What Happens Now?

The POTUS has COVID. The race is in flux.

1. Outbreak

Let’s get this out of the way up top, because—like condemning white supremacy—it should be easy to express support for Donald Trump and his family and staff right now. Sure!

My thoughts and prayers are with President Trump, his wife, their family and staff as they confront this difficult moment.

See? It’s not that hard.

That said, I can’t pretend not to be enraged by this:

Donald Trump has been gambling with American lives since January. And at the debate, his entourage did it again. Flagrantly violating a rule that everyone else was abiding. Flatly refusing to wear masks because . . . well, because that’s their brand.

Again—none of this is to say that I don’t wish President Trump and Melania and Hope and everyone else a speedy and full recovery. Thoughts and prayers!

But this is one more example of the reckless endangerment this county has been subjected to by this family. It’s disgraceful.

What comes next?

Who knows.

The bombshell Woodward tapes were four weeks ago.

The bombshell SCOTUS opening was three weeks ago.

The bombshell tax return story was five days ago and no one is going to mention it again.

A week from now we might be on to the next gigantic story that would seal the fate of any other man who’s occupied the Oval Office.

But there are some big questions opened up by the outbreak in Trump’s inner circle.

Will there be more debates? I would guess there’s a 50-50 chance the remaining debates are cancelled. Mike Pence may have been exposed and he is scheduled to debate Kamala Harris five days from now.

Under the best of circumstances, the end of Trump’s isolation period would be close to October 15, which is when his next debate is scheduled. And his campaign was already making noises about not agreeing to possible rule changes designed to ensure that Trump respects the agreed upon debate protocols.

If that second debate is canceled and the race is out of reach, then it’s not clear that attempting a third debate would benefit either camp. Biden won’t need it and Trump can use the cancelled debates to shift blame for his impending loss.

Will the bottom drop out on Trump? Probably not.

This race has been stable literally since day one. After the debate, Biden ticked upward a bit and Trump downward a bit, which is reasonable. Currently, Biden is at 51 percent and Trump is just under 43 percent.

I would be mildly surprised if, over the next week, we saw Trump go below 40 percent.

Over the course of the race, he’s been as low as 41 percent, but never under that mark. My belief is that 40 percent is basically his floor.

I could be wrong. After the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rallhy, Trump’s approval hit 37 percent. (News flash: More than one-third of America watched Trump cover for white supremacists and “approved” of the job he was doing.) So it’s possible he could go sub-40 against Biden. But not likely.

Put it this way: I would rate the chances of Trump going sub-40 as about equal to the chances of him picking up a rally-around-the-flag bounce from getting COVID.

Why am I bearish on the possibility of Trump getting a bounce? Because people don’t like him to begin with. He’s personally unpopular. And he’s been shirt-talking masks and safety and everyone who does take commonsense precautions for months. This isn’t like getting cancer. Trump had agency in contracting the virus.

So the most likely scenario is: The lead expands a point or two so that Biden is somewhere between +8 and +10, with one month to go.

What happens if the worst happens? This is morbid, but it’s worth understanding all the same: There are contingencies for what happens if a presidential candidate dies either immediately before or soon after the election. The Washington Post has a good explainer here.

Short version: It’s too late to replace a candidate on the ballots. They’ve already been printed and voting has begun. If a candidate were to die, they would remain on the ballot and if they were to win an Electoral College victory, then the candidate’s party members would vote on who the EC electors would be directed to vote for in the dead candidate’s stead.

2. The Ballots Are a Disaster?

Here is President Donald J. Trump at the Cleveland debate on Tuesday night:

As far as the ballots is concerned, it's a disaster. A solicited ballot. Okay, so listen it is okay. You're soliciting, you're asking they send it back, you send it back. I did that. If you have an unsolicited, they're sending millions of ballots all over the country. There’s fraud. They found them in creeks. They found some with the name Trump, just happen to have the name Trump, just the other day. In wastepaper baskets. They’re being sent all over the place. They sent two, in a Democratic area they sent out 1000 ballots. Everybody got two ballots. This is going to be a fraud like you've never seen. 

And here is a piece of mail sent in by a reader in Minnesota yesterday:

Because, of course.

3. Friday Steiner