Shortly after the first presidential debate, President Trump announced via Twitter that he and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19. This news came after the president criticized Vice President Joe Biden for taking the pandemic too seriously: “I wear a mask when needed… I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
On October 12, President Trump headed to a crowded rally in Florida, after his physician reported that he had tested negative for COVID-19 on consecutive days. However, according to CNN, the Food and Drug Administration is worried about how accurate his tests were, with the Abbott BinaxNOW test apparently only validated for those who take it within the first seven days of symptoms. President Trump is on his tenth day since he first tested positive.
Many report that President Trump has recovered with impressive energy and seems more than ready for rallies. At a briefing call, Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, described President Trump as “strong. He is energetic, he is raring to go. I think his campaign calendar reflects his health and well-being and enthusiasm to get back on the trail.” Trump’s senior adviser also told reporters to expect at least two or three events a day, which will only increase as Election Day approaches.
While Trump’s diagnosis seems to have hardly affected his ability to campaign, it’s more than likely that views about Trump and his ability to take COVID-19 seriously have shifted. In an NPR interview with GOP strategist Scott Jennings, Jennings predicted that the issue of the virus has become an even larger issue in the campaign than the GOP would’ve wanted: “The coronavirus issue in general was already a major issue in the campaign. It’s obviously been the biggest issue in the country this year, and his task was to try to focus on other things. But his getting it obviously ensures that coronavirus will be the No. 1 issue. And so whatever thoughts they had of putting the economy No. 1 or other things at the top of the minds of voters before Election Day, you know, that’s obviously out the window. And given that his job approval on coronavirus is lower than he would like it to be, it’s obviously a political problem.”
Jennings’s statements regarding polls on Trump’s handling of COVID-19 proved true, especially after his positive test. According to FiveThirtyEight, “Polls conducted in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s diagnosis found that an overwhelming majority of Americans believed that Trump did not take the proper precautions to avoid getting sick. Newer polling agrees: For instance, CNN/SSRS found that 63 percent of Americans thought Trump acted irresponsibly in risking the health of the people around him.”
With COVID-19 acting as the largest issue in the upcoming election, numbers that criticize Trump’s behavior around the virus have the potential to negatively affect his campaign, especially with many people deciding and voting early.