At the time, Trump applauded Abbott.
“Texas is opening up and a lot of places are opening up. And we want to do it, and I’m not sure that we even have a choice,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting on May 7 with Abbott. “I think we have to do it. You know, this country can’t stay closed and locked down for years.”
Texas soon saw the proportion of coronavirus tests that came back positive spike to nearly 12 percent, in addition to a record-breaking number of hospitalizations. Last week, Abbott said Covid-19 “is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled.” He ordered bars to re-close and restaurants to limit capacity to 50 percent, down from 75 percent.
Brendan Steinhauser, a Texas political consultant who helped organize Tea Party protests in 2009, echoed fellow Republicans and Democrats who think Trump will still carry Texas. “But not by much,” he said, because the economy is in bad shape and there’s a growing belief the president botched the response to the coronavirus.
“It’s a big impact and the combination with the perception the president has mishandled racial issues and criminal justice issues,” Steinhauser said.
Of the three states, only Florida has been a true presidential swing state in recent decades. If Trump loses its 29 Electoral College votes, his chances of a second term are close to zero.
The Real Clear Politics polling average in Florida has Biden ahead by nearly 7 percentage points.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a staunch Trump ally, has offered mixed messaging in response to coronavirus. He’s repeatedly boasted about his “data-driven” approach but refused to heed advice from medical experts who say that a statewide mask-wearing order would work.
While DeSantis said he was deferring to local governments, Republicans filed a lawsuit last week when a mask-wearing ordinance was passed by Leon County, where the state Capitol is located.
“Our people are ticked off. Most of them are upset about the media coverage about the coronavirus and feel it’s overblown and it’s part of a strategy to bring down the president,” said Evan Power, chairman of the county GOP, the plaintiff in the lawsuit.