On Politics: The Economy Won’t Distance

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  • President Trump is getting antsy. With unemployment skyrocketing and the Senate still working on a deal on its huge relief bill for the coronavirus, Trump said Monday that he hoped restrictions on Americans’ daily activity would be rolled back within a few weeks. That puts him out of step with the medical consensus: Public health officials warn that severe social distancing measures could be necessary for many months, and that relaxing restrictions on travel and large gatherings could greatly increase the virus’s death toll.

  • But just days after he had adopted a more serious tone toward the virus, Trump once again seemed ready to play down its threat. On Sunday night he tweeted, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” And at a news conference on Monday, when asked how long he expected economic activity to remain curtailed across the country, he said: “I’m not looking at months, I can tell you right now. We’re going to be opening up our country.” Other conservative leaders swiftly picked up on the narrative. In an appearance on Fox News shortly after the president spoke, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas, a Republican, said: “Let’s get back to living,” later adding: “Those of us that are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves.”

  • A Monmouth University poll released on Monday found that 50 percent of respondents nationwide now approved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, while 45 percent disapproved. But more than seven in 10 Americans said they approved of how their governors were handling the crisis. That number ticked up even higher in the four states with the highest number of reported cases.

  • Joe Biden, meanwhile, has been relatively quiet since the middle of last week. Some of his closest donors and advisers are worried that he is ceding the spotlight to Trump at a moment when the president’s volatile response to the crisis could leave him politically vulnerable. So on Monday, Biden live-streamed a speech from his home in Delaware, the first of what his aides say will be daily public appearances going forward. (He has an appearance on ABC’s “The View” scheduled for today.) “Trump keeps saying that he’s a wartime president,” Biden said Monday. “Well, start to act like one. To paraphrase a frustrated President Lincoln writing to an inactive General McClellan during the Civil War, quote, ‘If you don’t want to use the army, may I borrow it?’”

Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Attorney General William Barr conferred as President Trump spoke at the daily White House coronavirus briefing on Monday.

Democratic officials acknowledged on Monday for the first time that they were examining “contingency options” for the party’s national convention, which is scheduled to take place in Milwaukee from July 13 to July 16.

Senior staff members at the Democratic National Committee are engaged in “intensive scenario-planning,” a person with knowledge of the discussions told our reporter Reid J. Epstein.

A number of factors could potentially derail the convention — even if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does ease its restrictions on travel and gatherings by July. Which is a big if.

Even still, states tend to elect their convention delegates at state conventions in the late spring or early summer — and many of those are already being postponed.

And with Bernie Sanders still in the race and the next few primaries already postponed, Biden may not be able to clinch the nomination for some time. This means that he and his team cannot take charge of the convention-planning process.

Reid wrote to us on Monday night explaining where things stand.

At this point, it seems unlikely that the convention will happen as scheduled. The biggest annual event in Milwaukee is Summerfest, a two-week music festival that takes place the last week in June and the first week in July — and that just got moved to September. And even if everything goes great and we’re back to normal in May, the N.B.A. playoff schedule would probably mean the Fiserv Forum isn’t available in mid-July, since the Milwaukee Bucks are strong postseason contenders.

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