Very early this morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that he and Melania had tested positive for Covid-19 and were going into quarantine. Later this morning it was announced that both were experiencing "mild symptoms." I'm a bit skeptical. Trump is always spinning (some might say "lying") to put himself in the best light possible. So if Trump is admitting his symptoms are "mild," one has to wonder if his symptoms are actually much more severe.
The headline at Politico screams "This is the worst nightmare for the Trump campaign!" Okay, I added the exclamation mark. The headline seems to warrant one. The headline is actually derived from a Democratic strategist quoted in the article. The thrust of the article is that Trump's diagnosis will sideline him for at least two weeks and his inability to hold in-person rallies will "hobble" the Trump campaign.
Balderdash. Or in the antiquated terminology of former Vice President Joe Biden, that's just malarkey.
The rallies have always been about assuaging Trump's fragile ego. They provide a safe space for Trump, a forum in which he receives reassurance he is succeeding, despite overwhelming evidence that he is not. There is no evidence, none, that Trump holding rambunctious rallies with his most die hard supporters in attendance, moves the political needle one bit. Indeed, I would argue the rallies are counterproductive. Trump's enthusiastic base is always fired up. They were already going to the polls. Every last one of them. What Trump's rallies do is energize Democrats. Biden is not driving Democratic turnout. Trump is.
A month before the election, Trump findings himself losing badly. On the last day of September,, Rasmussen, a very Trump/GOP friendly pollster, published a national poll showing Biden ahead by 8 points, 51 to 43. Of the 169 national polls conducted since the middle of February, Biden has led 168. The only pollster which gave Trump a lead during that 7 1/2 month span was Rasmussen, which just two weeks ago published a poll showing Trump leading 47 to 46.
Of course, state polls are what counts at this point, but those may be even worse for Trump. In 2016, Trump drew to an inside straight, winning the Electoral College vote with upsets in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, states he won by a total of 78,000 votes. A month before the 2020 election, Trump is behind in so many swing states and near swing states, Trump this time would need to draw to about three inside straights to pull out the election. It could happen. It is possible. But very unlikely.
The Trump campaign's game plan has always been to drag Biden down, to destroy his reputation. The 2020 "double hater" polls show why that strategy will not work. When pollsters ask those who dislike both Trump and Biden who they are going to vote for, Biden is favored by a large margin. That is the opposite of 2016, when Trump regularly won "double hater" polls.
When an incumbent President is seeking re-election, the election is inevitably a referendum on the incumbent. People do not like Donald Trump. They think he's a jerk, a bully, a narcissistic egomaniac who cares only about himself. Trump's attacking Biden will do nothing to change that perception.
A protracted battle with Covid-19 though might engender sympathy for Trump. It could also cause voters to see Trump in a new light, humanize him as someone who experiences the same fears and emotions we all face when confronted with life's challenges. It might make Trump more caring, more empathetic to those around him, particularly those whose lives have been marred by the worst pandemic in 100 years. People love it when the sinner is finally redeemed.
I know the "I told you so" sentiment is out there, and quite rightfully so. I too know that media accounts are going to, again rightfully, point out all the times Trump put supporters and others at risk because of his politicization of public safety measures intended to combat Covid-19.. I also know that having the virus back in the forefront of American consciousness as they go to the polls could remind them of the the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are no longer with us because of how Trump bungled the crisis.
But beware the redemption narrative. People love it when the sinner discovers religion and turns his life around.
OOP's short cuts:
- If I was advising the Biden campaign, I would suggest that Biden should come out with a statement offering prayers for President Trump and the First Lady (I think he's already done that) and announcing he is suspending in-person events until such time as Trump is able to return to the campaign trail. (The television commercials would continue as are Trump's.) The move would score major points by making Biden look empathetic, as well as someone who understands the serious challenges posed by Covid-19 and is willing to put the best interests of the country over his own campaign. In reality, Biden does just fine not being out on the campaign trail. Plus, it would be an excuse to better isolate himself from the virus which could not only derail Biden's campaign, it could kill him.
- It is being reported that Utah Sen. Mike Lee became infected with Covid-19 after his meeting with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. The Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins also became infected with Covid-19 after attending an event announcing Barrett as the nominee. Father Jenkins was at the event, without a mask and was shaking hands. Finally, it should be noted that Judge Barrett and her husband were diagnosed with Covid-19 this summer but have recovered.
- As I write this, I'm seeing story after story of people who work in Washington coming down with Covid-19. Can't keep up with the breaking news.