Donald trumps 2020 re-election campaign has been thrown into turmoil after several of his campaign aides, surrogates and advisers tested positive for coronavirus as well as the candidate himself.
Among the people in the presidents orbit who have tested positive for the virus are bill stepien, his campaign manager, and ronna mcdaniel, chair of the republican national committee, who has been heavily involved in the campaign as well as key down-ballot races. republicans need to win these races if they hope to retain control of the senate.
Chris christie, the former new jersey governor, said on saturday that he too had tested positive after spending significant time with mr trump helping him prepare for first presidential debate held last tuesday.
Kellyanne conway, the former white house adviser who was assisting mr trump with debate preparation, said on friday that she had tested positive as well.
Coronavirus has forced mr trump off the campaign trail for the first time in months, denying him the large-scale rallies that have become a mainstay of his re-election effort. the president and his family have also been prevented from attending the fundraisers needed to help close the money gap with democratic rival joe biden.
The white house sowed confusion on saturday about mr trumps state of health. mark meadows, the white house chief of staff, told reporters the situation on friday had been worrying, contradicting a more upbeat assessment by the presidents doctors delivered shortly beforehand.
The presidents vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical, mr meadows said, according to the associated press.
On saturday evening, mr trump tweeted a video of himself speaking from inside the hospital, in which he thanked people for messages of support. im starting to feel good. you dont know, over the next period of a few days, i guess thats the real test, so well be seeing what happens over those next couple of days, said mr trump.
With confusion over the presidents prognosis, it is unclear if mr trump will recover in time to appear at the second presidential debate, which is scheduled for october 15, or who would help him prepare for it if mr christie were out of commission.
Mr stepien has announced he will stay away from the campaigns headquarters in arlington, virginia, until the end of his quarantine. day-to-day operations have been handed over to justin clark, the deputy campaign manager, as mr stepien works from home.
Meanwhile, brad parscale, a senior adviser who served as mr trumps campaign manager up until july, has stepped away from the campaign after an altercation with his wife and police last weekend.
In the midst of the uncertainty, the trump campaign has attempted to switch gears. it said on saturday that it would be holding virtual events but that mike pence, vice-president, would make in-person campaign appearances in key states, as would the presidents sons donald jr and eric, and his wife lara. mr pence, who has tested negative for the virus, will travel to arizona for a campaign event on thursday.
Operation maga [make america great again] will fire up the entire maga universe to keep president trumps campaign at full speed until our commander-in-chief returns to the campaign trail, said mr stepien.
However, tim bossert, mr trumps former homeland security adviser, said that mr pence, who would become commander-in-chief if the president were incapacitated, should isolate himself.
Right now id be telling vice-president pence, despite his instinct to get out and get on the campaign trail, that hes got a larger obligation to the constitution and the country, mr bossert told abc news on friday night.
He needs to sit himself down, get somewhere where hes not exposed, not take any risk...the vice-president cant take that chance. hes in the line of succession.
Even before his diagnosis, mr trump faced a tough path to re-election, with polls consistently showing him lagging behind mr biden both nationally and in several key swing states.
The president had also fallen behind mr biden in the campaign finance race, despite starting out the year with a huge cash advantage.
Mr biden and the democratic party began september with roughly $30m more in the bank than mr trump and the republicans. early reports have suggested that the democratic challenger and his party may have raised even more money in september than the record-breaking $365m they took in during august. mr trump and the republican party raised $210m that month.
In addition to fighting to hold on to the white house, republicans are struggling to retain control of the us senate. the party holds a 53-47 majority and faces half-a-dozen critical races, including in north carolina, where republican incumbent thom tillis has tested positive for the virus and is temporarily stepping back from the campaign trail.
Mr biden, who has tested negative for the virus after appearing on the same debate stage as mr trump, has continued campaigning since the presidents diagnosis. the former vice-president went ahead with a visit to michigan on friday, although cancelled one of his planned events there because of concerns about the crowd size and the fact the event was scheduled to be indoors.
In light of the presidents hospitalisation, mr bidens campaign has pulled negative advertisements about mr trump. it is continuing to run ads highlighting mr bidens record.
Ballots have already been sent out for the november 3 election in 35 us states. early voting is set to commence in three swing states arizona, ohio and iowa within the next week.
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