Andrew Yang Says Trump May Have Won 2020 Without COVID: 'Hard to Imagine' Worse President

Defeating then-President Donald Trump was Andrew Yang's number one goal leading up to the 2020 election, but he's not positive that would have happened if the COVID-19 pandemic never happened.

In his new book, Forward, the former Democratic presidential candidate wrote that he saw Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election as a nationwide cry for help and urged people not to dismiss his supporters. Although Trump lost to Joe Biden four years later, he earned a whopping 74 million votes, and Yang saw Trump's increase in support from 2016 as a warning to Democrats.

"It was likely that he might even have won if not for the coronavirus, which had killed 230,000 Americans by the time of the election," Yang wrote. "It was a tough election for folks who had hoped for a repudiation of Trump."

Americans overwhelmingly broke with Trump over how he handled the COVID-19 pandemic, a topic that dragged his overall approval rating down to historic lows for an exiting president. Yang acknowledged the blame that fell on Trump for the handling of the pandemic and wrote in Forward that it's "hard to imagine a president doing a worse job than Trump of leading the country through the crisis."

However, Yang didn't put the entirety of the responsibility for America's botched pandemic response on Trump. He took issue with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) being unable to carry out tasks that it "theoretically existed to do," but didn't have the "actual experience or muscle memory to execute urgently in real time."

Problems with testing, access to personal protective equipment, and a lack of knowledge of the virus' ability to spread to the United States from Europe plagued the early weeks of the pandemic. Yang homed in on the issue of contaminated tests being sent out in late January, just as cases were starting to spark in multiple areas of the country.

andrew yang donald trump 2020
Andrew Yang wrote in his new book that he believes former President Donald Trump may have won the election if it hadn't been for the pandemic. Above, Trump prepares to speak during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held at the Hilton Anatole on July 1 in Dallas, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Resolving the testing issue meant losing time during one of the "most crucial periods in American history," according to Yang. He also highlighted delays and issues with identifying passengers on flights who should quarantine and the lack of a robust centralized system to track cases. Yang dismissed arguments that more funding could have solved the problem, writing that the CDC fell "on its face" despite significant resources.

"For thousands of Americans, it was literally death by bureaucracy," Yang wrote. "Our bureaucracies are too often embarrassingly or tragically ineffective and inefficient, and generally no one is held accountable when they fail."

The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the top issues on voters' minds during the 2020 election and attempts to curb the outbreak decimated the low unemployment numbers Trump enjoyed going into 2020. Before the pandemic, many voters were happy with the economy, one of the best indicators of an incumbent president winning reelection.

Steve Ansolabehere, a Frank G. Thompson professor of government at Harvard University, previously told Newsweek he believes the pandemic tanking the economy and raising questions about government management "turned the election in Democrats' favor." Without the pandemic, Ansolabehere expected the election would be a "big Republican year" that saw Trump winning re-election and the GOP controlling Congress.

Thomas Whalen, a Boston University political historian and author, took a slightly less optimistic view of whether Trump would have won. He acknowledged that candidates are "doomed" if voters are questioning why a problem hasn't been solved at the time of an election and said the pandemic exposed the Trump administration's "callousness" toward the American people's needs. Had it not happened, it's possible the "blue wall might have been a few bricks shy of a victory for Biden."

There's no definitive way to know if Trump would still be in office if the pandemic hadn't happened. But if it was troubling for the former president, the continuation of the outbreak sparks concern for Biden. Although still enjoying a majority approval for how he handled the pandemic, Biden has seen a decline in support since taking office.

Having promised to get the virus under control, months into his presidency, Biden is facing another spike in cases and an influx of people overwhelming hospitals. Although hospitals are largely seeing unvaccinated patients needing care, the Delta variant's transmissibility prompted cities and states to re-implement mask restrictions for everyone, regardless of their vaccination status. It's caused some to wonder when or if there's a way out of the pandemic and fuel frustration aimed at state, local and federal officials.