Coronavirus is skyrocketing in Republican-leaning Sunbelt and interior states, where shifting attitudes about the virus and President Donald Trump's handling of it could spell more trouble for his re-election effort.
New cases have exploded in particular in Arizona and Florida, battlegrounds Trump must retain to win re-election. Jacksonville, Florida, where the president relocated the Republican National Convention, had the fastest-growing rate of coronavirus of any metropolitan area in the U.S. for the week ended July 4, according to Evercore ISI.
The convention site was changed after Roy Cooper, the Democratic governor of North Carolina, balked at holding a gathering in Charlotte, as planned since 2018 when it was the only city to officially submit a bid, at full capacity.
The slide in support for Trump occurred as the president stopped talking about the virus and masks to focus instead almost entirely on reopening, a risky gamble that so far appears to be backfiring.
Pew Research Center polls show Trump's approval is slipping fastest in the 500 counties where the number of cases have been more than 28 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people.
Pew surveyed voters in late March and the same people again in late June, and found 17% of those who approved of the president in March now disapprove.
The shift came almost equally among Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and college graduates and non-graduates. But those who live in counties with a high number of virus cases were 50% more likely to say they no longer approve of Trump.
And older voters, who have typically trended conservative and have backed Trump in the past, are abandoning him at the same time the virus hits those ages 65 and older the hardest.
In six key battleground states, Trump is now trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 6 percentage points among voters 65 and over, according to a New York Times-Siena College poll conducted June 8 through June 18 in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Seniors in those states disapproved of Trump's handling of the pandemic, 52% to 45%. And by a 26-point margin those voters said the federal government should prioritize containing the pandemic over reopening the economy