Trump shifts message as crisis grows, stocks plummet

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump stood before thousands of cheering supporters in Iowa in January, days ahead of that state’s presidential caucuses, and uttered a word he had never before spoken out loud at one of his rallies: coronavirus.

“Hopefully, everything is going to be great,” the president said, noting China had “somewhat of a problem” before repeating the refrain: “It’s all going to be great.”

Less than six weeks later, with more than 3,000 people dead in China and the virus spreading within the United States, Trump took a lectern at the White House and said the epidemic had “blindsided the world,” that the challenge was “not our country’s fault” and that a “very dramatic” stimulus was needed to stanch plummeting markets.

Trump’s brief remarks this week were the latest step in a progression of messaging on the virus that has shifted from what some described as overly optimistic to a tacit recognition of the hurdles the virus poses for his presidency. There was no talk of the virus being “contained,” as some senior officials asserted days earlier, and the president acknowledged “no matter where you go” the virus is “on people’s minds.”

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