Coronavirus, George Floyd, economy to be voting factors in US elections: Expert

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As US presidential elections in November draw nearer, Americans will have to choose between current Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Jobless rates, coronavirus lockdowns and economic hardship caused by such lockdowns, and current protests over police brutality and systemic racism will affect voters’ decisions, but polls showing which candidate has greater public favor indicate only a snapshot in time, not a projection of future sentiment, Peter Roff told Al Arabiya.

“If you want to look at them as a projection of what's going to happen in the future, you'd have better luck looking into a crystal ball,” said Roff, who is a contributing editor at Newsweek.

The US holds presidential elections every four years, and Joe Biden secured the Democratic nominee slot in early June, but elections are still some five months off.

“Right now, what you've got, essentially is Trump campaigning against Trump, and Biden sort of well in hiding. As we get closer to the national election in November, voters will be asked, certainly by the Trump campaign, if not by the media to make choice,” Roff said.

The US economy has tumbled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and while some jobs were regained last month, April unemployment hit 14.7 percent, the highest rate since the Great Depression.

Read more: Coronavirus hit US economy harder than great recession, minorities affected worse

As businesses temporarily shuttered across the nation, some businesses protested, saying they had the right to remain open. In Texas, militias guarded tattoo parlors and bars that wanted to reopen.

“President Trump did not shut the economy down, that was done by governors,” Roff said. “The states that are opening up now tend to be more ‘Trumpy’ in their political behavior than the states that are slow to open up. But all signs point to a very rapid recovery.”

Trump has received criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic where the US has the highest global case count. Further, where many countries have managed to flatten their curve dramatically – an indication of when lockdown measures can safely be lifted and when healthcare systems are no longer at risk of becoming inundated – America’s curve has not seen such significant progress.

As jobless rates soared, many American states began loosening COVID-19 restrictions, despite high daily case counts. Roff said that while there will be enduring damage from the lockdowns, jobless numbers will come down and income will rise.

“And I think as that happens, the President will get credit for having managed the situation well,” he said.

“And where he's got problems, he can always point to a state governor of the other party, such as in New York's [Governor] Andrew Cuomo for having made things as bad in that state as they are, and Joe Biden will have to respond to that.”

New York has been especially hard hit by coronavirus, and Cuomo ordered residents to stay at home during a lockdown that lasted 78 days. But data show that New York’s daily case counts have significantly dropped, and businesses have now begun to gradually reopen.

As coronavirus continues to infect Americans, people forewent lockdown orders to protest over the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a police officer. Roff said that this debate over police brutality and systemic racism will be a focal point in upcoming elections. Many have called for local police departments to be defunded or disbanded, with portions of their budgets being shifted to community programs.

“But I will say that if the debate between Biden and Trump comes down to whether or not we continue to support American local law enforcement,” Roff said. “That's a huge, huge boon for Trump. Trump supporters support the police.”

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