April 13, 2021

The Presidents COVID-19 diagnosis wipes out half of the most important resource the Trump re-election effort has: Time

  • President Donald Trump was down 8 points in an average of national polls when he tested positive for COVID-19
  • Trump trails Biden by just over 2 points in Florida and just under 6 points in Pennsylvania, two states essential for his re-election effort. 
  • That is absolutely a surmountable point differential, but contracting the coronavirus jeopardizes his ability to campaign.
  • Sticking to the recommended protocol the president will be off the trail for 10 days at a critical time, possibly longer.
  • Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis and inability to safely campaign in key states puts his re-election in peril by using up time, of which he has precious little. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Early Friday morning President Donald Trump confirmed he, along with First Lady Melania Trump, hadtested positive for COVID-19, the disease his administration has struggled to contain all year. 

Besides any health ramifications, the diagnosis — on the first day of most important month of the election — seriously imperils a campaign already down in national and state polling, as well as election forecast models. 

Besides the obvious — the disastrous optics of the president contracting the very virus his administration has struggled to contain — the most significant blow to the Trump re-election effort will be his forced absence from the campaign trail.

As of Friday, election day was 32 days away. If the final results were to align with current polling, the president would not be able to compile a winning map.

President Trump is down, but had time to turn it around. 

As it stands, according to the FiveThirtyEight election forecast, the president is a serious underdog. The model indicates that Biden has about an 80% chance of winning given his position in the polls and the time left on the clock.

Despite Biden’s broad lead, his victory is far from certain, in no small part because lots can happen in a month.

As the clock runs down, unless Trump’s polling improves, that probability of a Biden win increases simply because the time available for Trump to mount a turnaround is slipping away.

If the polling remains unchanged, the mere fact that the race is steady will diminish his chance of victory. 

The president is down about 7 points in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, is down 4 points in Arizona, 2 points in Florida, and 1 point in North Carolina.

Overall, Trump is down 8 points nationwide. He could come back from that if he had a productive October where he underscored the key strength of his re-election bid — which is voter perception of his handling of the economy.

Now, he might not.

None of those gaps are insurmountable. In order to close them, the president needs to change the race somehow.

Prior to his positive test, he could have accomplished that through personally campaigning. He could re-take control of an election narrative that recently has been particularly difficult for him, with the most significant news centering on an aggressive debate performance, a remarkably low tax payment, and the coronavirus pandemic claiming the 200,000th American life.

He could have returned in the second presidential debate and, on national television, course corrected from his earlier performance. 

Now, those options are limited.

The president, while potentially contagious with a deadly pathogen, will be confined to the White House for the foreseeable future, sacrificing essential campaigning time while his rival is able to get out there.

The idea of taking control of the narrative — perhaps by highlighting what will likely be an enormous quarter-over-quarter rise in GDP, an economic story that plays into his perceived strengths — is hard to envision given he has caught the virus that has most directly undermined his re-election bid.

Trump’s approval rating on the economy is ten points higher than his approval rating on the virus.

And any chance of a debate rematch is imperiled by Vice President Biden’s likely reluctance to stand next to a potentially contagious man for an hour and a half of spirited discussion. 

The election is happening now, and time was running out before Trump tested positive.

October is when candidates make their final appeals to the American people.

At least 2.2 million people have already voted. There are 32 days until election day for him to overcome his polling deficit, and even then the path to victory is fraught with difficulty and requires a fundamental shift in the race in his direction. His diagnosis imperils that.

President Trump wanted to tour the country, hold rallies, highlight an economic recovery and argue he has successfully contained coronavirus.

For ten to fourteen days minimum, instead he will likely be confined at home, kept from voters, highlighting an ongoing pandemic, having personally contracted coronavirus. 

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