The two leading theories in Washington about Trump’s covid

The two leading theories in Washington about Trump’s covid. By Cameron Stewart.

A US president sits in hospital with a potentially deadly virus for which there is no cure on the eve of a presidential election. …

Those who would drive Trump’s campaign in his absence — his campaign manager Bill Stepien, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and close advisers Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway and now Chris Christie have all tested positive in recent days. Add to that list, first lady Melania Trump. …

Throw in three Republican senators who have also now tested positive, forcing the Senate to halt voting for the next week and throwing into doubt the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee judge Amy Barrett. …

The President’s inner circle — those who are not sick — are palpably shocked by this sudden disastrous turn of events and are pondering how to keep the Trump campaign rolling. …

I heard the President’s chopper fly over my house as he was being taken to the hospital with news alerts pinging on my phone. The events are dizzying for Americans as they comprehend the unprecedented events of recent days. …

Two very different streams of thought are emerging in Washington about what Trump’s illness means for the November 3 election.

The first is that Trump contracting COVID-19 all but sinks his chances of winning the election. According to this theory, Trump contracting the virus makes the President Exhibit A in his inability to protect Americans from the pandemic that has killed more than 210,000. His infection will make the coronavirus the dominant focus of the rest of the campaign when Trump was trying to shift it to issues like the economy, law and order and the Supreme Court. His infection also takes Trump off the physical campaign trail for at least two weeks and possibly longer, meaning he can’t hold the rallies that give him prime-time TV exposure and that energise his campaign. It stops him from holding daily press conferences at the White House or other events that allow him to dominate the political space. Without this exposure, how can he produce a game-changing moment that allows him to catch Biden’s increasingly formidable looking lead?

The second theory is that Trump catching the coronavirus IS the game-changer, although it is not one that you would wish upon anyone.

This theory holds that Americans are a deeply patriotic people and have a history of rallying around sick or injured presidents, just as they did when Ronald Reagan was shot. It is not just Americans who react in this way. Britain’s Boris Johnson and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro saw their popularity rise after they caught the coronavirus.

If Trump recovers from the virus quickly — as all decent people should hope for, regardless of their politics — he may be able to return to the hustings in the final weeks of the campaign with the message of “Look at me, I am a fighter and I have come through — I will fight for you, also”.

We shall see.