Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis has “thrown a wrench” in the current president’s re-election campaign, an expert has said.
Julie Norman, a lecturer at University College London’s Centre on US politics, said Mr Trump’s diagnosis may not have surprised many people following his campaign.
She told the PA news agency: “I think for anyone who has been watching Trump and following his actions during the course of the pandemic – the fact that he has been hosting and going to large gatherings, he has not been wearing a mask – we know those things certainly increase the risk for someone to contract Covid.
“So the fact that he did, I guess, should not be too surprising, but the news certainly was a surprise for most people I think this morning.”
The US president’s diagnosis comes only weeks before US election day on November 3 and in a “very tumultuous week” for the race, Dr Norman said.
As Mr Trump will need to self isolate for the next 10 days, all campaign events will have to be cancelled or held remotely for what effectively amounts to a third of the remaining time before election day.
“This really does throw a wrench in everything, it’s unclear how the future of the campaign will look for Trump,” she added.
Dr Norman said there are questions over whether the second presidential debate, planned for October 15, still takes place and in what form.
She suggested that many supporters will see the president’s infection as “collateral damage” from reaching out to citizens during the pandemic.
Despite this, she said the diagnosis is likely to undermine Mr Trump’s attitude of minimising the pandemic in the past.
Dr Norman said: “There’s also just a bigger narrative that Trump has really spent the last six months – including into this week at the debate – playing down the threat of the virus, saying that this was something that the US was already past, that clear days were ahead.
“This diagnosis will certainly undermine that message for both his critics and his supporters, that’s going to be crucial going forward and it will also keep the news cycle focused on the pandemic, which is something that Trump is always trying to deflect.
“He would pretty much rather talk about anything besides that issue in which he’s had very low approval ratings.”
She added: “I think while any decent person would wish him a speedy recovery, the idea of being sympathetic to him after his actions surrounding this pandemic might be a little hard to come by for many.”
Dr Norman suggested Mr Trump’s illness could prompt a change of approach to the handling of the pandemic from his administration, comparing him to Boris Johnson, who was admitted into intensive care with the virus in April.
She said: “I think we saw with Johnson how when a leader who maybe beforehand was not so clear in the messaging did suffer specifically from it themselves, how much that changed their approach and their policy.”