With the election 100 days out and the president in a bit of a polling rut, the White House is reportedly considering a change in messaging. While the past week has been focused on demonizing cities to make his law-and-order message hit home — one DHS official told the Washington Post that the administration has long wanted to boost conflict in U.S. cities to get “viral online content” — Trump is now going for a more optimistic route. According to Axios, the White House plans to push vaccines and therapeutics in an attempt to shore up his image as the preferred candidate on the economy.
“I think it’s pretty clear to everyone that getting a vaccine, getting therapeutics that work is the golden key to unlocking the economy and stopping the crisis,” a source close to the Trump campaign told Axios. The only problem with this tactic for November is that the earliest timeline for a widespread vaccine is spring 2021, while a “very reasonable” estimate from the World Health Organization posits the end of next year.
The messaging on therapeutics is somewhat more realistic. “If you get ill from COVID, you have a significantly lower chance of getting seriously ill or dying since we have remdesivir, convalescent plasma, and steroids to treat the virus,” a White House official told Axios. Supply on these key resources, however, is not guaranteed. Convalescent plasma is currently running low in the hot spot state of Florida, while hospitals in Texas and California are short on remdesivir — despite the Trump administration’s June purchase of most of the world supply for the coming months.
Axios also reports that Trump will continue to deliver White House Coronavirus Task Force press conferences by himself, so that he can own the economic message. However, that will require the president to stay on message at the podium, an achievement Trump has yet to deliver for any significant stretch of time.
Meanwhile, the focus on vaccines appears tailored to allow the president to discuss future progress without treating the wave of cases resulting in more than 1,000 deaths for five straight days this past week. With the nation expected to pass 150,000 deaths this week, the Trump administration still has no viable plan for dampening the caseloads in states experiencing a summer outbreak, and has not provided any detailed federal plan for schools returning to campus this fall. Even coronavirus testing — which the president has boasted of in recent weeks — is profoundly broken, with waiting periods for results stretching up to a useless 14 days.
The reported White House plan to rely on a potential vaccine as an economic crutch contains another flaw: An Associated Press poll from May showed that only half of Americans would get a coronavirus vaccine, fearing side effects or potential sickness.