The Atlantic Politics Daily: Two Key Swing States During a Pandemic

President Trump’s complicated relationships with the governors of two swing states could ultimately cost him reelection. Plus: How the legacy of Bernie Sanders might live on.

It’s Thursday, April 9. In today’s newsletter: There’s something about Michigan and Florida. Plus: How the legacy of Bernie Sanders might live on.



Two COVID-19 Swing-State Case Studies

President Trump’s complicated relationships with the governors of two swing states could ultimately cost him reelection, my colleague Ron Brownstein writes.

First, Michigan: The president said at a White House press briefing in March he told Vice President Mike Pence not to “call the woman in Michigan”—Governor Gretchen Whitmer—if she didn’t “treat [him] right.” While he won Michigan in 2016 by a slim 0.23 percent margin, that sort of hostility could hurt his chances of doing so again.

The president can hardly afford any erosion in the populous Detroit metropolitan area …. “It is politically stupid of the president to pick a fight with a governor who is trying to manage a crisis in a state that he has to win,” one political strategist told Ron.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is hardly the only Democrat to face the president’s ire. The president has expressed displeasure toward Democratic leadership across the country for what he regards as insufficient gratitude to the administration’s response efforts, my colleague Peter Nicholas has reported. But what happens when the COVID-19 outbreak peaks in red states?

On the opposite end of the spectrum: The Trump administration’s fingerprints are all over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s playbook. DeSantis initially dragged his feet over shutting down Florida (all the while, Trump described him as a “great governor” who “knows exactly what he’s doing”).

In Florida, conditions have not yet reached such a crisis point, though its caseload is growing steadily. But because DeSantis waited so long to act, he and Trump could be punished if the outbreak ultimately imposes a heavy cost on the state.

Read Ron’s full analysis.

—Kaila Philo


The departure of Bernie Sanders from the 2020 presidential primary leaves Joe Biden the presumptive nominee. The greatest accomplishment of the Sanders campaign has less to do with moving good ideas out of the “radical” category and into the mainstream, the writer John Nichols argues—and more to do with inspiring the people who will carry those ideas forward. In a way, Bernie Sanders has won.

+ The left’s theory of politics fell apart in this cycle’s Democratic primary, but its policy critique of the Barack Obama era has real merit, Adam Serwer argued in March, and the centrist wing of the party should not dismiss it.



+ Launching a column on happiness during a pandemic seems awkward, but that’s what we’re doing today: Here’s the first installment of our new weekly column on how to live a life that feels whole and meaningful, from Arthur C. Brooks.

+ America’s obsession with keeping aid from the undeserving is making a bad economic crisis worse, Mehrsa Baradaran argues. It should just send checks—yet won’t.

+ If there is a way to stop COVID-19, it will be by blocking its proteins from hijacking, suppressing, and evading humans’ cellular machinery. These are the best hopes for a coronavirus drug, our science writer Sarah Zhang reports.

You can keep up with The Atlantic’s most crucial coronavirus coverage here.


Today’s newsletter was written by Kaila Philo, a Politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

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