Missouri governor mirrors Trump: Covid-positive after months of virus criticism
If President Donald Trump wants to know what it’s like to contract coronavirus in the final weeks of a campaign while taking heat for a laissez-faire approach to the pandemic, he can ask Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
But Parson’s coronavirus diagnosis has ensured that the pandemic will be the central issue as he fights for another term against a fierce critic of his public health policies. And while the 19-point edge Trump racked up in Missouri in 2016 gives Parson a buffer that the president doesn’t enjoy against former Vice President Joe Biden, the Missouri Republican is still facing a stiff, well-funded challenge from State Auditor Nicole Galloway, the only Democrat in statewide elected office and a fierce critic of Parson’s coronavirus response.
Like Trump, Parson hasn’t always heeded the advice of public health experts or been careful in how he talks about the health consequences of the pandemic, and he has resisted calls for a statewide mask order. Like Trump, Parson has focused his campaign on issues like the pre-Covid economy and “law and order.”
“Parson has fundamentally lacked leadership in his response out of political fear that his supporters are listening to Trump,” said Roy Temple, a veteran Democratic strategist and former state party chair. “He’s been very reticent to do anything ... and in some ways he has been even less aggressive than Trump — as shocking as it is for me to say that out loud.”
“But the governor has created a pretty great playbook in everyday reassuring the people of Missouri that he’s weathering this well. To the extent the president can follow what Mike Parson did in being public and transparent, he should,” Hancock added.
“This is an era where this is no textbook for how to handle any of this — the pandemic, getting diagnosed in the middle of a campaign,” said John Hancock, chair of the pro-Parson Uniting Missouri PAC and former state GOP chair.
Parson’s campaign manager, Steele Shippy, said the pandemic has been and will remain a central part of the campaign, citing the governor's push for schools to reopen, the recovery of the state economy and public health.
Parson has posted videos on his Facebook page almost daily to offer updates on how he’s feeling while he quarantines at the governor’s mansion. He’s set to end quarantine on Saturday and plans to get back to his official and campaign duties next week. A debate between Parson and Galloway has been rescheduled for next Friday.
In the past seven days, Missouri has seen more than 9,300 new cases, placing it behind only six other states with the highest total number of new cases. However, deaths are down — with a 53 percent decrease in the number of deaths over the past seven days compared to the previous seven days before that, according to the latest figures from Missouri’s Department of Department of Health and Senior Services.
Galloway’s campaign, for its part, argued that Parson is now focusing more on the virus after months of claiming victory, like Trump, in his handling of the pandemic while cases kept growing. “With Parson, it often feels like sometimes he is paying more attention to the politics of his own party than what is necessary to defeat the virus,” said Galloway spokesman Kevin Donohue.