Original Story www.politico.com 3 Oct 2020
Donald Trump had done everything possible to shift the focus of the presidential campaign away from his handling of the coronavirus.
His own infection nowensures that he can’t – pulling Trump off the road 32 days before the election, throwing debates into question and fixing the public attention’s more squarely than ever on a pandemic dragging down hisprospects for a second term.
A president who once seemed impervious to October surprises is suddenly confronting one big enough to alter the outcome of the election.
“The campaign as we knew it is over,” said Andrew Feldman, a Democratic strategist in Washington. “This is the worst nightmare for the Trump campaign.”
Practically speaking, Trump’s announcement early Friday that he tested positive for the coronavirus will immediately remove him from in-person campaigning, though for how long is unclear. Sean Conley, Trump’s physician, said in a memo that Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive, “plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence,” and the White House removed a planned campaign rally on Friday night in Florida from Trump’s daily schedule.
Trump’s inability to hold rallies, even for a brief period, will hobble a campaign that has defined itself by its large, in-person gatherings, even during the pandemic. The second presidential debate, now scheduled for Oct. 15, is in doubt. And Trump’s positive test will heighten scrutiny of the vice presidential debate scheduled for next week.
Officials with the Commission on Presidential Debates declined to comment on what the president’s diagnosis means for the schedule and format of upcoming forums. The second of three scheduled presidential debates is slated for Oct. 15 in Miami.
The more significant problem for Trump is that, now Covid-positive, it will prove almost impossible for him to steer public attention away from his biggest political liability. Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic by a wide margin. And cable news is going wall-to-wall with coverage of that — not U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, mail-in balloting or Trump’s latest outrage.
It is a perilous way to finish the campaign for a candidate already trailing in the polls. In the most conspicuous way imaginable, the positive test publicly undermines so much of Trump’s rhetoric about the virus — from his faith in hydroxychloroquine to his cavalier pronouncements about a vaccine and his dismissal of Covid-19 as a disease that “affects virtually nobody.”
It was just this week, during the first presidential debate, that Trump mocked Biden for his mask-wearing, saying, “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask.”
Trump’s announcement of his positive test undercuts constant GOP criticism of Biden’s decision to limit his own public appearances and choice to cloister for stretches at his home in Delaware. It also diminishes the effectiveness of Republican charges that Biden’s cautious approach to travel is primarily designed to shield the 77-year-old Democratic nominee from public scrutiny.
Trump’s illness, one Republican campaign consultant who worked in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses predicted, will be viewed as validating “Biden hiding out in [a] bunker for preventative reasons,” and not, as Republicans had maintained, the “onset of dementia.”
Rob Stutzman, a Republican political strategist who has been critical of Trump, described it as a “devastating blow” to the Trump campaign, “the ultimate rebuke to his callous mishandling of Covid.”
The full extent of the political fallout is unclear. If Trump becomes seriously ill,it stands to underscore Democratic arguments about his coronavirus leadership and mar the strong-man image he assiduously cultivates. If the physical consequences are less severe, he might find an opportunity to downplay the seriousness of the disease. An illness could also serve to humanize one of the coarsest presidents in history.
In either scenario, the positive test will put enormous pressure on a White House known for its secrecy, chaotic internal operations and loose relationship with the truth to avoid any misstep or public confusion that could affect the campaign.
There was uncertainty Friday within the president’s political orbit about what this means for his re-election prospects. Some White House aides were eager for the president to go on TV and address the nation.
“Folks are kind of like, ‘What now? What does this mean for what we’re trying to do here with 32 days left?‘” said a senior Trump campaign official. “I don’t want to say this hit us by surprise because we knew the risks. [Trump] wanted to campaign and be out there with the people, so we tailored the campaign to the president’s wishes. This definitely changes our plans, though.”
Four years ago this month, Trump weathered both the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape and the Obama administration’s assertionthat Russia was meddling in the election. The implications of those events were widely overestimated.
There is a lot of conspiracy theories and talk on the net about maybe Trump isn’t actually sick and is just hiding way to slow the election and try to sway it his way due to make people feel sorry for him, time will tell.Vicious World