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So Donald Trump legitimately lost last November’s presidential election and it was his handling of the CCP Virus pandemic that largely did him in. That’s an argument recently made by one of the former President’s own pollsters, and I take it seriously because the pollster was Tony Fabrizio.

I first became familiar with him in the late 1990s, when he and then partner John McLaughlin (another pollster who worked with the Trump campaign) published a groundbreaking analysis that first identified major opposition in the Republican base to pro-free trade positions and other longstanding GOP stances. In other words, he’s not your typical conservative Beltway mercenary who just hopped on the Trump bandwagon when it became convenient and is now jumping ship and frantically swimming back to establishment shores.

According to an election post-mortem from Fabrizio that was leaked to the news website Politico, Trump lost in 2020 five of the ten battleground states he won in 2016 (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) largely because the virus was by a wide margin the single most important voter concern, because Americans decidedly rejected the Trump campaign’s argument that economic revival counted for more, and because they disapproved of his pandemic policies.

In the five battleground states that flipped against Trump, fully 42 percent of voters according to the exit polls identified the virus as “the most important issue.” “The economy” did come in second, but garnered only 28 percent support. Another major Trump emphasis, law enforcement, barely moved the needle on this question, with only three percent agreement. Moreover, when explicitly asked to rate the importance of virus mitigation versus economic revival, 60 percent in these flip states chose the former. And by a 48 percent to 39 percent, these voters rated candidate Biden as likelier to deal with the virus best.

More confirmation of the CCP Virus’ major role: In these flip states, respondents backed mask-wearing mandates by a huge 75 percent to 25 percent margin, and they approved of the job being done by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, by a nearly as big 72 percent to 28 percent.

And these virus-related gaps exerted a considerable effect on actual voting behavior. Mr. Biden carried flip state voters who prioritized handling the pandemic by three-to-one.

The CCP Virus clearly wasn’t the only reason for the election verdict. And as I’ve written, in my view, the mass mail-in voting last fall created a system “veritably begging to be abused.” But given the closeness of the flip state votes, disparities this wide on any single issue can generate make-or-break impacts all by themselves.

And although as known by any regular RealityChek reader, I don’t consider Trump’s virus policies to have been distinctively ineffective by any stretch (although the messaging was often off-key), I never joined the Cult of Fauci, and I’ve found President Biden’s pre- and post-inauguration virus statements and policies to be monumentally unimpressive (see, e.g., here) , Fabrizio has marshaled evidence that Trump and his supporters shouldn’t ignore. It’s not that America’s CCP Virus history is likely to repeat itself exactly. It’s because many of the leadership do’s and don’ts it’s exposed are likely applicable to a wide range of potential future crises.