President Trump’s Re-election Campaign and the COVID-19 Pandemic by Uso Atuegbu

President Trump at a campaign event in Miami, Florida. (Courtesy of Creative Commons.)

On Friday, October 2, President Trump tweeted that he and First Lady Melania Trump had been infected with COVID-19 after twice testing positive the day before. He was reported to have only mild symptoms, but he was taken to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center so doctors could monitor his dropping oxygen levels. On Saturday, October 3, Dr. Sean Conley, Mr. Trump’s White House physician, stated that the President’s blood oxygen levels had dropped again, to about 93%. However, later that same day, President Trump’s blood oxygen levels returned to the normal state of 95% or above. Later that evening, Mr. Trump tweeted a video stating that he felt “much better now” and that he and his medical team were working diligently to resume his in-office activities. President Trump also remarked that he “[could] not wait” to continue his campaign in anticipation of the November 3 election.

Mr. Trump held his first rally following his illness in central Florida on Monday, October 12. Before the event, President Trump remarked, “I feel so powerful…  I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys, the beautiful women…  everybody.” For presidential candidates Trump and Biden, securing votes is particularly important in Florida, a prominent battleground state that tends to “swing” in its support for the two major parties. In fact, since the 1972 presidential election, the party for which at least a plurality of Floridians have voted has changed six times. Many believe that Mr. Trump will not win reelection without victory in Florida. Hesitant to lose any crucial supporters, the President has been eager to hold his in-person rallies in Florida, in addition to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Wisconsin, among other states. Some are concerned by the potential health risks posed by these events: a particularly prominent rise in virus cases has been linked to Mr. Trump’s September rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, purported to have led to the infection of nine with COVID-19 and the hospitalization of two.

According to an October 12 article by The Guardian’s Maanvi Singh, President Trump may be losing older supporters in reaction to the fatalities incurred by the pandemic which has spanned the last several months of his presidency, particularly because the elderly are deemed to have a high risk of contracting COVID-19. Some speculate that President Trump is endeavoring to retain questioning supporters by touting his seemingly miraculous and speedy recovery from the virus. On the other hand, others believe that the Trump administration’s management of the pandemic has potentially saved numerous lives, citing the country’s lower excess mortality rate than those of nations including the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, as reported by the White House, and the data of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have indicated a declining weekly death count for fatalities involving COVID-19 since early August.

As of today, Democratic presidential candidate Biden is leading in many national polls. However, this does not guarantee anything about the results of the election, particularly in light of the contentious circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic, that surround this unusual period of national history.