On Wednesday, Donald Trump did something more than a little odd. He signed a disaster declaration for North Carolina. But not for forest fires, or for some recent storm starting with a Greek letter. On October 14, Trump signed a disaster declaration for Hurricane Isaias, which hit North Carolina on July 31. That’s right, Trump is rolling out the FEMA dollars to North Carolina two and a half months after the storm struck. Which definitely makes this seem like it might be … some other form of disaster.
What kind of disaster might that be? Well, less than an hour before Trump pulled out his storm-moving Sharpie, new polling from The New York Times and Siena College showed Trump trailing Biden in North Carolina by 4 points. That’s an 8 point flip from the 2016 results. The Times poll comes less than a day after Reuters/Ipsos showed the state tilting toward Biden. Also, by a total non-coincidence, the more 10-weeks-delayed “emergency” just happened to get signed exactly one day before Trump plans to drop in on North Carolina as part of his Superspreader Tour 2020.
As of Wednesday, the Raleigh News & Observer reported that North Carolina had suffered 236,407 cases of COVID-19, resulting in 3,856 deaths. Trump is not, of course, signing a disaster declaration for that. Instead, he’s offering up federal funds for a Category 1 hurricane associated with two deaths in the state. As the National Hurricane Center noted, Isaias strengthened to a Hurricane just hours before reaching the coast. Its fast path over North Carolina limited the maximum rainfall in the state to 5” and winds topped out at 85 mph. However, there was serious localized damage in some areas along the coast, and a number of homes destroyed by tornadoes that were generated in association with the storm. Isaias actually caused much more damage in Puerto Rico, where it generated major flooding, and in the Northeast, where the storm spun off dozens of tornadoes in Virginia and Delaware.
A disaster declaration isn’t unusual, and there is no doubt that Isaias was a serious storm that caused widespread damage. But … when Hurricane Hanna struck Texas on July 25, a disaster declaration came the next day. When a derecho wind flattened homes in Iowa on August 10, a disaster declaration came exactly one week later. When Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana on August 23, the disaster declaration came five days later. When Hurricane Sally hit Florida on September 14, the disaster declaration was just nine days later. In between came a number of smaller storms that did not get such declarations.
It’s hard to locate another instance in which a disaster was declared over two months after a state was hit, well after most insurance claims have been settled, and when much of the damage has already been subject to repair. A disaster declaration may well be warranted, it’s just that this one seems to become too late to do much good.
Except … Trump is scheduled to land in Greenville, North Carolina, on Thursday afternoon for an airport rally. Like most of his recent stops, this will involve his making his way carefully down the stairs to greet however many maskless people are willing to join in that day’s experiment in germ sharing. Trump will then be whisked away for his evening gift of a free TV hour from NBC. Which makes it certainly seem as if the timing of Trump’s declaration is … suspect.
Also out today, new polling from Reuters/Ipsos shows Democratic Senate challenger Cal Cunningham with a four-point lead over reliable Trump supporter, Republican Thom Tillis. That lead matches the results in the Times/Siena polling. A poll from Survey USA on Tuesday showed Cunningham with an even larger lead. For both Biden and Cunningham, this represents an improvement over September polls.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.