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One bad day demonstrates how Trump is reaping what he's sown

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.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump participates in a roundtable on donating plasma during a visit to the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, on July 30, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Yesterday, July 30, 2020, will likely prove to be a significant and consequential day in Donald Trump’s presidency.

It was a day when we learned the U.S. economy suffered a historic decline during the second quarter.

It was a day when we learned that former presidential candidate Herman Cain — who had attended Trump’s Tulsa rally without wearing a mask — died of the coronavirus.

It was a day when Trump tweeted that maybe the Nov. 3 election should be delayed.

It was a day when Trump was the only living president or ex-president who didn’t deliver remarks or words of condolence at John Lewis’ funeral, and when Barack Obama made a full-throated defense of voting rights.

And it was a day when, just hours later, Trump delivered a news conference filled with falsehoods about the coronavirus. (“Young people are almost immune to this disease,” he said.)

What’s been remarkable about Trump’s summer so far is how so many of his actions, declarations and tweets have all backfired on him.

That trip to St. John’s Church to hold up the Bible? A public-relations disaster.

The economic re-openings in the South and West? They led to new spikes in the coronavirus.

That Tulsa rally? A surge in infections was likely linked to the event.

Moving the GOP convention to Jacksonville, Fla.? They had to cancel that.

And tweeting that maybe the election should be delayed? He did it on a day when the world was transfixed on John Lewis’ legacy to extend voting rights to Americans.

If you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind, as the Old Testament puts it.

And right now, Trump is reaping the whirlwind.

Three points on Trump’s delay-the-election tweet

As for Trump’s tweet yesterday that maybe the election should be delayed (something the president cannot do), three things can be true at the same time.

One, it’s very plausible he did it to distract from the horrific economic news that preceded his tweet.

Two, it still represented a five-alarm fire for the U.S. democracy. (Never in American history — during the Civil War or World War II — was there ever a successful effort to delay the election, as presidential historian Michael Beschloss pointed out.)

And three, it only underscores Trump’s political weaknesses heading into Nov. 3.

If you’re truly concerned about how long it will take to count ballots during the pandemic, then why aren’t you working to secure more funding and staffing for the election?

Why aren’t you giving the U.S. Postal Service the resources it needs to deliver the mail — on time?

And if you’re worried that the U.S. might not be able to “properly, securely and safely” vote by Nov. 3, what does that say about the attempts to reopen schools and businesses during the pandemic?

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

4,506,161: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 58,176 more cases than yesterday morning.)

153,302: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,055 more than yesterday morning.)

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

$3.9 million: How much the Biden campaign spent on the TV airwaves on Wednesday and Thursday, as the Trump campaign went virtually dark as part of a “review and fine-tuning” of its ad strategy.

As much as $500 million: How much the Trump administration may have overspent for ventilators, according to a House Democratic investigation.

$2.1 billion: The price tag on a deal struck between the U.S. and drug makers Sanofi and GSK to support the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

74: The age of former presidential candidate and prominent Black Trump ally Herman Cain, who died of Covd-19 yesterday

2020 Vision: Going dark

Less than 100 days out from the election, the Trump campaign spent virtually nothing on TV or radio ads on Wednesday or Thursday, according to Advertising Analytics data, NBC’s Ben Kamisar and Shannon Pettypiece write.

By comparison, Joe Biden's campaign spent $3.9 million over those two days.

A Trump campaign official told NBC that they’ll “be back on the air shortly,” after a “review and fine-tuning of the campaign’s strategy” in the wake of Brad Parscale’s demotion.

Recently, that messaging strategy has centered on raising fears about law and order — the Trump campaign spent $17 million on broadcast and national cable since the beginning of July to run a spot decrying the “Defund the Police” movement and trying to pin it to Joe Biden.

The campaign still has more than $146 million in general election ads booked for the fall. But it’s not often you see a presidential campaign go completely dark on the air for this stretch of time, ceding their opponent control of the airwaves, especially as it sees to dig out of a significant polling deficit.

Worlds apart

After a meeting Thursday night with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Democrats and the administration are still worlds apart in the coronavirus relief negotiations, NBC’s Hill team reports.

Both sides have agreed to continue talking throughout the day and the weekend, but the lack of a deal all but assures the federal weekly unemployment benefit will expire today.

“We just don’t think they understand the gravity of the problem,” Schumer said after the meeting.

Mnuchin said they proposed a short-term bill, but the Democrats soundly rejected it, and Democrats pointed to their House-passed legislation from May.

“What is a one week extension good for? A one week extension is good if you (already) have a bill, and you're working it out,” Pelosi said in response to a one-week extension of unemployment benefits

The Lid: You’re a Sunflower

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we took a quick spin through some surprising ads in the Kansas Senate primary.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Joe Biden is accusing Republicans of “playing political games” with coronavirus aid.

John Lewis’ death is prompting new calls to enshrine voting rights.

Dave Wasserman posits that mail-in voting might be more problematic for Democrats than they think.

A backlog at the USPS is creating worries that mail-in ballots will be badly affected by delays.

A virtual meeting between Sanders and Biden DNC committee members got a bit testy.

Democratic state parties are seeing a huge influx of cash.

NPR reports that Census door knocking will stop a month earlier than planned, increasing the risk of undercounts in poorer and minority communities.

DHS compiled “intelligence reports” on reporters covering the Portland protests.