Politics Explained

What does Trump’s Covid diagnosis mean for his election chances?

The president has downplayed the pandemic for months, writes Sean O’Grady – but having contracted the virus, how will it affect his chances of staying in the Oval Office?

Tuesday 06 October 2020 01:54
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The US president on his motorcade drive to thank supporters on Sunday
The US president on his motorcade drive to thank supporters on Sunday

It is possible to imagine a kinder, gentler Donald Trump emerging from the Walter Reed Medical Centre, though it requires some imagination. After all, when Boris Johnson, himself a bit of a political rascal, survived his bout of Covid in the spring, many detected some change in his demeanour. The intimation of his own mortality seemed to move him to tears during a subsequent interview with The Sun. President Trump’s initially much-reduced Twitter output was less aggressive and abusive and even now his renewed sloganising is unobjectionable, if oddly all now in capitals. Trump’s surprise appearance to thank his “patriot” supporters was reckless, but at least he has taken to wearing a mask. He even called the coronavirus by its correct name rather than “the China virus”.  

Radical long-term personality change, however, is not a recognised consequence of Covid, and Trump has never suffered from an overabundance of humility. Indeed, it has apparently been something of a Trump family tradition to view physical illness as merely a sign of personal weakness. In that context, Trump would brandish his survival, at his age and weight, as proof of his superhuman constitution. Not even “the China virus” can defeat Donald Trump will be the message.  

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