Perhaps the one thing we can expect from the 2020 US presidential election is the unexpected, and the last week has delivered on that and then some.
President Donald Trump remains stricken with COVID, and has been mostly confined to the White House since his departure from Walter Reed Medical Center on Monday, Oct. 5. Never one to lay low, the president has instead released a series of videos and made a number of phone-in Fox News talk show appearances in which he blasted his rivals, including, inexplicably, Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama.
Trump has also made a series of eyebrow-raising statements regarding his health, and the treatment he received, which included a heavy dose of experimental, steroid-based drugs. Trump has called his COVID diagnosis “a blessing from God” and has said he feels better than he has in 20 years.
Of course, because he’s not a physician, Trump’s self-assessment of the situation is not rooted in medical science, and actual concrete information from the president’s team of doctors has continued to baffle both the media and public health experts. He has not appeared live on camera in more than four days, but is planning to appear on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News this evening for his first on-camera interview since his release from the hospital.
Trump and his surrogates in recent days have ducked repeated questions on when the last time Trump tested negative for COVID-19, fueling speculation about whether the president was being tested as frequently as he claimed, and perhaps more alarming, whether he had tested positive before his Sept. 29 debate with former Vice President Joe Biden. U.S. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has even suggested there would be a serious discussion about potentially invoking the 25th Amendment, which covers a sitting president’s fitness to serve. Trump is on a cocktail of experimental drugs, including steroids, which have the potential to affect someone’s state of mind.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan organization that oversees US presidential debates, announced Thursday the second debate between Trump and Biden scheduled for Oct. 15 would instead be conducted virtually, given the president’s diagnosis. Trump immediately slammed the decision and said he would not participate. The move would not be without precedent, famously in 1960 Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy conducted a presidential debate with Kennedy in New York and Nixon in California.
Now, with just 25 days until the election, it’s uncertain whether there will be additional debates held at all. Trump has already planned to get back out on the campaign trail, with a rally in Florida scheduled for Saturday. As of this writing, Biden remains the heavy favorite on the Bonus.com US Presidential Election Odds Tracker, leading Trump by just over 32% in the aggregate. As of today, more than $150 million has been wagered overseas on the outcome of the race.
A consistent hallmark of the Trump presidency has been opaqueness, but the lack of credible information about his current health status being released have raised some concerns on both sides of the aisle. At this point the American people don’t even know if he’s tested negative before he plans to resume his packed rallies, which if the past is any indicator, will largely consist of a mask-free crowd. Vanity Fair did a recent report that said the president could have exposed “thousands” of people to COVID-19, but the White House has been slow to conduct contact tracing.