Sean Hannity of Fox News likes to kid me on air about how I’m really not retired from polling and political analysis. That’s because I happily agreed, along with my colleague John McLaughlin, to serve as pollster for Sean’s radio program this election season. Given that John and I were virtually the only pollsters to predict a Trump victory in 2016, we have a pretty good handle on how flawed most network and print news surveys are and where the race might truly stand.
John works for the President Trump, but I do not. So, my comments are my own (you are safe John!).
The polls, just like in 2016, would lead most to believe that President Donald Trump has only a slim shot to be re-elected. I think the great stat genius Nate Silver gave Trump just the slightest of odds to win in ’16 and is right back to that same position again. And just like in 2016, the pollsters and Nate are likely to be off in November.
In the last few weeks I have seen numbers that suggest the violence on the streets and uptick in crime that has afflicted many cities in America, combined with efforts to reduce funding for police, has caused a large shift in suburban voters in states like Florida and Georgia towards the president. The Trump campaign’s brilliant “You have reached 911” ad seized on that shift and is helping accelerate it.
Both Georgia and Florida are critical swing states. Knowing both like the back of my hand, it may shock you when I say that Georgia may be the more vulnerable of the two for Republicans this time. The demographics of the Peach State combined with an unusual two U.S. Senate seats on the November ballot make it a unique challenge to the GOP. But both can be won by Trump “with a little help from his friends.”
The issue of how to handle Covid-19 has again become a top issue with voters. Funny how we went from all Covid news coverage, to all protest reporting, to all Covid coverage again.
Trump has provided Govs. Brian Kemp and Ron DeSantis a truly federalist approach to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Each governor sets their own rules. But what they do impacts the president’s re-election chances. Both have done admirable jobs, but they are up against a virus that (unreported in the press ) has started to mutate away from the European version which first struck the U.S. towards a more easily-contracted original Wuhan strain of the virus.
Like it or not, the “elite media” are piling on to these two Southern governors who led the nation in reopening their respective states due to rapidly growing positive test results and rising death totals. These press reports are used to both terrify the public and to attempt to force another shutdown of the nation. The political byproduct of such a result would be to destroy the economy and hurt the president politically. Of course that same mainstream media forget to mention that while Florida’s total deaths are at around 5,000 souls, their hero New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lost around 32,000 people in a state less populous than Florida!
Will DeSantis be invited to late night talk shows if he keeps Florida’s loss of life less than New York’s? Fat chance.
So before things get too out of control or at least through the tilted lens of the press, these two governors owe it to Trump to do the following:
· Bring in more sources of testing and make sure those who are testing report results accurately. We know that testing availability and wait times for results is a challenge. But just as challenging are inaccurate “positive” test results which make things look worse than might be the case. One of the many FOX affiliates for whom I polled in 2015 and ’16– FOX 35 in Orlando– just revealed that many entities testing in central Florida reported outlandishly high positive rates. One example was a major healthcare provider in the Orlando area that reported earlier this week a stunning 98% positivity rate in its testing. When questioned by FOX 35 reporters, that positivity rate was actually 9.4%. Oops! Not only do these states need more hens in the testing henhouse, they don’t need unfriendly or incompetent foxes guarding them. Add labs that will follow rules pronto.
· Get serious about contact tracing. Nothing is a bigger failure than the “voluntary” contact tracing in these two states. Ironically, the more sophisticated technology-based tracing now being pursued by the Long Island area, as well as several in huge south Florida counties, were deemed too “electronic and invasive of privacy” just a few months earlier by Georgia and Florida officials. Now they are learning that using voluntary apps and voluntary human “inquisitors” are not only ineffective, but far more intrusive. You can’t send students back to schools or colleges without a robust contact tracing system and the current ones aren’t working on their own.
· Let’s just mandate masks for a while. First Lady Melania Trump, who leads the nation in both beauty and sense, just released a picture of her donning a mask. If it is good enough for her, its good enough for the people of Georgia and Florida– particularly when they are indoors and in a public place. Georgia and Florida are hotspots so why continue to fight reality. Experts tell me that Florida will reach its peak for the current outbreak around August 1st. What harm would mandatory statewide wearing of masks do for a short duration?
The president has done everything he can in this pandemic. He banned flights from China when experts and political opponents opposed him. He created the greatest and swiftest mobilization of emergency medical care in our nation’s history. And he put in place “science-based” markers and steps before opening states back up. In the instance of both Kemp and DeSantis, a decision was made to skip past some of those markers.
Both governors were hailed for their decisions early on. Now both are back in the frying pan, if unfairly so. In the end their decision have kept businesses from failing and families from going broke. But as we say in the South, they have reached the “lick log”– the final moments. What they do in the next few weeks will determine not only the future of their states, but perhaps the political direction their states take in November.
And in case no one thinks I’m serious, consider this. While back in Atlanta for a few days this week we learned that the popular restaurant where we had reservations to eat dinner, and where we dined last month while visiting, was abruptly shut down. All due to a Covid-19 infection.
Please get moving Governors Kemp and DeSantis. Time is of the essence.
Matt Towery is the chairman of InsiderAdvantage Georgia and James magazine.