Covid-19 and the Uncertainty of Election 2020 - “The Sunday Political Brunch" - June 28, 2020

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CHARLESTON, WV – This coming Friday is July 3, meaning it’s exactly four months until Election Day 2020. Will Covid-19 still be with us, or a distant memory? We just don’t know. Will the economy bounce back, or tank worse? Again, it’s just a guess. I don’t know of an election cycle in my lifetime that had so much uncertainty weighing down upon it. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Covid Comeback?” – The majority of states in the nation had a surge in new Covid-19 cases this past week. It was worse in the heavily populated states of Florida, California and Texas. And while we think this is an old person’s disease, the worst spikes were among young people, 18 to 30. Hospitalizations in California were up by 32 percent. Is this the “second wave” we’ve all been wondering about? Or is it more of the economy gradually reopening and people letting their guard down? Most of the “second wave” predictions had fall is the most likely timeline. So why so much earlier?

“Timeline Troubles” – As I have said before, it’s unseemly to talk about Coronavirus in a political context. After all, people are dying. But public policy, and what to do, or not to do, is central on this issue. It’s going to get political, like it or not! And that’s why the timing of what happens really matters. If Covid-19 had waned by the end of June and Wall Street surged as it did earlier this month, then President Trump has a glide-path to reelection. But if the positive cases and deaths rise sharply, he’s done. I think the important date in this is October 1. The trend on that date may well determine who wins the White House and a lot of other political races. Success against Covid-19 helps incumbents in both parties. Failure is hard to campaign on.

“Economic Hardships” – It’s not just a public health issue. Covid-19 is also an economic issue. Look what the disruption in the supply chain has done, not to mention the closure of many small businesses. Here’s another key date to watch. On July 31, the CARES Act funding that provided people on unemployment another $600 per week in benefits, will come to an end. Will those folks be going back to work anywhere, or is their economic hardship going to spike as well? Again, if the economy sours, that’s bad for the incumbents, as by then the election will be a mere three months away. That’s hardly enough time to turn anything around. I do predict Congress and the White House will pass another economic stimulus package in July, but what’s contained in it is only a guess at this time.

“Unconventional Conventions” – I have attended and covered 10 political nominating conventions in my career and always enjoy them, (though it means 20-hour workdays). I was so looking forward to being in my hometown of Milwaukee this year covering the Democrats. That was to be followed by a trip to Charlotte where I’ve worked in media, and where my niece and goddaughter is now a news anchor-reporter like me. Sadly, both trips are unlikely. Milwaukee will be a “virtual” convention via Zoom, and in Charlotte some GOP delegations will gather, but President Trump will deliver his acceptance speech in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s surreal.

“Biden’s Final Four vs. My Final Four!” – Word has leaked from the Biden campaign that his final four choices for the VP slot may be Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California, Rep. Val Demings, (D) Florida, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) Atlanta, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. I had the first three on my list, but had Michelle Obama in there, instead of Susan Rice. I’d say after 40-plus years of covering politics, my instincts are not too bad! The only white running mate Biden is apparently still considering, is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D Massachusetts.

“My Analysis” – I think Warren is out, as there is so much pressure on Biden to pick a woman of color. The Democratic ticket will carry California regardless of who is picked, so that hurts Harris’s chances. Susan Rice will be attacked endlessly about the handling of the 2012 terrorist in Benghazi. So, she’s a longshot. Mayor Bottoms remain in this because she could swing Georgia into the Democrats column. I’m betting on Rep. Val Deming, (D) Florida whose long law enforcement career, included being police chief in Orlando, Florida. Law enforcement will be one of the top-five issues this year, so a running mate with her chops can help Biden in many states, including a real shot at winning Florida.

What are your thoughts on the topsy-turvy political world in the middle of a global pandemic? Just click the comment button to let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Political Contributing Writer at “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© 2020, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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