The Calculus Behind Trump’s Covid Response

Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for The Times, joined us for a DealBook Debrief call to assess how the Trump administration was managing its pandemic response, re-election campaign and more.

Highlights:

“He has treated the stock market like his own poll.”

As President Trump lags in the polls, he has leaned on the area where he enjoys an apparent advantage over Joe Biden: the economy. The stock market isn’t the economy, of course, but Mr. Trump has attributed the market’s rise to his policies. That raises a question: What if the market rally fizzles before the vote? “To suggest that it’s a referendum about Biden’s future, and what it could mean for the country, is not out of the realm of what’s normal for how this president paints any bit of bad news for himself,” Maggie said.

“Business leaders do not want their names out there in public.”

When we last spoke with Maggie, in April, she named the corporate moguls — the likes of Steve Schwarzman and Rupert Murdoch — who were advising Mr. Trump in the early days of the pandemic. As partisan fighting over reopenings, masks and medicines gets nastier, business leaders are distancing themselves from the administration. “I don’t think it’s good for them to be seen as trying to push reopening over public health measures, which — whether fair or not — is how a lot of the reporting ended up being portrayed in the earliest months of the fight to contain the virus,” she said.

“These are the kinds of things that people are talking about.”

What could improve Mr. Trump’s odds of re-election between now and Nov. 3? Barring unforeseen events, what Maggie hears from Republicans is pretty simple: “If only Donald Trump would stop tweeting. If only Donald Trump would stop talking about injecting bleach.” In short, she said, “it would require the president to be somebody different than who he has been.”

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