US President Donald Trump speaks during an unscheduled briefing after a Coronavirus Task Force meeting at the White House on Sunday. Photo: AFP / Eric Baradat

 Washington Post columnist Colbert King is right to point out that Donald Trump has the ability to bully and manipulate the press. The president has succeeded in vilifying the mainstream media, which for the most part have covered his presidency well. He’s just simply overloaded them.

I think, however, that King is wrong to say that what Trump does to the media is responsible for his recent bump in popularity. What that bump signifies, basically, is that Trump is being rewarded for being relatively normal for a couple of weeks and taking a full hour of network time to say whatever he wants. It’s like a rally and we’re all forced to watch.

Moving forward, I don’t think he’ll be able to sustain it. And the reason is that we’re facing, arguably, the biggest crisis in the country’s history with the exception of the war against Nazi Germany.

In World War II, Japan quickly became and remained a side show.

That said, the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center plus the Vietnam War in its entirety are probably the most significant defining moments of our collective lifetimes. I wasn’t born until 1951, but Pearl Harbor was the defining moment of my father’s generation.

And for the previous generation, it was the stock market crash in September 1929 and the Great Depression, which dragged on throughout the ‘30s.

Even before the coronavirus, Trump was despised by half the population. You can only tell women so many times that they’re fat, ugly and “low IQ” and expect them to vote for you. And black people, of course, older black people in particular, don’t trust him because of his lip service to white supremacists.

With the stock market at record levels in February, his reelection was still going to require a lot of things breaking just right – including, probably top of the list, the Democrats picking Bernie Sanders to be their standard-bearer.

With any of the centrists, it was going to come down to the same three states that elected Trump in 2016 – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. So he had a chance.

In the next several months we could approach 100,000 deaths.  But even half that number would be an unprecedented failure in leadership to protect the country.

By September, we’ll be at a depression-level unemployment rate. The stock market, if we’re lucky, will hold steady – but that’s at virtual Obama levels.

Will there be a miracle cure by June, July or August? No. 

Will he be blamed for the body count? Yes. Will he blamed when people can’t get into their dying mother’s nursing home to say a final goodbye? You bet. And that’s going to hit every part of the country including Trump country.

I have an 80-year-old aunt who’s been in lockdown in Florida for weeks. She has to shout from a window to speak to her daughter out on the street. She seems healthy. For the moment.

All it takes is to siphon off 10% of Trump’s 2016 support in the three major swing states plus Florida, Arizona and North Carolina and there would be virtually no pathway for Donald Trump to be reelected.

Republican women will be first to break.

Trump has proven us wrong before – but he’s going to have to run as the guy who, through gross incompetence, killed as many as 100,000 people, maybe more if the official estimates prove correct, and who steered the economy into a into a depression.

That’s why I don’t think his recent bump upward is sustainable.

A Pennsylvania native, Roger Schreffler spent decades covering the automobile and parts industries as a foreign correspondent. He currently watches both cars and politics from Providence, Rhode Island.