Home World Scapegoats And : How Trump Changed His Tune On States'

Scapegoats And : How Trump Changed His Tune On States'

Elena Moore

President Donald arrives to speak at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik/AP hide caption

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Andrew Harnik/AP

President Donald arrives to speak at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Andrew Harnik/AP

On the first day of the Republican convention in Charlotte, more than five months after the began spreading around the country, President characterized the White House’s as “the exact right thing.”

But, following a blueprint he’s used for months, he also shifted responsibility for the pandemic to the states. He blamed many governors for having been “ill prepared” for the pandemic, while praising others for doing a “fine job.”

In May, applauded Republican governors in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Arizona for reopening quickly and having low case numbers. At the same time, he criticized states that remained closed, sparring with Democratic governors in New York and California, and pressuring leaders of swing states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to lift restrictions.

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In June, held large campaign events that eschewed social distancing requirements and said he planned to hold more r in states that were reopening. He fixated on North Carolina and the lock-down measures imposed by its Democratic governor, mostly canceling Republican National Convention events there.

But as summer continued, many of the same states that the president commended saw spikes in cases. States he had criticized saw cases decline. So he was forced to change course.

After rates of COVID-19 increased in many Republican-run states, highlighted eventual, small drops in infections, often ignoring the state’s summer spike. He eased up on criticisms of Democratic-led states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina — states that avoided significant rises in infections this summer. But in the lead-up to the Republican National Convention, the president took some renewed swings at these leaders.

Nationally, 37% of Americans think would do a better job handling the than his Democratic opponent Joe Biden, according to a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, while 53% favor Biden.

maintains that he still has deep support, but polls have shown Joe Biden with a continuous lead spanning months. Though polls will change, NPR’s most recent electoral map ratings favor the former vice president. NPR has classified Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida as Democratic-leaning races; Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona as toss-ups; and Texas as Republican-leaning.

Here’s a look at what has said about the pandemic in seven key battleground states:


NPR electoral map rating: Lean Democratic

Governor: Ron DeSantis, Republican


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won Florida by just over a percentage point in 2016 and winning the state again may be key for his reelection. DeSantis has remained a top ally to , with the president singing his praises throughout the pandemic.

In April and May, spoke often of Florida’s successful fight with the — a message that was solidified in early June, when he moved the majority of the Republican convention to Florida. But when the state’s infection rate spiked in July, stopped emphasizing its early successes and largely refrained from addressing the surge.

formally canceled the convention events in Jacksonville on July 23. As its case numbers have declined from peaks, he has since shifted to praising the state.

While state polling averages indicated that Biden and were virtually tied in March, the former vice president has since shot ahead and established a widening lead. Biden’s biggest polling lead against lasted from mid-June through July while the state experienced its highest case counts.


NPR electoral map rating: Toss-Up

Governor: Doug Ducey, Republican


Biden has steadily led in Arizona’s polls since mid-March, but has been no stranger to the state, making multiple visits since the start of the pandemic. held his second rally in Phoenix during June, despite rising cases. Just four days after that event, his messaging began to change. Vice President Mike Pence postponed campaign visits to both Florida and Arizona, “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the campaign. By late July — pivoted again, like he did with Florida, and has continued to back Ducey.

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With a competitive Senate race underway on top of the presidential election, Arizona may end up being a tough state for Republicans to hold on to this fall.


NPR electoral map rating: Toss-Up

Governor: Brian Kemp, Republican


In late April, Georgia became the first state to begin reopening. initially voiced his opposition to Kemp’s decision with the caveat that Kemp should “do what is right,” for Georgians. By mid-May, the President was promoting the state’s low case numbers. continued to praise the reopening measures in Georgia throughout July despite COVID cases rising since the end of June. On July 15, during a presidential visit to the state, told a local Atlanta TV station that Georgia is, “getting close to having 100% open,” adding that the state has “really kept the virus to level down.” In August he began acknowledging an increase.

Georgia has gone red for the last six presidential elections, but polling between and Biden has remained close throughout the months of the pandemic, with the two candidates virtually tied since May. Similar to Arizona, Georgia is also home to a slew of competitive congressional races this fall.


NPR electoral map rating: Lean Republican

Governor: Greg Abbott, Republican


Like many southern states, Texas saw a later rise in cases. The state is also traditionally Republican but notably, since mid-summer, Biden’s polling in the Lone Star state has also gotten closer to ’s. According to state polling averages, Biden is within single digits of the president in a state that hasn’t swung blue in a presidential year since 1976.

promoted Texas at first. When cases started rising, he shifted, attributing the rise to specific groups within the state’s population, and touting the White House . On June 15, he highlighted the rise in cases within prisons as a reason for increased case counts. On July 27, spoke about “focusing aggressively on the Texas border,” citing high infection rates in Latin America. In early August, he linked decreasing cases in the state to lower numbers in counties on the southern border with Mexico.

North Carolina

NPR electoral map rating: Toss-Up

Governor: Roy Cooper, Democrat


made no secret of his disapproval of North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, and his more cautious reopening strategy. In a pre-pandemic world, Charlotte was set to host a full Republican convention. But and the RNC sparred with state officials about measures needed to avoid spreading the virus.

Throughout the back-and-forth over where to hold the convention — first in Charlotte and then Jacksonville — to the eventual acceptance of a scaled-down convention in Charlotte, the president’s rhetoric has centered around empowering voters while blaming Cooper.

While visiting North Carolina days after canceling the Jacksonville convention, was asked if Cooper had “made the right choice” in scaling down the convention, to which he replied, “We could’ve done it many different ways, but I think we did the right thing.”

Since mid-May, according to an average of state polls, Biden has held a slim lead over after first surpassing him in mid-April.


NPR electoral map rating: Lean Democratic

Governor: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Democrat


’s 2016 win in Michigan caused an upset for Democrats and the state remains in play for both parties going into November. What’s more, Biden has consistently led in the state polls for months.

Throughout the pandemic, attacked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown measures and voiced support for protests against the rules in place. Whitmer was one of the first governors to bear the brunt of ’s opposition during the pandemic but since May, Michigan’s case numbers have decreased significantly and the state has entered phase four of its reopening plan.

At a “tele-rally” for Michigan in mid-July, the President seemed to acknowledge the need to work with Whitmer, while still maintaining his opposition. “We disagree with many of the things she’s doing, but we will continue to work with her,” said, “We’re also working quite honestly around her and we have to do that because what she wants to do is not going to be good for the state.”


NPR electoral map rating: Lean Democratic

Governor: Tom Wolf, Democrat


Pennsylvania voted for by less than one percentage point, turning the state red for the first time in over two decades. Currently, the state is trending Democrat as Biden has led in an average of polls since March, hitting 50% or higher towards the end of the summer. Unlike other battleground and swing states in play this November, Biden has been able to visit Pennsylvania during the pandemic.

has directed criticism toward Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf. On a visit to the state in May, spoke directly to the crowd saying, “We have to get your governor of Pennsylvania to start opening up a little bit.” The state has seen lower case numbers since April.

Though has made fewer mentions of Gov. Wolf in recent months, he took aim at the governor on a recent trip to Old Forge, Pa., close to where Biden was born.

And directed a similar message to Biden, alleging that Democrats are imposing lock-down measures for political gain.

“Everything that we’ve gained over the last number of months, [Biden] wants to lock it down,” said. “These places have to be opened up. But November 4th, they’ll open. Don’t worry.” he added.

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