The president ended his illness from coronavirus and now seeks to obtain political revenue from it. What can happen?
The scene was carefully planned: Donald Trump descended from the helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House with his face covered with the mask with which he had left the hospital minutes before. He walked a few feet across the lawn to the mansion, climbed a smooth staircase to the first floor, and then stopped on the balcony, decorated with four American flags in the background. There he looked at the photographers and, in a theatrical yet defiant gesture, took off the mask and put it in his pocket. He stood with a grim face for almost a minute looking at the horizon, he bowed and went inside the house.
It seemed like the end of the show. But no. A few minutes later, the president tweeted from his account a video with the summary of that moment, like a movie that framed the return of the hero home, to the rhythm of epic music. Nothing was to connote sickness or vulnerability in a man known for his lush ego.
Despite the fact that the presidential doctor said that the danger to his patient had not yet passed and that he was still under treatment, Trump ended his illness and now seeks to obtain political revenue from it. Thus begins the final stretch of this unprecedented electoral campaign for the November 3 elections, which was crossed by the pandemic.
While the president downplayed the power of the coronavirus from the beginning, there is now a renewed narrative that he reinforces with the images he values so highly: the president is a Brave warrior who defeated the coronavirus and with that integrity, citizens must fight against evil. Without fear of illness. Without the chinstraps that his rival Joe Biden meticulously wears and that health experts recommend.
He said it with all the letters: “Do not be afraid of the coronavirus”, as claimed by the Americans who have already suffered 210,000 deaths from Covid19.
The 74-year-old president, an at-risk patient, had the better care in the world, in the best hospital in the world. And, although the medical information was never too clear, it was seen in good shape, it is true. Were the Americans who died then cowards who were afraid of the virus?
Is difficult to predict impact that he will have the presidential illness in the campaign, which is entering its decisive stage. Trump is trailing Joe Biden by an average of 8.5%, according to RealClearPolitics, a drop that worsened after the first debate last Tuesday.
Some surveys give it up to 14 points lower. In key states it loses in polls by almost 4%. Shine a little more complicated than he was at this point in the 2016 elections, when he ended up beating Hillary Clinton.
The president desperately needs to resume campaigning because his harangues at rallies electrify his supporters. Trumpism is him. As much as his vice Mike Pence replaces him on his tours of the interior, he is far from the magnetism of his boss.
But Trump also needs television, his favorite weapon. He took advantage of the fact that everyone would be watching his exit from the hospital and made a movie. Also, even before he was discharged, his head of communications already confirmed that will be presented in the second debate on the 15th in Miami, as scheduled. Even though the president took and still takes three drugs that are usually given to patients in serious condition, seeks to show that nothing has happened. That everything continues as before.
When he first arrived at the hospital, Trump had a couple of gestures of empathy that could have been welcomed by voters in the suburbs and women – two sectors that are elusive – because he appreciated the bipartisan greetings that had been sent to him and said that “ I was not going to forget it ”. Sometimes showing vulnerability, the more human side, adds votes for the “compassionate” effect, experts explain.
However, the last thing the president wants is to show himself weak. He tends to give his rivals derogatory names associated with a lack of energy. So the tone then turned rapidly towards another more bellicose place, where he feels much more comfortable.
It is very possible that this speech of invincible hero please and revitalize its electoral bases in the interior of the country, which disdain “the Chinese virus” – as the president described it – and consider the chinstrap as an interference with individual freedom.
But it is least likely that this strategy succeeds in seducing the independent electorate, so necessary to win the White House. Part of this sector was conquered by the idea of change offered by the tycoon in 2016, but now there is a great unknown about who will lean. It is a group that has shown cautious with the coronavirus.
In principle, there is certain signs: A CNN poll revealed that 63% of Americans believe Trump acted irresponsibly given the risk of infecting and being infected and only 33% said they were responsible.
It is possible that this sector also does not like the exit of the hospital by truck to greet its followers who improvised a vigil at the door. With an action aimed at being healthy and attracting media attention, Trump, still ill and in a period of contagion, broke all protocols health by forcing security personnel to accompany him in the closed environment of the vehicle.