KEY POINTS

  • First lady Melania Trump tweeted she and her husband are "feeling good" but did not say specifically that they have no symptoms
  • The White House said Friday Trump was exhibiting minor symptoms
  • Both Trump adviser Hope Hicks and GOP Chairman Ronna McDaniel have tested positive

 

President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis Friday likely altered the rest of the script for this year’s presidential campaign, forcing the president into a quarantine with just 32 days to go before the Nov. 3 election and early voting already underway.

A White House spokesman said Friday that Trump is exhibiting minor symptoms. the virus has killed more than 208,000 Americans.

Trump’s 2016 campaign tried to convince voters Hillary Clinton suffered from Parkinson’s disease. For the reelection campaign, he’s tried to convince voters Joe Biden is senile. Neither allegation was true but it was unclear what impact they had in Clinton’s case or are having in Biden’s.

Biden has shown great respect for the contagion, spending much of the spring and early summer campaigning virtually from the basement of his Delaware home. Whenever he appeared in public, he sported a face mask. Those around him also were masked.

In contrast, Trump has tried to skewer Biden for his caution and has questioned the efficacy of wearing masks, rarely putting one on in public. Members of his inner circle also have ignored the guideline, and at Tuesday’s presidential debate in Cleveland, Trump’s family removed their masks as they took their seats.

It was unclear whether the scheduled Oct. 15 presidential debate in Salt Lake City would be held, making next week's planned vice presidential debate more relevant.

Trump’s campaign rallies have packed thousands of people into enclosed spaces, and a June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, may have led to the death of Herman Cain, a 2012 presidential candidate. Health officials in the area blamed the rally for a spike in cases in the region.

Thomas Whalen, Boston University associate professor and presidential historian, told NBC affiliate WHDH-TV, Boston, Trump’s diagnosis will bring his campaign to a halt.

“The question of whether there will be any presidential debates -- that's also thrown for a loop here. I doubt given the circumstances that would be appropriate,” Whalen said, calling for a full report on Trump’s condition.

Team Trump’s Twitter account has been virtually silent on the diagnosis, just retweeting the president’s own revelation and a tweet from Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, assuring the public of Pence’s health.

Trump already was considered the underdog in the campaign. FiveThirtyEight estimates Trump is 7- or 8 points behind Biden while the RealClearPolitics average fo recent polls puts Biden ahead by 7 electoral votes.

First lady Melania Trump urged other Americans to stay safe.

Trump announced his diagnosis about 1 a.m. EDT. Both his age, 74, and his weight put him in a high-risk category.

Trump's announcement followed an announcement earlier that close adviser Hope Hicks had tested positive and was exhibiting symptoms. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel announced Friday she also had developed the infection.

“Our Constitution can handle the crisis of the president contracting COVID-19, but can the citizens handle it?" John Pudner, executive director of takeback.org, asked in an email to International Business Times.

"Even if Trump ends up unable to fulfill his presidential duties to his satisfaction, the Constitution provides an avenue for him to convey this so that Americans would know they were choosing between ‘Biden-Harris’ and perhaps ‘Pence-Haley’ even if their ballot says ‘Trump-Pence.’”

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