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Trump dismisses virus, polls and recession to tell winning story

Josh Wingrove, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- The America that President Donald Trump describes is a place where the coronavirus outbreak is only surging because of increased testing, the economy is on the verge of roaring back to life and polls showing him losing reelection in a landslide are fiction.

In the president's telling, many of the Americans protesting police brutality are terrorists, anarchists and looters, and concerns about systemic racism are overblown. He claims that his is the most accomplished presidency in history, outshining all his predecessors but Abraham Lincoln on achievements for Black people.

Four months before Americans decide whether to return Trump to the White House, the president has constructed a narrative of the U.S. under his leadership that veers far from reality. In fact, the coronavirus outbreak is resurgent, driven in part by hasty reopenings and an emerging political divide over wearing a mask. The economy may not recover until 2021 or later. Protests against police brutality have been largely peaceful -- though there has been some looting and violence -- and more political leaders in both parties publicly acknowledge the reality of pervasive racism in police departments and American society.

And most importantly for his political future, polls show the president is rapidly losing ground to his presumptive reelection opponent, Democrat Joe Biden.

Presidential candidates often describe an aspirational vision of the country. Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" is held up as the model of the hopeful message voters want to hear. Trump has called himself "a cheerleader," but his detailed descriptions of life in America today run so counter to reality that even some of his allies are urging him to change course.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina acknowledged that "there's been a dip" in Trump's support, adding that it's early yet. The president needs "a little more message discipline," and to focus on subjects like the economy, he said.

 

"Eventually, just make it more about policy, and less about your personality," he told reporters in the Capitol.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who chairs the Finance Committee, publicly pleaded last week for Trump's advisers to show the president a Wall Street Journal editorial warning that he faces a "repudiation" from voters.

Grassley said Saturday on Twitter that Biden might "sit in his basement and not campaign and be elected president."

There's little sign Trump will change direction. At the White House on Friday, Trump touted historic stock market gains, even with tens of millions of Americans still out of work and benchmark indices well below their February highs. Earlier this week he said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that former President Barack Obama had committed "treason" in the course of an FBI probe of Trump's 2016 campaign.

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