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Trump is back on the trail, but he still can't shake the coronavirus politically

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: Supporters of President Donald Trump mock anti-Trump motorists during a rally in Beverly Hills, California
Supporters of President Donald Trump mock anti-Trump motorists during a rally in Beverly Hills, California, Oct. 10, 2020.Kyle Grillot / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he’s healthy as he returns today to the campaign trail — just 10 days after he revealed he tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized.

But the polling makes it clear that Trump can’t shake the virus politically.

A national Washington Post/ABC poll released over the weekend found:

  • Trump trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 12 points among likely voters;
  • just 41 percent of registered voters saying they approve of the president’s handling of the coronavirus (versus 45 percent who approve of his overall job);
  • only 37 percent of registered voters trusting what Trump says about the coronavirus;
  • and just 29 percent saying the president took the appropriate precautions to reduce the chances he would catch the virus, compared with 65 percent who say he didn’t.

Now the same poll showed 59 percent of registered voters believing Trump is healthy enough to carry out his duties as president.

But Trump’s campaign travel today to Florida — and Pennsylvania tomorrow — raises a different question: Is the president keeping his own supporters safe?

Back in June, the Trump campaign held an indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla., which local health officials said likely contributed to a surge of the virus in the area. (2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain contracted Covid-19 after attending the rally and died a month later.)

Nine who attended a Trump rally in Minnesota last month reported contracting the virus, including one who had to be treated in intensive care. (The Minnesota Department of Health says it can’t definitively conclude that they got the virus at the rally — just that they attended at the time they were likely exposed.)

And then there was the Sept. 26 White House event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, which Dr. Anthony Fauci called a “superspreader event.”

On Amy Coney Barrett, Lindsey Graham and Jaime Harrison

Speaking of Amy Coney Barrett, her Supreme Court hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee begins today at 9:00 a.m. ET.

“Barrett does not mention her conservatism or her religious views in [her] four-page [opening] statement, and will instead tell senators that courts are ‘not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,’” per NBC News.

And there are few other strands of news to consider regarding this SCOTUS nomination.

Jaime Harrison — the opponent of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham — reported raising an eye-popping $57 million during the third quarter. (It’s not far-fetched to think that much of this was a result of this nomination battle.)

Graham refused to take a coronavirus test to debate Harrison on Friday (and the debate was scuttled as a result).

And Judiciary Committee members are not being tested.

When one of us asked Judiciary Committee member Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, why senators aren’t be tested, he replied that it was a delay tactic by Democrats.

“I think they are looking for anything to delay things even a day, or two, or three. And I think that Senate Republicans will follow the guidance, the medical guidance, of the Capitol physician. We’ll go through — we've managed to have hearings for months in a way that has been safe and has protected everyone's safety,” he said on “Meet the Press” yesterday.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

7,803,277: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 159,641 more than Friday morning.)

215,938: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,943 more than Friday morning.)

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

$57 million: How much Jamie Harrison raised last quarter, obliterating records for a Senate candidate.

86: The number of state legislative chambers on the ballot in November.

2020 Vision: Fauci vs. Trump

President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci have passively fought each other’s statements, especially over the last few months. But it escalated over the weekend when the Trump campaign released a new ad that used a quote from Fauci. Here’s the ad:

Narrator: "President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus and so is America. Together, we rose to meet the challenge: protecting our seniors, getting them life-saving drugs in record time, sparing no expense. President Trump tackled the virus head on as leaders should."

Fauci: "I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more."

Narrator: "We'll get through this together. We'll live carefully, but not afraid."

Trump: "I'm Donald J. Trump, and I approve this message."

Fauci made that comment regarding the full federal government’s response — and it was during an interview from back in March, mind of you.

Fauci responded to the Trump campaign’s political use of him over the weekend: “In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed nor do I now endorse any political candidates. The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials."

On the campaign trail today

President Trump holds his rally in Sanford, Fla., beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET… Joe Biden is in Ohio, delivering remarks in Toledo and Cincinnati… And VP Mike Pence also is in the Buckeye State, holding an event in Columbus.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee says it had a plane flying over Sanford, Fla., last night with LED lights on the underbelly reading: "Trump Lied, 15,364 Floridians Died."

The Lid: Ten days that shook the political world

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we looked at the wild ride of the previous 10 days in American politics.

Shameless plug: Florida, Florida, Florida

"Meet the Press" and Chuck Todd are debuting a five-part podcast series re-examining the historic and infamous 2000 presidential recount and the impacts it has on elections 20 years later: Florida Florida Florida. The first episode is available now from The Chuck ToddCast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms, with subsequent episodes being released daily this week.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Republicans are hoping to use the Supreme Court fight as one last push to motivate their voters.

Here’s what Amy Coney Barrett will say in her opening statement.

The NYT looks at Coney Barrett’s faith and how it has influenced her views.

Trump has declared himself “immune” from Covid — but his doctors still won’t say when he last tested negative.

Iowa voters say they’re exhausted. Is it enough to turn the state blue?

The Washington Post looks back at Trump’s record on China.

Alabama Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville is facing questions about his financial record.

Britain is facing a new round of lockdown measures, but they don’t have much public support.