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The coronavirus has amplified Trump's weaknesses, and muted his strengths

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo addresses the media while holding an n95 mask during his daily press briefing on COVID-19, Coronavirus, at the State Capitol in Albany, N.Y on April 24. 2020.Darren McGee / AP

WASHINGTON — What has to concern Republicans isn't that President Trump is trailing Joe Biden in key battleground and national polls six months out before Election Day 2020.

Trump, after all, was in similar poll position in 2016, and we all remember how that race turned out.

But what has to concern the GOP is that these rough numbers for Trump are coming at a time when voters are rallying around other leaders during this pandemic.

See New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose job-approval rating in New York is now at 71 percent (while Trump’s is at 30 percent in the state), according to a new Siena poll.

Or even Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose job rating is at 63 percent in her state (versus 47 percent for Trump), per last week’s Fox News survey.

Our recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 66 percent of voters say they generally trust what their governor has said as the coronavirus has spread across the country.

For Trump? That number was 36 percent.

And that’s the real story – so far – of this crisis: It’s a challenge that’s never been a part of his toolbox as a national politician, as we wrote back in March.

He can’t threaten it with a primary challenge. He can’t hold a rally against it. And he can’t tweet it away.

Instead, the coronavirus has only magnified his shortcomings. Making factually incorrect assertions. Sending mixed signals. Blaminghis predecessor. Hawking unproven remedies.

And, on Thursday, talking about injecting disinfectant and powerful lights.

The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman summed it up well: “Mr. Trump’s single best advantage as an incumbent — his access to the bully pulpit — has effectively become a platform for self-sabotage.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

972,481: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 94,233 more than Friday morning.)

54,944: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 4,996 more than Friday morning).

5.44 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

16 percent: The share of New Yorkers who say they trust President Trump to make decisions about reopening the state’s economy, compared with 78 percent who trust Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to a new Siena College poll.

About half: The share of New Yorkers who know someone who has tested positive for the virus, according to the same poll.

More than 28 hours: The time that President Trump has spent speaking in the 35 coronavirus briefings held since March 16,according to a Washington post analysis.

At least 18: The number of times President Trump tweeted a statement yesterday referencing himself (“I”/”me”/”my”)

21 minutes: The length of the White House’s coronavirus briefing on Friday, the shortest to date.

“The heart of journalism has never been stronger”

Be sure to read NBC/MSNBC Chairman Andy Lack’s piece on the state of journalism during the coronavirus pandemic.

“[W]hat has become powerfully clear during this pandemic is that the heart of journalism has never been stronger. As ever, journalists are asking tough questions and going where the facts lead. Not looking to win any popularity contests — just doing what Woodward and Bernstein inspired my generation and the generations that followed to always do: seek the best obtainable version of the truth.”

More: “Over the past four decades, I've covered a wide array of miserable catastrophes, wars and social upheaval, but the hallmarks of good journalism have seldom seemed more important than they do right now. More than 300 million Americans are sheltering in place — with more than 26 million of them now unemployed — and they're looking for accurate, updated information about this terrifying story and what may lie ahead.”

2020 Vision: The delicate transition dance

“It may seem early, but federal law mandates that by Sunday the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and aides to the president he hopes to unseat must begin planning for a possible transition of power after the November election,” NBC’s Mike Memoli and Carol E. Lee write.

“Officials from agencies involved in transition planning said they will follow the law and start the process with Biden on schedule. The White House, however, declined to comment on whether officials in the West Wing who are responsible for coordinating with Biden's team have plans to do so by the May 3 deadline.”

Memoli and Lee add: “There are concerns among Democrats … that President Donald Trump might try to impede preparations for potentially handing over the office after serving one term.”

Fight for your right … to vote remotely

After Congress passed, and the president signed, the interim coronavirus relief package on Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reminded her caucus that she wasn’t done fighting for remote voting. Originally, the House was supposed to vote last week on proxy voting so House members would not be forced to travel during the pandemic — however, Republican pressure mounted and the House instead only voted on the aid package. Pelosi told her caucus on Friday:

“This week, I conveyed the interest in our Caucus in remote voting by proxy to Republican Leader McCarthy. Our view is not shared by all in Congress. We have agreed that Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Leader McCarthy, Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern and Ranking Member Tom Cole and House Administration Chair Zoe Lofgren and Ranking Member Rodney Davis confer this week about remote voting and also how committees will function. Leader McCarthy has told me and confirmed to the press that ‘I made a commitment to her that we would be able to look at that and get to that point.’”

As a reminder, last week House Minority Whip Steve Scalise accused Pelosi’s remote voting plan as dictatorial: “Speaker Pelosi shouldn't try to be pushing people away or try to be holding everybody's vote as a proxy so that she can run everything as a dictatorship that's not what this great democracy is all about,” Scalise said.

The Lid: Pretty, pretty, pretty good

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we looked at Joe Biden’s good week versus President Trump in the state and national polls — and why it matters.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Nancy Pelosi is endorsing Joe Biden.

House Democrats have largely hobbled themselves as members sit in their districts without remote voting and few online meetings.

Stacey Abrams explained on ‘Meet the Press’ why she’s so vocal about her qualifications for the VP job.

Some Democrats are starting to be cautiously optimistic about taking back the Senate.

Is Kim Jong Un really gravely ill? South Korea says it’s confident that the answer is no.