President Donald Trump is taking a beating in the polls over his handling of the coronavirus emergency, and Monday morning the Republican National Committee pushed back in a phone call with local reporters, including Colorado Politics.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released over the weekend indicated nearly two-thirds of Americans think the president was slow to respond to the pandemic that has shut down the nation's economy and sent unemployment hurdling from recession to depression levels.
"We're going to push back when we see the finger-pointing from the other side," Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel told reporters.
She said Trump has received praise from Democratic governors, though he also has weathered criticism, including from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis for the lack of available medical supplies from the federal emergency stockpile. The administration has characterized the supply as a backup to the state's individual efforts to acquire ventilators and protective gear for medical professionals.
McDaniel, the niece of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, flagged that Trump restricted travel from China in January, without any guidance to do so form Democrats of the World Health Organization.
"The blame game is not going to be effective right now," she said. "I think the American people want to see the bigger point. They want to see leaders to come together to solve a crisis like something they've never seen before. The president has made it very clear he;'s willing to work with everyone."
The White House sent out a lunchtime press release listing federal aid to Colorado, including $7.3 billion Small Business Administration loans to more than 41,000 Colorado small businesses, noting that response is locally executed and federal supported.
“We have the best doctors, the best military leaders, and the best logistics professionals anywhere in the world," said a statement from the president. "And we’re orchestrating a massive Federal response unlike anything our country has ever seen.”
McDaniel panned Democrats Monday for failing to support another round of financial aid for small businesses, calling it "shameful."
"This is not something that should be bickered about or used as a political football," she told reporters.
Trump's coronavirus task force supports the stay-at-home orders passed by governors, though last week Trump tweeted support for protestors opposing those orders.
"I think the president has been very clear that he wants people abide by the social distancing for 30 days to slow the spread, and he's been very vocal about that in his daily briefings on the actions of the American people to flatten the curve" of new cases, McDaniel said. "He has never deviated from that counsel or advice. What he has said is he understands the frustration a lot of Americans feel."
McDaniel said the GOP has no immediate plans to resume campaign rallies, but the party still hopes to hold a traditional convention in Charlotte in August.
The president has turned his daily media briefings on the outbreak into de facto campaign events, complimenting the work he and his administration are doing, including campaign-style videos, and denigrating his political enemies, including the press and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“No amount of GOP damage control and press calls can hide the fact that President Trump has bungled the response to COVID-19 from the start," David Pourshoushtari, spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party, said Monday morning. "While Trump could have been rolling out a response as far back as February, he was instead holding a political rally in Colorado Springs for Senator Cory Gardner, where he exclaimed Gardner ‘has been with us 100%.’
"The fact is Trump wasted precious weeks campaigning — all while the health experts were sounding the alarm about this pandemic — and as a result, our country is still way behind the world in testing thanks to Trump’s unprepared and erratic response. We need actual leaders in a crisis like this — not a President like Trump who has treated lifesaving ventilators like political party favors, and certainly not a Senator like Gardner who has refused to hold Trump accountable for his failures in this crisis.”
The president canceled a March 13 fundraiser with Gardner in Denver, citing the pandemic.
In Colorado, Trump has never been popular. His polling months before the pandemic showed he wasn't far, relatively, above the GOP base, a group that's doggedly loyal to the president, pollsters tell Colorado Politics.
Trump lost the state to Hillary Clinton by 5 percentage points in 2016, and his poll numbers haven't been much better, if not worse, since then.
Last July, Denver-based Magellan Strategies polled 500 Coloradans. Only 39% percent approved of the job Trump was doing as president.
His popularity was even lower with voters 18 to 44 years gold, 69% of whom disapproved.
"Only Republicans and voters aged 45-64 approve, though even among Republicans 21% disapprove of the job he is doing," Magellan noted in the poll.
Trump has since been impeached, and the nation has plunged into a health crisis and imploding economy, on top of international strife.
The U.S. Senate, which has a Republican majority, voted 55-45 in February to limit the president's ability to initiate war with Iran without congressional approval, after Trump ordered the death of an Iranian general.
David Flaherty, Magellan's president and CEO, said Monday morning that a lot of factors are still in play, including whether Biden can energize Democratic voters and drive turnout. The pollster noted that in 2012, exit polling indicated voters on the right turned out primarily to oppose the Democratic incumbent, Barack Obama, rather than to support challenger Mitt Romney, so the president faces those headwinds in Colorado and beyond.
"The policies of Bernie Sanders had a lot of people motivated, but a lot of it was against the president," Flaherty said of the younger voters' presumed choice before Sanders dropped out of the primary and cleared the way for Biden.
Magellan will start working on presidential polling for the state next late next month. He cautioned that a lot could change between now and November.
"If we try to do something like that now, it could be totally different in August," Flaherty said. "... Republicans are going to turn out in historic numbers, there's no question about it. It's really a question of whether Joe Biden can deliver and whether those Democratic-leaning unaffiliateds are going to turn out. We don't know that right now."
Regardless of whether he's hurt in the poll, Trump won't change his tone or combative message, the Colorado pollster predicted.
"He's a one-man show," Flaherty said. "The one thing we know for sure is that President Trump reports to President Trump."
A Morning Consult poll showed Trump had a 42% approval rating in Colorado in February.
"He has his base maybe by 90%," said pollster Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center on Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver. "But the base and 40% of unaffiliated (voters) is not nearly enough in Colorado."