon, it could be tough for him to be re-elected,” he said.

Others in the field of political commentary have also revived once-popular speculation that Pence may be preparing to resign or assume leadership in light of an unexpected political departure or ouster for Trump.

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According to Axios, unnamed White House advisors suggest these rumors, coupled with growing re-election concerns, have begun to create “widespread panic and pessimism” within the Trump camp in recent weeks.

The claims are hardly undisputed, however, with Reuters reporting the president was “upbeat and engaged” in a major meeting with national campaign officials late last week.

The vice president, for his part, seemed anything but phased by the resurgent rumors during his Wednesday media gaggle outside Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

At the White House, Pence said, the focus remains firmly on protecting the American people on humans and restoring American economic morale.

“Dr. [Anthony] Fauci said just a few short days ago that we shouldn’t look at these public safety measures as an impediment to continuing to open up our economy,” Pence said.

“We should look at them as a vehicle to opening up. The more we all do to support the public health measures that are put into effect, the quicker we can get Arizona’s economy growing, get our kids back to school — and that’s what we’re determined to do.”

“I’m very confident that if all of us do our part each and every day, we’ll slow the spread, we’ll flatten the curve, we’ll save lives all across this state and we will lay a foundation to bring this state’s economy back bigger and better than ever before,” Pence said.

The vice president took a brief verbal victory lap regarding the enactment of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, which he said would stoke the flames of economic recovery by protecting roughly 228,000 Arizonan workers and bringing $20 billion in revenue annually to the state.

He would go on to celebrate recent rallying efforts made by governmental and private actors alike to kickstart research into new vaccines and therapeutics, and flood the national stockpile with a wealth of new ventilators and personal protective equipment.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic,” Pence said. “From very early on, at the president’s direction, not only did we reinvent testing — now, more than 33 million tests — and perform nearly 600,000 tests a day are being done around the country but, in the area of personal protective equipment and ventilators, the president marshaled a whole-of-America response.”

“With the strong leadership of Admiral John Polowczyk, we’ve made sure the states, at the point of their need, whether it was when this first manifested in Washington or whether it happened in the greater New York City area, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, Michigan, we made sure that health-care workers in all of those areas that were impacted by rising coronavirus cases in this pandemic had the personal protective equipment and, just as importantly, the ventilators necessary that they would never have to make a choice between rendering care to one American versus not rendering care to another,” the vice president said.

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Andrew J. Sciascia was the supervising editor of features at The Western Journal. Having joined up as a regular contributor of opinion in 2018, he went on to cover the Barrett confirmation and 2020 presidential election for the outlet, regularly co-hosting its video podcast, "WJ Live," as well.
Andrew J. Sciascia was the supervising editor of features at The Western Journal and regularly co-hosted the outlet's video podcast, "WJ Live."

Sciascia first joined up with The Western Journal as a regular contributor of opinion in 2018, before graduating with a degree in criminal justice and political science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and worked briefly as a political operative with the Massachusetts Republican Party.

He covered the Barrett confirmation and 2020 presidential election for The Western Journal. His work has also appeared in The Daily Caller.