Does the positive COVID test hurt Trump's election campaign?


Fact Box

  • There have been over 7.5 million coronavirus cases in the United States, with over 213,345 deaths. 
  • On Friday, October 2, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus. Trump will remain in office, but will be home for two weeks, and will cancel campaign events.
  • In order to monitor Trump’s health, he is being transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center.
  • Vice President Pence and Second Lady tested negative for coronavirus, and both remain in good health. 
  • Democratic nominee Joe Biden, “who was with Mr. Trump at the debate on Tuesday,” and his wife tested negative for coronavirus as well.
  • If President Trump became “incapacitated,” the 25th amendment would be set in motion. Trump would be required to send an official note to Congress of his intention to relieve his duties, and the vice president, Mike Pence, would become “acting president” for the time being.

Noah (No)

The positive COVID-19 test and symptoms of the President will not hurt his election campaign. As Perry Bacon, Jr., Senior Writer of FiveThirtyEight, says, '[though] this matters, [sic] I'm not sure it matters electorally in terms of shifting a lot of people's votes. Basically nothing has shaken Trump's job approval ratings or really the race overall. I don't really expect this to shift things either.'

The successful rallies President Trump now flies to several times a week are mainly to garner headlines from local news reporters and to fire up his base to come out and see him in person. These are tens of thousands of loyal and enthusiastic fans, and the news of his illness will motivate them to continue to register voters and get out the vote. 

This sudden COVID-19 development will provide the Trump campaign more reach as the campaign can now focus on social media and Zoom events, which impact many more people at a time than the airport hangar rallies or in-person events. The President can now use these online and video rallies to reach voters, charge up the base, and motivate the army of Republican poll workers.

Additionally, sympathy and concern will humanize the President and make people stay focused on his situation while he and Melania recover. More responsibility will be put on Mike Pence's shoulders. The vice-presidential debate is still on, and a strong performance by Pence will motivate Trump's base even more and perhaps even sway a few of the independent voters that are still undecided.

President Trump can transform this temporary campaign setback into powerful positives if he looks at the hidden advantages this new situation now provides him.

Jennifer (Yes)

There are several compelling reasons that Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis will hobble his election campaign. The first is his conduct and messaging in the early days of the virus's appearance in the USA. This cavalier treatment of a grave public health emergency, now that he has tested positive for the virus will not be forgotten by voters headed to the polls in a few weeks.

The second is his indecisiveness about wearing masks to prevent the virus's proliferation. This ambivalence was underlined at Tuesday night's first presidential debate, with his entire family refusing to wear masks offered by the Cleveland Clinic while seated in the audience.

Other key reasons the diagnosis will hurt his chances at re-election are Trump's age and questionable state of health. Regardless of what his doctor says, his weight appears to be well above what he's claimed it to be in the past. Photos of him on the golf course depict a man bearing well over the 239 claimed by his physician in 2018 or the 243 he weighed according to his physician in 2019. 

There's no question this development has made the incumbent's odds for re-election even lower than they were following Tuesday night's debate. Additionally, his positive test results will take him off the campaign trail for an indeterminate amount of time—an undesirable circumstance for a President seeking re-election. Trump has now been placed in doctors' care at Walter Reed Hospital, ostensibly as a precaution. Whether this is a precautionary measure or not, the prognosis for his campaign is poor.

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