President Donald Trump announced that he and the first lady have coronavirus this Friday morning, that is, a month and a day before the elections. What happens on November 3 will already be marked by the illness that personally affects the president and that has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States.
In presidential campaigns, there is talk of the “October surprise” every election cycle, a term believed to be first used by Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager in 1980. October has always been the time for candidates to post or filter harmful information about your opponent. “October surprise”Also serves to describe any unexpected event that happens a few weeks before the vote.
The surprise this October came with the most shared tweet in Trump’s history on the social network.
No rallies and debates are in danger
The direct impact of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis on the campaign and even the Republican candidacy will depend primarily on the medical evolution of the president.
The White House has not clarified whether he has symptoms and the 74-year-old president has always been more secretive than his immediate predecessors about his health. His scant medical reports show that he has high cholesterol and is obese. Since Thursday, the president had shown a slight hoarseness, but it can also be attributed to his campaign activity, between Tuesday’s debate, where he often shouted, and various events with public.
In any case, even with the most favorable evolution of the disease, in the next two weeks the president will not be able to hold rallies or fund-raising events, as he was doing until now. The second presidential debate, scheduled for October 15 in Miami, is also in danger. Now, in addition, Vice President Mike Pence will also be under observation and may have trouble attending the debate with Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris on October 7.
In the worst case, if Trump suffered a more severe course of the disease and had to be hospitalized, he could be out of the game for the rest of the campaign.
In the event that he was at any time unconscious or that his powers were impeded, the power of the Presidency would pass to Pence, as provided by Amendment 25 of the United States Constitution, which already has been used multiple times for a temporary transfer of power due to the incapacity of the president.
For example, in 2002 and 2007, when George W. Bush had to have colonoscopies and Dick Cheney was president for a few hours. It was also used when Ronald Reagan underwent a cancer operation in 1985 and delegated power to his vice president, George HW Bush.
In the most extreme case of the death of the president, Pence would be the president. If something were to happen to the vice president, the Constitution provides that the next person in the chain of succession would be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
The risk to Biden
For the election candidacy, if Trump were incapacitated or died, the party would have to choose another person after a consultation with its delegated members from each state with a vote included. The most difficult thing could be changing the name on the ballot, which has legal implications and can open disputes in court.
Trump’s coronavirus may also have an impact on the Democratic campaign. The president and his campaign team shared space for hours Tuesday with Joe Biden and his team.
The members of the Trump campaign did not want to heed the obligation to wear a mask required by the health authorities of Cleveland, Ohio, where the debate was held. They arrived with a mask, but they took it off as soon as they arrived at the pavilion of the University of the meeting.
Trump and Biden greeted each other a few feet apart, but they were talking loudly or even shouting without a mask in an enclosed space for an hour and a half.
Biden and his team have taken precautions during the epidemic. In the debate, his team did not remove their mask. The 77-year-old Democratic candidate wears a mask, defends its use and has never denied the seriousness of the epidemic.
He has limited contact with the outside world and for months he has not held face-to-face meetings, unlike Trump, who has held them even against the requests of local authorities. The interviews, with distance and masks, are usually done in a building attached to his residence so that no one enters the house where he lives.
Similarly, if the candidate had to be substituted for some medical reason, the Democratic party should choose someone instead of Biden, which could be Harris or a third person. In the case of the Democrats, they would have to consult their leaders in Congress and governors.
Beyond the medical condition of the candidates, Trump’s coronavirus also affects his message. The president has been minimizing the pandemic and the threat to health for more than six months.
In February and March, he acknowledged to journalist Bob Woodward in an interview that he knew about the dangerousness of the virus – even the special risk posed by the fact that it is easily transmitted through the air – but that he had purposely chosen to downplay it in public. . Now he says it was for not inducing “panic.” Trump also said that the virus would disappear in April and has questioned his own health experts about the use of masks or the severity of the epidemic, which is not remitting in much of the United States.
During the debate with Biden, he even mocked the Democratic candidate for always wearing a mask, as recommended by the United States health authorities.
“I don’t wear a mask like him. Every time I see him, he wears a mask. Can speak to you 200 feet away [60 metros] and he appears with the largest mask you have ever seen, ”said the president.
Scientific evidence shows that the coronavirus can remain in the air in closed spaces and infect people even if they are not near someone infected.
The weak point
Trump’s illness undermines his effort to change the subject and his message, repeated a few hours before testing positive, that “The end of the pandemic is already near”.
Managing the pandemic is the president’s weakest point even among his own voters, many of his generation and especially vulnerable to the virus.
According the latest Reuters-Ipsos poll on the subjectAs of September, 65% of Americans have a negative opinion of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, including a portion of voters who declare themselves Republicans or independents.
The uncertainty added by Trump’s diagnosis also affects confidence in the economy. In fact, the stock market opened lower this Friday after the news.