The closing days of the presidential campaign were already dominated by the worst public health crisis in a century, millions of jobless Americans, a reckoning on civil rights, the death of a Supreme Court justice and uncertainty about President Donald Trump’s willingness to accept the election outcome.
And that was before the president woke up in a military hospital on Saturday — the most powerful man in the world unable to escape a virus that has so far killed more than 200,000 Americans.
The Republican president has trailed Democratic challenger Joe Biden in polls for most of the year. Trump’s approval ratings barely budge, consistently ranking him as among the weakest first-term presidents in living history. And for five consecutive months, no more than roughly 3 in 10 voters have believed the nation is moving in the right direction.
“You have all these events, but the basic structure of everything has stayed fairly intact,” said veteran Democratic strategist James Carville.
Even before Trump’s hospitalization, Republicans were growing increasingly concerned about the direction of the election. Trump’s allies were particularly worried that his troubling debate performance on Tuesday might further alienate key groups of swing voters: women and college-educated voters,