In the final weeks of his reelection campaign, President Donald Trump is facing harsh polling in key states and a major financial disadvantage, plus a pandemic that has left more than 220,000 Americans dead and millions in dire economic straights. In response, Trump has debuted a new line of attack on former Vice President Joe Biden: “He wants to listen to Dr. Fauci.”
At a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Monday, Trump told the crowd in disparaging tones that “Biden wants to lock it down,” and heed the advice of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci. The day before, at a rally in Carson City, Nevada, Trump mocked Biden by saying “he’ll listen to the scientists. If I listened totally to the scientists we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression.”
Biden’s subsequent tweet indicates he’s likely not worried about this line of attack.
The Washington Post reported that this attack may have less to do with Biden and more to do with Fauci, who gave a critical 60 Minutes interview that reportedly angered the president. During the interview, Fauci said that “the president’s conduct made it unsurprising that he caught the coronavirus and that the administration had tried to muzzle him.” The next day Trump named him in his attacks on Biden in Arizona.
Trump may have a hard time rallying more supporters by vilifying the 79-year-old public health expert. A Morning Consult poll conducted October 9-11 among 1,986 registered voters shows that “nearly 2 in 3 voters rate Dr. Fauci’s coronavirus response as excellent or good.” In stark contrast, Trump has “never topped the 42 percent of voters” who gave him a “good or excellent” rating in late April. In early October, this poll indicates that 58 percent of voters believe Trump’s handling of the virus has been “poor” or “just fair.”
Another poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted August 28 to September 3 among 1,199 American adults has 68 percent of voters with “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in Dr. Fauci to “provide reliable information on coronavirus.” The same poll has only 40 percent of voters saying the same of Trump.
Whether personal vendetta or strategic move, this is unlikely to be the game changer Trump needs to shake up the race.