Donald Trump’s Balancing Act with Covid Vaccine: The Covid-19 vaccine and the accompanying mandates requiring people to get the jab are not popular with many Republicans. That’s why Donald Trump may have to run away from his pandemic record.
After all, Donald Trump was responsible for Operation Warp Speed, the government effort to achieve a Covid vaccine in an unprecedented fashion – and that many would argue saved millions of lives. Republicans have even booed the president when he mentioned that he is vaccinated.
I witnessed this rancor during a Trump address at a Conservative conference when he was interrupted with jeers when mentioning the vaccine.
How will Donald Trump handle this? What will his strategy be? Could other Republicans try to use it against him?
Donald Trump, the Vaccine and Liberty
A Trump campaign spokesman re-iterated that Trump is proud of the vaccine, but that the former president allowed for personal choice and encouraged the states to make their own decision about mandates and lockdowns.
Personal Choice and State’s Rights
Steve Cheung said in an interview with Politico that the “once-in-a-lifetime initiative that gave people the option of utilizing therapeutics if they wished to do so.” Cheung also pointed out Trump “fought against any attempt to federalize the pandemic response by protecting every state’s right to ultimately decide what is best for their people because of the unique challenges each state faced.”
Another Campaign Gambit Against Ron DeSantis
In a display of irony, Trump has criticized Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for his role in encouraging the vaccine. The campaign has already spliced together a video that shows DeSantis being receptive to a FedEx truck that first brought the vaccine to Florida.
Will the Vaccine Come Back to Haunt Trump?
Conservative bête noire Steve Bannon believes the vaccine will be an issue that motivates Republican voters to hold politicians liable who supported its use.
Donald Trump may not want to laud his vaccine accomplishments should they rile up voters who would normally support him without hesitation, Bannon has said on his podcast.
There Will Always Be Anti-vaxxers
Of course, by 2024 when voting in early states begins for the Republican primary such reservations may be in the rearview mirror.
To be sure, there will always be voters on the right and even the left who are maximalists against all vaccines, but this may not be a substantial number of people who could swing an election.
So Far, the Jab Is Not a Big Issue in the Campaign
Trump is always adept at turning an accusation on its head and making a counter-accusation against opponents.
There are already materials against DeSantis that show him embracing the Covid-19 vaccine as noted above. T
he other official GOP candidate for president, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, has not mentioned the vaccine and Trump’s role in it.
Will It Matter?
Democrats who spoke often about the need to “follow the science” and comply with vaccine mandates could make it a wedge issue against Republican vaccine skeptics in 2024. In time though this could become a neutralized policy stance that gives neither side an advantage. Trump could run away from mentioning the vaccine in the primary to not alienate his base of supporters and then declare victory over Covid in the general election should he win his party’s nomination.
Donald Trump is still polling and test-driving the issues that he will run on during the primary. Republicans are likely to still be animated by the vaccine mandates and lockdowns so Trump will have to tread carefully. People still remember school shutdowns they believe hurt children by stunting their academic and social growth. The memory of lockdowns and mask requirements could still smart among vaccine skeptics.
So Donald Trump will have to keep in mind the need for a balance between public health needs and individual liberties. He may want to take a cautionary approach and avoid extolling his role for Operation Warp Speed. It could still be top of mind for some Trump supporters who he will need to corral for votes to win the GOP primary.
Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.