An Elon University poll released this week offers insight into why Roy Cooper has held such a commanding lead over Dan Forest. It’s not just because Forest is an extremist out of touch with regular North Carolinians. People approve of the way Cooper’s handled the coronavirus and disapprove of the positions Forest and the GOP have taken. The results may be fueling a massive wave in this election.

People are extremely concerned about the virus, even if Republicans are not. Voters overwhelmingly believe the course that Cooper has taken is the right one. By a margin of 77-16, they think that holding classes online instead of in-person was the right the decision. Only 22% of North Carolinians believe schools should open “as soon as possible.” Sixty-one percent of the people are very or extremely worried that opening schools could lead to the spread of COVID-19.

As for the economy, a plurality of people, 39% think the state has opened at about the right pace. Another 33% think that it has opened too quickly and only 28% think it has opened too slowly. Forty-three percent of voters give Cooper an “A” or “B” grade for his handling of the pandemic, the same percentage that gives Trump an “F.” Forest shares Trump’s positions about opening up the economy and schools.

People also believe in preventative measures to deter the virus. Almost everybody, 91%, believe wearing masks is at least somewhat effective in preventing spread. Ninety-four percent believe in social distancing and 97% believe hand-sanitizing works to reduce the spread. In addition, most people are concerned about being in public spaces, especially indoors. 

With these numbers, the collapse in Republican support comes into focus. The GOP leadership has never taken the virus seriously and have opposed measures with broad support. In the case of Dan Forest, he’s been criticizing Cooper for opening too slowly and demanding students return to schools immediately. In other words, he’s taking positions that are wildly unpopular with a majority of voters. 

The Rose Garden COVID party seemed to signal the collapse of Trump’s support. If people in other states feel similarly to North Carolinians, the entire Republican leadership is failing to take the concerns of voters seriously. They have mass gatherings, shun social distancing, and refuse to wear masks. We’ve seen numerous images of Dan Forest events where people ignore any sort of precautions. Republicans are scaring voters instead of wooing them.

Republicans look more like threats than leaders. They are willing to put the lives of people at risk in order to thumb their noses at Cooper’s precautions. They are not listening to the experts and, in some cases, disputing them despite little more than information from conspiracy theorists. They appear to be pursuing a “herd immunity” approach that will likely kill hundreds of thousands of people in this country. The GOP is now the party of Donald Trump and Alex Jones instead of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. It’s mind-boggling.

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