What Trump’s Diagnosis Could Mean For the Election


President Trump confirms his and his wife’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis on October 1

Luca Dhagat

UPDATE 10/12 – The second presidential debate, scheduled for Thursday, was officially cancelled. Citing concerns over Trump potentially spreading COVID, the Commission on Presidential Debates recommended using a virtual format, which Trump stated he would refuse to participate in. The next debate, which will also be the last presidential debate, will be held on October 22nd.

Early on October 2nd, President Trump confirmed over twitter that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. In less than four days, he was discharged by hospital staff. He’s fully resumed campaigning, claiming he’s fully recovered. 

Trump certainly isn’t the first head of state to have tested positive for COVID-19. Both British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President of Brazil Jail Bolsonaro had tested positive. Likely due to being priorities for adequate medical care and resources, both leaders made quick recoveries.

Even though as of writing it is unlikely that Trump will be incapacitated and forced to drop out of the race, his diagnosis raised concerns over the effect this will have on the election.

If Trump happens to drop out of the race before November 3rd, which is election day, the contingency process is actually relatively simple. It’d be up to the leadership of the Republican party to appoint a new nominee. 

Both parties have specific bylaws for filling a vacant presidential nomination, but the National Committee would likely meet and vote for who they’d want to replace Trump. This could be Trump’s running mate and current Vice President Mike Pence, or someone different. 

If Trump drops out after the election day but not before the electoral college meets on December 8, the Republican Party would still follow the same process and appoint a new candidate, which their electors would vote for.

It’s clear that no matter what happens to Trump, Joe Biden will be facing competition from the Republican party. However, there’s still much to speculate on how this might affect both campaigns.

The Biden campaign recently reaffirmed that they’d be showing up in person for the next presidential debate in Miami on October 15th. Although it was initially uncertain whether or not Trump would attend, his campaign recently announced that he still plans on attending, insisting his case was mild and not capable of infecting others.

Capitalizing on Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris’s assertive attitude during the Vice Presidential debate last Thursday, Biden’s campaign has been able to gain momentum and the initiative in Trump’s absence.

This momentum may give Biden a chance to be more aggressive in order to make up for his lack of assertiveness in the last debate.

On the other hand, in order to compensate for this loss of energy, it may give Trump’s campaign a chance to veer away from the hostile approach of the last debate, which alienated many undecided voters. We may see the campaign reorient and focus more on policy and Trump’s goals for a second term.

It’s too early to have a definite idea of what kind of impact Trump’s COVID diagnosis will have on the election. Voters can only hope that they’ll get some answers to this uncertainty in the next debate. Though if the first presidential debate was any indication, they’ll have to be prepared for the possibility that we’ll only be left with more questions.