Analysis: Attacking Anthony Fauci is Donald Trump’s dumbest closing message #Breaking112

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On that day, Trump repeatedly attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as an “idiot” and a “disaster.” Trump also said that Fauci was “500” years old then, later in the day revised the doctor’s age to “350.” (Fauci is actually 79 years old, which makes him just five years older than Trump.)

Trump, of course, didn’t stop there.

“If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths,” Trump suggested, with zero evidence to back up that claim. “If we listened to him, we’d have 700-800,000 deaths right now.” (More than 8.2 million Americans have been sickened by Covid-19 while more than 220,000 people have died from the disease.)

And finally, Trump suggested that the only reason he hadn’t fired Fauci from the White House coronavirus task force yet was because of the negative press he would get for doing so. “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him,” Trump told campaign staff on a conference call.

It’s hard to imagine something dumber than attacking Fauci as a closing message for a campaign that badly needs to rebuild its credibility with voters — especially women — on the issue of the coronavirus.

See, Fauci is, well, incredibly popular. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, almost 7 in 10 Americans said they had either a “fair” amount or a “great deal” of trust in Fauci as a “reliable source of information on the coronavirus.” That puts him ahead of the CDC (63% trust), Dr. Deborah Birx (53%), Joe Biden (52%) and, yes, Donald Trump (40%).

It’s rarely a smart strategy to attack a guy who 7 in 10 people think is credible on the dominant issue of an election — especially when you are a guy who just 4 in 10 people trust on that same issue. And when I say “rarely,” I mean “never.”

Dig deeper into the Kaiser numbers and Trump’s “strategy” looks even worse. Remember that, in order to win the Electoral College, he’s got to win at least a few Democratic-leaning states like Michigan or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania. And to do that, he needs to convince political independents — and even some conservative-ish Democrats — that he is the right choice to lead the country out of this pandemic.

And guess who is extremely high on Fauci? Independents and Democrats! In the Kaiser poll, 86% of Democrats and 71% of independents say they have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust in the doctor’s credibility on the coronavirus. Just 8% of Democrats and little more than one in three independents (37%) say the same about Trump.

If attacking Fauci is such a dumb strategy, why is Trump doing it, you ask? Two reasons, neither of which have anything to do with actually trying to win a national presidential election.

1) Trump doesn’t like anyone who outshines him. In Trump’s world, he is the sun. You can be a planet but you have to acknowledge that you revolve around the sun and need it for life. Fauci, because of his work for six presidents and long reputation as one of the finest (if not the finest) infectious disease doctors in the country, has never been someone willing to sit silently by while Trump says things that are counter-science and, at times, outright dangerous. Plus, Fauci is more popular than Trump! “He’s got this high approval rating, so why don’t I have a high approval rating … with respect to the virus?” Trump mused in July.

2) Trump just wants to hear his base applaud. Even as Fauci remains a revered figure among Democrats and independents, his credibility has sunk drastically among self-identified Republicans. In the Kaiser poll, less than half (48%) of GOPers said they had a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust in Fauci to provide reliable information on the virus. Republicans are more likely to trust the CDC (70%) and Birx (60%) than Fauci. Since April, Fauci’s credibility numbers have dropped by 29 percentage points among Republican voters. This is, of course, due to Trump’s all-out assault on Fauci and the fact that his most loyal voters take whatever he says as gospel truth.

Seen through the lens of a winning strategy, Trump’s attacks on Fauci make zero sense. Fauci is, quite literally, the one person in the country Trump shouldn’t be attacking if he actually wants to change his fortunes in this election.

And yet he does it anyway. Partially because he can’t help himself. And partially because Trump has ever only been good at one thing: Playing to what his base wants.



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