President Trump’s hospitalization has plunged an already volatile race into extraordinary uncertainty, sidelining the president indefinitely with a month until Election Day and making the pandemic a more pressing and sensitive issue for Joseph R. Biden Jr.
On Saturday, Mr. Trump stayed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he tried to send a reassuring message saying he was “starting to feel good”.
“I think I’ll be back soon,” said Mr. Trump, seated at a dark wooden table and wearing a jacket but no tie. a video posted on Twitter. “And I can’t wait to finish the campaign the way it started and the way we did.”
But given the uncertain course of the virus, it could be weeks before Trump can return to the countryside. His aides canceled rallies to be held in Florida on Friday and in Wisconsin on Saturday and said they would consider future events on a case-by-case basis.
Mr. Trump acknowledged that the next few days could be “the real test” to determine his medical condition.
Mr. Biden has been trying for months to make the race a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, but that task has become more sensitive in light of Trump’s hospitalization.
“I’m in a bit of a position here because I don’t want to attack the president and first lady now,” Mr. Biden said at a virtual event Saturday with members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, adding that he had prayed for the couple’s speedy recovery. .
However, Biden criticized the Trump administration for not requiring transit passengers to wear masks and for not doing more to obtain personal protective equipment for workers. “I promise I will give you all the P.P.E. you need,” Biden said.
The Trump campaign is not changing advertisements or messages, not even with the candidate in the hospital. The political operation is not without leaders; the campaign manager is still helping to manage things remotely after testing positive for the virus. Advisors show no evidence of concern, despite public polls showing President Trump still lagging behind in the key states he won in 2016.
In the first weekend of Trump’s new political reality, the general signals were for continuity and determination, even if the landscape was one of change: rallies canceled in Wisconsin, fundraising reworked without incumbent candidate and campaign operations adapted on the fly.
At 4 p.m. Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence held a call with staff for Trump-Pence’s nationwide re-election, looking to rally troops and outline plans for the coming weeks.
Despite the almost unthinkable circumstances for a campaign whose fundraising, events, and political initiatives were all led by the president himself, Mr. Pence tried to signal that the campaign was trying to proceed as if little had changed.
“‘Make America Great Again’ is not just a slogan; it is our mission,” Mr. Pence said during the call.
Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist, said the campaign’s only option was to move forward.
“The campaign leader may be off the pitch for now,” he said. “But people are voting right now. It is necessary to continue to block and oppose those who knock on doors, to telephone and to bring people to the polls. They cannot worry about what they cannot control and have to work tirelessly at what they can. “
To make up for Trump’s absence, the campaign is trying to field as many members of the Trump family as possible, who are popular with the president’s supporters, while the president is off track.
Justin Clark, Deputy Campaign Director, is replacing Campaign Director Bill Stepien at the Virginia office. But Mr. Stepien works remotely from home, officials said, and tells other staff members that he feels fine. On Saturday he attended the call with staff members across the country. (Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and top political advisor, didn’t need to play a bigger role in the candidate’s absence.)
The campaign hopes to tell a story of what one adviser called “steadfastness,” with the president – and several top aides – overcoming a virus that Trump has downplayed for months.
Four days after a debate in which President Trump could have exposed Joseph R. Biden Jr. to coronavirus, South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison brought a plexiglass room divider to his debate with Senator Lindsey Graham.
Mr. Harrison directly mentioned the divider during Saturday’s debate, saying he needed to protect himself for the sake of his family.
“I’m taking it seriously tonight,” he said. “That’s why I put this plexiglass on. Because it’s not just about me, but also about the people in my life that I have to take care of. My two boys, my wife, my grandmother.”
Mr. Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, may have been exposed to the virus earlier this week by Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who is on the committee and tested positive. Although Mr. Graham tested negative, it can take several days for an infection to become detectable, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instructs people to quarantine for 14 days after exposure.
The race between Mr. Graham and Mr. Harrison, in a state that voted for Mr. Trump by more than 14 percentage points, was unexpectedly competitive, with multiple polls showing candidates in or near even.
Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in Florida and Pennsylvania. Both states are crucial to Trump’s re-election chances.
|Result of the 2016 elections||NYT / Siena
Based on New York Times / Siena College polls of 710 probable voters in Florida from September 30 to October 1 and 706 probable voters in Pennsylvania from September 30 to October 2.
By overwhelming margins, voters in Pennsylvania and Florida were pushed back by President Trump’s conduct in the first general election debate, according to New York Times / Siena College polls, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. maintained an advantage in the two most. great battlefield states.
Overall, Mr. Biden led by seven percentage points, from 49 to 42 percent, among the likely voters in Pennsylvania. He led by a similar margin, 47-42, among likely voters in Florida.
The polls began Wednesday, before the announcement on Friday that Mr. Trump had contracted the coronavirus. There was modest evidence of a shift in favor of Mr. Biden in interviews on Friday, including in Arizona where a Times / Siena investigation is underway, after checking the demographic and political characteristics of respondents.
One day of interviews is not enough to assess the consequences of a major political development, and it may take several days or more before even the initial effects of Trump’s diagnosis can be ascertained by pollsters.
The debates have long been one of the best opportunities for the president to reshape the race in his favor. He has lagged behind in Pennsylvania and Florida since the campaign began and doesn’t have many credible paths to the presidency without winning at least one of them – and probably both.
Instead, only 22 percent of likely voters in the two key states said Mr. Trump won the debate on Tuesday. It leaves the president at a significant and even a daunting disadvantage with one month until election day.
But while Mr. Trump has failed to capitalize on a rare opportunity to resume the race, the results suggest the debate hasn’t even shifted the competition decisively in Mr. Biden’s direction. The results were close to the average of pre-debate polls in both states, another reflection of the unusually stable poll results before the election. In Pennsylvania, the race was also a little closer than it was in a Times / Siena poll conducted prior to the debate, which found Biden ahead by nine percentage points.
Biden’s lack of further gains after the first debate could have been almost inevitable in a deeply polarized country. But it could also suggest that Mr. Biden, like the president, failed to capitalize on his opportunities.
Senator Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who tested positive for coronavirus this week and whose state experienced a recent record surge in virus cases, said Saturday he continues to oppose warrants to wear the mask.
“He said today that he continues to oppose the mask mandates,” said Ben Voelkel, a spokesman for Mr. Johnson, confirming a report from The Capital Times, a Wisconsin newspaper, which quoted Mr. Johnson as saying he preferred “responsibility. “
Mr. Johnson told the newspaper that while masks can help reduce the risk of infection, they are “certainly not a cure-all.”
Public health experts said masks are key to slowing the spread of the virus, a message Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, reinforced by wearing a mask in a video message on Saturday.
“The waves we are seeing in our state are not an indication that the masks are not working,” said Mr. Evers. “This underlines what we’ve always said, which is that masks only work if everyone wears them.”
Three of the four metropolitan areas in the United States with the highest number of cases per capita were in northeastern Wisconsin this week, and a hospital in Green Bay, the state’s third largest city, was nearly full this week.
Mr. Johnson announced Saturday that he tested positive for the virus and his office said he “had no symptoms.” Mr Voelkel said on Saturday that the senator was in quarantine.
On Friday night, Mr. Johnson attended a Republican Oktoberfest event in Mequon, Wis., But Mr. Voelkel said the senator “was not informed of his positive test until after the event in question.”
“He wore a mask while he was there, just showed up to talk and stayed at a distance the whole time,” Voelkel said.
Even for an election cycle defined by an unstoppable series of crises and chaos, the time taken for the Senate race in North Carolina, which could determine which party controls the Senate, fell into utter chaos was a record.
Late Friday night, Cal Cunningham, the former Democratic state senator and Iraq war veteran who led in his attempt to oust Senator Thom Tillis, one of the Republican Party’s most vulnerable incumbents, admitted to exchanging texts. flirtatious with a woman who is not his wife. That news came nearly three hours after Mr. Tillis announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would close his campaign headquarters, in a devastating blow to his already overdue re-election campaign.
In a normal election cycle, both developments alone would have been mind-boggling.
“I thought, ‘Oh God, now,'” said Michael Bitzer, a political analyst and professor of political science at Catawba College in North Carolina.
But taken together, the Mr. Cunningham scandal and Mr. Tillis ‘diagnosis overturned the critical race just a month before election day, devastating both candidates’ core messages just as they prepared to make their final appeals to voters.
For Mr. Cunningham, a married father of two, the news of his romantic texts with a California-based strategist, previously reported by The Raleigh News and Observer, was a blow to a carefully cultivated personal image that is been at the center of his campaign. During his run, Mr. Cunningham relied heavily on his character and biography, playing out his military service and presenting himself as a harmless moderate.
Mr. Tillis, a staunch ally of President Trump, had hoped that his participation in a swift confirmation for Trump’s Supreme Court candidate would inject momentum into his campaign and divert attention from the coronavirus pandemic. Now, his diagnosis has cast doubt on whether Mr. Tillis, a member of the judicial committee who will consider Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment, will even be able to attend a series of high-profile confirmation hearings or vote to confirm it. – and indeed whether the proceedings can proceed as planned.
President Trump’s bombshell announcement Friday morning that he and the first lady had tested positive for the coronavirus sparked a frenzy in the White House and beyond, as politicians and agents who interacted with Mr. Trump in recent days have competed to get your own test and, in some cases, report the results.
Here’s a quick look at the people in Trump’s orbit and beyond who have spoken publicly about their health and the virus, taken from official statements and announcements made on social media and spokespersons.
It can take several days after exposure for the virus to reach levels detectable by a test. People show symptoms on average about five days after exposure, but up to 14 days.
Who tested positive:
Ronna McDaniel, president of the Republican National Committee
Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s senior advisers
Bill Stepien, President Trump’s campaign manager
Kellyanne Conway, the former top White House adviser, who attended the Supreme Court appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House on September 26.
North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, who participated in a debate against his Democratic challenger on Thursday
Rev. John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, who also attended the ceremony for Judge Barrett last week
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who did not attend Judge Barrett’s ceremony last week
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey
Nick Luna, a White House aide
Who tested negative:
Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state
Steven Mnuchin, the Secretary of the Treasury
William P. Barr, the Attorney General
Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff
Dan Scavino, Deputy Chief of Staff of the White House
Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser
Ivanka Trump, the daughter of Mr. Trump
Donald Trump Jr., the son of Mr. Trump
Barron Trump, the son of Mr. Trump
Eric Trump, the son of Mr. Trump
Lara Trump, Eric Trump’s wife
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee
Betsy DeVos, the education secretary
Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican and member of the judicial committee. He attended Judge Barrett’s ceremony.
Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri and member of the judicial committee. He attended Judge Barrett’s ceremony.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, announced Saturday that the Senate will not meet as scheduled next week after three senators tested positive for the virus, but indicated that Republicans would go ahead to confirm Judge Amy Coney without delay. Barrett to the Supreme Court.
“The Senate program will not disrupt the previously established full, fair, and historically supported confirmation process,” Kentucky Republican Mr. McConnell said in a statement, adding that the Senate Judiciary Committee met “successfully” with senators who both appear in person and virtually since May.
The announcement comes after three members of Mr. McConnell’s conference, two of them on the judicial committee, tested positive for the coronavirus in the past 24 hours. Others, like Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, tested negative but went into quarantine.
Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the third Republican senator to test positive for the coronavirus this week, was exposed earlier in the week to an individual who tested positive for the virus, according to his office, which said the senator “was not showing symptoms.” . He did not attend President Trump’s nomination ceremony for Judge Barrett at the Rose Garden on Saturday.
Unlike Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah who tested positive on Friday, Mr. Johnson is not on the Senate Judiciary Committee. But his positive test result adds new complications to the timing of Judge Barrett’s confirmation.
Leading Senate Democrats have called on Republicans to slow down their plans to confirm Judge Barrett.
“If it is too dangerous to hold the Senate in session, it is also too dangerous for committee hearings to continue,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a statement. “The monomaniacal drive by leader McConnell and President Graham to confirm Judge Barrett at all costs unnecessarily threatens the health and safety of senators, staff and all those who work in the Capitol complex.”
The September 26 Rose Garden ceremony for Judge Barrett was most likely not a “super-spreader” event, because it was outdoors. However, many high-ranking Republicans participated without masks or social distancing, raising concerns that others might have contracted the virus but had not yet been diagnosed. And someone who was infected and had no symptoms may have passed the virus on to others during discussions within the White House.
But leading Republicans said they plan to continue “full steam ahead” to confirm Judge Barrett before election day.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, chair of the judicial commission, said on Friday that her panel will begin four days of public hearings on the appointment of Judge Barrett on October 12, as scheduled. Mr. Tillis and Mr. Lee said they would be isolated for 10 days, which would allow them to emerge in time for hearings.
And in an interview on Friday, Mr. McConnell suggested that the spread of the virus in Republican circles could mean more lawmakers would virtually attend hearings. “This kind of stresses the need to do it,” he said.
But the Democrats said virtual hearings on such a consequential issue would be unacceptable.
Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate, which means they can only afford to lose three votes in their push to confirm it. Two Republicans, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, said they would not confirm a candidate before the election.