Trump’s Covid bombshell

Balance of Power
Bloomberg

Donald Trump's positive Covid-19 diagnosis will fundamentally reshape the closing weeks of a U.S. presidential race that was already hanging in large part on the public's perception of his handling of the pandemic.

As Justin Sink writes, Trump faces not only a significant health challenge but also logistical and staffing chaos just a month before Election Day.

Trump's positive test prompted the White House to cancel political events planned for today, featuring a rally outside Orlando, Florida. Scheduled campaign and fundraising trips to key battlegrounds, including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nevada, are expected to be scrapped as the president quarantines at the White House.

There's the immediate risk to Trump himself. At 74 years of age and slightly obese as of his last physical in June, he's fighting a disease that has killed more than 200,000 Americans since February. The president's physician said early Friday that he and First Lady Melania Trump, who also contracted the disease, were "both well at this time."

Even if Trump doesn't experience serious symptoms, he'll be challenged to keep both the public and financial markets calm as he tries to regain momentum in his campaign. Polls show him trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden nationwide and in battleground states.

The president's diagnosis also has implications for Biden, 77, who will need to decide whether he too should quarantine after sharing a debate stage with the president roughly 48 hours before his positive test.

Two things are clear: The weeks ahead will be dominated by discussion of Trump's health, and that will turn attention back to a pandemic most Americans think he's mishandled.

But should Trump make a full recovery ahead of Nov. 3, it could reinforce arguments he's made repeatedly over the past seven months about a disease that Brazil's president — who also had Covid-19 — dismisses as a "little flu": that the virus isn't as bad as some say and that he has it under control.

Kathleen Hunter 

Trump holds a protective mask during the first debate on Tuesday. He had hoped to turn the focus of the final weeks of the campaign away from the pandemic and toward his Supreme Court nominee, the economic recovery and civil unrest. 

Photographer: Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Click here for this week's most compelling political images. Tell us how we're doing or what we're missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.

Global Headlines

Poll watch | Biden's campaign and other Democrats in battleground states say they're readying their own efforts to monitor balloting as they express concern about Trump's call for supporters to show up at polling stations to watch for problems with voting. They've enlisted thousands of volunteers, and the Democratic National Committee began building voter-protection teams as early as last year.

Campaign 2020

There are 32 days until the election. Here's the latest on the race for control of the White House and Congress.

Trump said yesterday in an interview with Fox News that he condemned the Proud Boys, a militant group that supports him, after declining to denounce white supremacists during the presidential debate.

Other developments

Sign up to receive daily election updates as a direct mobile notification on Twitter. Simply click on this link and like the tweet.

Belarus blacklist | European Union leaders cleared the way for sanctions against Belarusian officials over the August presidential election. The bloc is trying to raise pressure on Alexander Lukashenko after he declared a landslide victory and cracked down on protesters who say he stole the vote. Lukashenko isn't on the list of those facing asset freezes and travel bans though, and he's resisted years of EU sanctions aimed at steering him toward democratic norms.

Opposition supporters in Belarus as they march in Minsk on Sept. 27.

Source: AFP via Getty Images

Trade politics | Turkey is considering an appeal to the World Trade Organization over allegations that Saudi Arabia is hindering the entry of Turkish goods because of political tensions. The two countries have clashed in recent years over, with relations plummeting to a low after the 2018 murder of columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Turkey. 

Mandela's legacy | South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's war on corruption has sparked a fierce battle in the top echelons of the ruling African National Congress, which Nelson Mandela led to power after the end of apartheid. As Antony Sguazzin reports, the outcome could determine whether the continent's most developed nation prospers or fails.

Big spender | Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has fashioned himself as a fiscal bulldog, but now he's planning to ramp up social spending and pay for it by tapping into education funds and pushing other payments down the road. As Andrew Rosati and Martha Beck explain, the backlash has been fierce: Brazil's real is the world's worst-performing major currency this week, and his own economy minister criticized the plan.

What to Watch

  • The U.S. House passed a $2.2 trillion Democrat-only fiscal stimulus package after the most concerted talks between the top negotiators since early August failed to yield a bipartisan agreement.
  • The final round of scheduled talks between the U.K. and European Union over their future relationship is set to end today with limited progress, setting up a frantic few weeks of last-ditch negotiations and market volatility.
  • U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will try to regain control of his fractious party as the Conservatives tomorrow start their annual conference, being held online this year due to the pandemic.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong, made her first appearance in state media since July, an absence that had fueled speculation her power was clipped after she led a contentious pressure campaign against South Korea.

Pop quiz, readers (no cheating!). What is the name of the disputed region that is at the center of renewed fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan? Send your answer to balancepower@bloomberg.net.

And finally ... When President Vladimir Putin announced in August that Russia had registered the world's first Covid-19 vaccine, he glossed over one key point: It had been tested in fewer than 80 people, compared to thousands of trials that developers in other countries must conduct before approval. Still, the Kremlin's publicity coup triggered requests from governments worldwide for the Sputnik V shot, named after the Soviet-era satellite that set off the space race in 1957 — a sign of the geopolitical importance Putin attaches to the project.

A heath worker draws the Sputnik V vaccine from a vial during a post-registration phase trial in Moscow on Sept. 23.

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

 

 

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