Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman at NYT:
The strategy could not be clearer: From the Republican lawmakers blanketing Fox News to new ads from President Trump’s super PAC to the biting criticism on Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter feed, the G.O.P. is attempting to divert attention from the administration’s heavily criticized response to the coronavirus by pinning the blame on China.
With the death toll from the pandemic already surpassing 34,000 Americans and unemployment soaring to levels not seen since the Great Depression, Republicans increasingly believe that elevating China as an archenemy culpable for the spread of the virus, and harnessing America’s growing animosity toward Beijing, may be the best way to salvage a difficult election.
Republican senators locked in difficult races are preparing commercials condemning China. Conservatives with future presidential ambitions of their own, like Senators Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley, are competing to see who can talk tougher toward the country where the virus first emerged. Party officials are publicly and privately brandishing polling data in hopes Mr. Trump will confront Beijing.
Mr. Trump’s own campaign aides have endorsed the strategy, releasing an attack ad last week depicting Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, as soft on China. The ad relied heavily on images of people of Asian descent, including former Gov. Gary Locke of Washington, who is Chinese-American, and it was widely viewed as fanning the flames of xenophobia.
“Trump has always been successful when he’s had a bogeyman and China is the perfect bogeyman,” said Chris LaCivita, a longtime Republican strategist.
But there is a potential impediment to the G.O.P. plan — the leader of the party himself.
Eager to continue trade talks, uneasy about further rattling the markets and hungry to protect his relationship with President Xi Jinping at a moment when the United States is relying on China’s manufacturers for lifesaving medical supplies, Mr. Trump has repeatedly muddied Republican efforts to fault China.