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Steve Cortes, the senior campaign adviser to President Donald Trump, pushed back against assertions made by “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace regarding political polls, mail-in balloting, and revelations made by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in a just-released book.
Wallace, who also aggressively pressed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan in a separate interview, began his segment with Cortes citing a recent Fox News polling that has the former vice president out front on a range of issues including “law and order,” racial issues, and handling of the coronavirus.
Cortes noted that the poll also showed that most respondents trust the president on handling the economy, which he said was far and away the top issue among voters, according to Fox News.
“So far, the president has not broken through, Steve,” Wallace said.
(Source: Fox News)
“Well, I think he has broken through on the most important issue, which is the economy,” Cortes responded. “There are a lot of cross-currents in 2020, many things about this year are unique and singular.
“But I still believe the ultimate driver of the electoral decision for most Americans is going to be what it typically is: ‘Who can create prosperity for me, my family, and this country going forward,’” he said.
The top adviser went on to note that President Trump has a praiseworthy record of note when it comes to creating jobs and opportunity, adding that in the pre-coronavirus United States, record jobs and wage growth were both consistent.
Cortes added further that “all the recent economic data show” that the country is recovering well after being shut down for months while COVID-19 spread.
Wallace then challenged Cortes to respond to polling data allegedly showing Trump underwater with voters over his handling of the pandemic. After saying that the media played a major role in portraying the president’s response in a negative light, Cortes explained that behind the scenes, Trump took the pandemic seriously and mobilized government and industry.
He also noted that early on the president was dealing with contradictory information about the virus.
Wallace played clips of Trump’s interview with Woodward, in which the president said COVID-19 was “more deadly than…your strenuous flus,” while saying publicly during a press conference Feb. 26, “It’s a little like the regular flu.”
“Why not level with the American people, Steve?” Wallace asked.
As Cortes began to explain that a “fog of war” existed within the administration due to conflicting data about the severity of the virus, Wallace interrupted to reject that claim.
The host said that the president’s top national security officials told him in late January that the virus would become the most important crisis he would face in his presidency. “There was no ‘fog’ here,” Wallace insisted.
“No, there was,” Cortes shot back, noting that the national security advisers had their opinion but scientists and health experts had others about the virus and that Trump weighed all sides before deciding to act, which included shutting down travel and the U.S. borders over the next days and weeks.
Citing the country’s top immunologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who expressed a different view later in February, Cortes noted that “opinions and views and analyses were shifting dramatically between the scientists, among the politicians.”
And Fauci, Cortes said, would recommend a national shutdown just two weeks hence.
“I think it’s unfair for you to characterize things as if they were solid and unchanging,” he said, adding that the main reason why the U.S. and the world knew so little about the coronavirus was because China — where COVID-19 originated — refused to share data.
Wallace went on to claim that while Trump says he downplayed the pandemic to avoid a panic, he changes tactics on the campaign trail, playing a clip of the president claiming on the campaign trail that a Biden presidency would mean the rioting and havoc seen in our cities would become the norm.
Cortes countered that there are distinct differences between keeping Americans calm about the pandemic and warning them about what will happen in our cities if Democrats reclaim power.
The campaign adviser noted that reactions to the pandemic — like hoarding and other acts of chaos — would have been far worse if the president had not tried to tamp down fears. But, he added, normalization of the rioting, looting, and disrespect to police has the potential to make portions of the country uninhabitable.
The top Trump adviser also dismissed Wallace’s claims that early requests for mail-in ballots should be concerning to the president because Democrats have made “hundreds of thousands” more in key battleground states like Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
“In 2016 we were losing the race until Election Day,” Cortes said, adding he expects that the president will repeat his victory in the same fashion in November.