Four weeks out from the election and the national political environment shifting again. Donald Trump’s debate performance and diagnosis of COVID seems to have moved public sentiment even further against him. In North Carolina, Cal Cunningham’s texting saga and Thom Tillis’ COVID diagnosis add uncertainty to a race that had been remarkably stable up until this weekend.

Three national polls show Trump’s collapse. A NBC/WSJ poll on Sunday showed Biden leading Trump by 14, 53-39. A Reuters poll the same day showed a 10 point margin, 51-41. And this morning, a CNN poll shows Trump trailing by a whopping 16 points, 57-41. All of the polls were conducted after the debate and most of the respondents were surveyed after his diagnosis with COVID.

Particularly notable in the polling is little sympathy for president’s illness. Voters blame him for acting irresponsibly. That perception was probably bolstered by footage of the Rose Garden event celebrating the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The leadership of the GOP and their allies, especially in the evangelical community, gathered with few masks and no considerations to social distancing. More than 30 of the attendees tested positively for COVID.

With four weeks to go, the race will almost certainly tighten, but these polls show a public weary of Trump’s narcissism and braggadocio and frustrated with his administration’s refusal to take the virus seriously. As he emerged from the hospital, he told people the disease isn’t so bad. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) told a reporter COVID isn’t as deadly as we thought, even as the death poll surges toward 225,000 dead in less than eight months. The gap between their spin and reality is reflected in these polls.

In North Carolina, PPP jumped out with a poll showing that Cunningham’s texts have had little impact on the race so far. He holds a 48-42 lead over Thom Tillis. According the poll, 58% of voters say they’ve heard about the relationship and the same number say it won’t affect their vote. The poll does not reflect the impact of ads comparing Cunningham to former Senator John Edwards who had an affair and a baby that he hid from the public.

The affair may hurt Cunningham but it will be competing with the constant flow of information coming from the White House. Trump is determined to make the entire election about him, regardless of how it might affect races below him on the ticket. Republicans, though, have spent the past year wrapping themselves around Trump instead of creating any distance. Running away from him now might hurt their credibility more than help it. In the PPP poll, Trump trails Biden by four, serving as an anchor instead of a boost for Tillis.


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