The Note: Trump draws comfort out of confrontation amid national emergency

This week has shown that Trump is drawing strength from raw political combat.

March 27, 2020, 6:01 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

President Donald Trump is anxious to return the nation to some semblance of normalcy.

Trump hasn’t strayed from his version of normal, though. It’s all there: the bravado, the self-congratulations, the wild exaggerations, the casual insults -- now daily from the White House press briefing room.

It looks like it’s working for now -- for the president, if not the country. New ABC News/Washington Post poll numbers out Friday morning show that nearly six in 10 Americans think Trump’s initial response to coronavirus was too slow, and north of 90% of the country now expects a recession.

But Trump’s handling of the coronavirus stands at 51% approval and 45% disapproval. That’s powering him to a personal high-water mark: His overall rating is now 48-46 approve-disapprove -- the first time he’s had a higher positive number than a negative one during his presidency in ABC News/Post polls.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in the White House, on March 26, 2020.
President Donald Trump speaks, as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, Vice President Mike Pence, and White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx listen, during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in the White House, on March 26, 2020.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Perhaps any president should expect far higher numbers at a moment like this, as former Vice President Joe Biden has suggested. Perhaps Biden is struggling to fill a leadership void given the lingering presence of Sen. Bernie Sanders in the race or because of some of his own limitations as a candidate.

Yet Trump thrives on the inflammatory, and is setting up conflicts to come that fit into his comfort zone.

Even now, with the nation at war with an unprecedented kind of enemy, this week has shown that he is drawing strength from raw political combat.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

The United States now has the most diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the world, topping 85,000 people on Thursday. This week alone, the numbers rose sharply with more than 68,000 cases confirmed.

Thursday was a heartbreakingly deadly day in America, with more than 240 people dying from complications with the virus in a 24-hour period, approximately 1,000 have died this week alone as so many more fight for their lives.

Last week too, more than three million people filed for unemployment insurance, marking the highest level of seasonally adjusted claims in a week since the Department of Labor started calculating claims that way. According to the federal government, claims surged in the service industry broadly, including "accommodation and food services ... social assistance, arts, entertainment and recreation, transportation, warehousing, and manufacturing industries."

PHOTO: Doctors test hospital staff with flu-like symptoms for coronavirus (COVID-19) in set-up tents to triage possible COVID-19 patients outside before they enter the main Emergency department area at St. Barnabas hospital, March 24, 2020 in New York.
Doctors test hospital staff with flu-like symptoms for coronavirus (COVID-19) in set-up tents to triage possible COVID-19 patients outside before they enter the main Emergency department area at St. Barnabas hospital in the Bronx, March 24, 2020 in New York.
Misha Friedman/Getty Images, FILE

The shock to the system was dramatic, historic and fast. It has hit nearly every state, but California, Washington state and Nevada saw the largest week-over-week increases by far.

Trump and his team applauded the Senate relief bill that is headed to the House this week, which will cover wages for those who qualify for unemployment benefits for up to four months.

Of course these numbers are just a glimpse into the economic picture -- they only reflect the people who successfully filed claims. Many who do not work full-time know they may not be eligible. Small business owners or those who are self-employed may not have unemployment insurance. Undocumented workers of all stripes are by and large not reflected here. We know many Americans have struggled with overloaded and crashing websites as they have tried to file claims too.

The TIP with Molly Nagle

Biden’s campaign is forging ahead to the next primary contest on the calendar -- albeit remotely, while the country is still largely at a standstill amid coronavirus concerns.

In a memo to supporters, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said that while organizers and state teams continue to work from afar, they are gearing up for Wisconsinites to cast their votes on April 7, as the state moves ahead with its originally scheduled primary date.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual press briefing, March 25, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual press briefing, March 25, 2020.
Biden for President via AP

"Our team has worked quickly to call into Wisconsin and talk to voters about their extended options to register online and request a mail-in ballot. We will seek to grow our delegate lead through remaining primary contests -- and we will do it safely," O’Malley Dillon wrote in the memo.

Biden himself is continuing to try and engage voters virtually -- putting his new home studio to use with video addresses and television interviews -- and launching a newsletter and podcast this week. But for the man whose strength is one-on-one personal interactions, the campaign said that there are currently no plans for in-person events or travel for the former vice president while Delaware’s stay-at-home order is in effect.


The coronavirus crisis weighs heavily on the American public: Seventy-seven percent in an ABC News/Washington Post poll say their lives have been disrupted, seven in 10 report personal stress and as many are worried that they or an immediate family member may become infected.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Friday morning’s episode features ABC News Chief Business and Economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, who helps us put Thursday’s record unemployment statistics in context, and tells us what comes next. Then, ABC News Senior Investigative reporter Aaron Katersky takes us inside the "ground zero" of New York City’s coronavirus outbreak. And, ABC News Chief Global Affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz explains how the military is dealing with an uptick of COVID-19 cases.

FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast. A stunning 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, breaking the previous record of 695,000 -- almost five times over. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast, Ben Casselman, an economics reporter at The New York Times, joins Galen Druke and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux to put those numbers in context and discuss what the future looks like and how the government is responding.


  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appears on ABC's "Good Morning America."
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a virtual roundtable with nurses, firefighters and other workers on the frontlines of the novel coronavirus response. He also participates in a CNN Town Hall.
  • Members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing at 5 p.m.
  • President Donald Trump travels to Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday to participate in the sendoff for the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort as it leaves for New York City to assist in the coronavirus relief effort.
  • Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz speaks with ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl about his new book, "Front Row at the Trump Show." Plus, ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton and former Trump Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser and ABC News Contributor Tom Bossert discuss the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic and its worldwide effects.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis every weekday.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back Monday for the latest.

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